Just sitting here thinking today how I am surviving this 7 month period without virtually any contact with my kids. I’ve seen them at church and at Soccer games, and once driving to their gym, and I’ve texted them and emailed them extensively, usually getting angry responses or being ignored. This after being a very involved dad for 17 years. For those of you new to this experience, here’s a couple of keys to survival.
- Don’t ignore your feelings and cover the pain. I’ve avoided any masking things like alcohol or drugs and I’ve tried to be very aware of what I am feeling, why I am feeling that and letting that happen. That was a difficult thing to do in the marriage — without being ridiculed, so it has been refreshing to cry, to contemplate, to think through stuff. If tears well up in my eyes during a TV show — why did that happen (9 times out of 10 its because I saw a Dad and his kids getting along in a way that I wish I had…). So don’t ignore the feelings. I think that can make you bitter and angry and neither of those things help.
- Write or be creative. This blog and writing poems and writing letters to the kids with memories (that I don’t send, but save for future delivery) have been very cathartic as well. I’ve broken out my guitar and played and sang for hours. Maybe you paint or make pottery (or you should!), but find something to pour yourself into. You’ll need this to avoid watching TV in the fetal position on your couch for days on end…
- Get out and do something. I’ve begun playing Volleyball using meetup.com in my area. Literally, there are places to play volleyball every night of the week and all afternoon on Saturday and Sunday. Some days I’ve played up to 8 hours in one day. I’m exhausted afterward, but I had fun, I met new people, I exercised and my mind was occupied. I’ve done tours of my city with Single Professional groups. I’ve dated.
- Listen and watch. Find great music that can help you feel deeply. Kenny Loggins song “The Real Thing” has been very gripping for me. I’ve listened to a lot of Country music lately. It feels real, it helps me see hope for future relationships and realize other people have suffered and struggled as well. Watching movies like “Les Miserables” and even stuff like “Yours, Mine and Ours” help give hope and let me feel and long for a positive future.
- Go out and enjoy nature alone. I’ve spent a great deal of time praying and being silent in open fields, in places with views of water, on my back porch and other places. I’ve begun taking pictures of these places (one is at the top of the blog). I want to remember where God has met me. These times are so constructive for working through things.
- Find Confidants. People who can pray with you and hear your struggle and not judge but love you are so important throughout this time. I feel like I have seen Jesus in my friends and my family that serve as “my team” over the last six months. If you don’t have people like this in your life, you need to find some at church or in your family. You will not grow or do the right thing if you don’t have these influences in your life.
- Re-connect with your family. I’ve visited family more than I ever have in my entire life — getting ready for my 3rd trip to see them in six months. The relationships there that I’ve rekindled have literally sustained me over the last few months. My dad, mom and brothers and sisters in law have been such a huge support and encouragement to me. I try to talk to them at least 2 x per week.
- Reconnect with old friends. There’s a reason they loved you at some point in your life. There’s varying degrees of re-connection, but at the least respond to facebook posts, message a few, chat a bit, find out about how their lives have changed. You don’t have to tell all of them the extensiveness of the difficulty with your kids and your ex, sometimes its good just to have friends you DON’T discuss this stuff with — there’s no pressure to constantly complain and you can live vicariously through their kids and their lives.
- Re-connect with God. If you don’t have a higher power to cast your cares upon, you might want to begin looking into how to have a relationship with your maker. There’s no better time to do this than when you have absolutely NO CONTROL over how your kids or your ex act toward you. There is release and peace when you relinquish your ability to control them, and ask God to change your heart and your mind and your approach to the situation. In addition, talking out loud in my prayers has been such a powerful conduit to a relationship that has transcended any past connection with God.
I hope these things can help you as you struggle through a time of alienation or difficulty with your ex and your kids. Thanks for all your input to me as I struggle through this. I’m not out of the woods, I have constant doubts and heavy sighs. I have not “made it” yet. Divorce probably won’t be final for another month at least and even after it is, that doesn’t mean things will be better with the kids.
- The Word of the Day: Be free of anger (fggam.org)