Where are you on road to recovery? What does the choice to separate feel like? Does it feel like a necessary, but difficult choice? Does it feel like a weight has been taken off your shoulders now that your unhappiness is in the open? Are you feeling overwhelmed or paralyzed by the decisions that have to be made? Do you feel like a failure as a parent, intimate partner and provider? Are you surprised by your partner’s reaction? How did the children react to the news? Did each child react very differently and as such display different parenting issues? Are your extended family and friends supportive or judgmental? The questions about personal recovery are never-ending, but important.
A Personal Story
I thought that I was prepared for the separation. My children’s mother and I had a civil conversation about the separating process and how we would tell our parents and friends in a no-fault explanation. I had agreed (for no reason other than caretaking) to leave the matrimonial home for a room in a friend’s parents’ home.
As soon as I started the 30-minute drive to my new place, I became desperate, lonely and overwhelmed with grief and loss.
I would describe myself normally as a rock, but the next day as I drove past a swamp on my left it took everything not to swerve off the road. It was the first time in my life that I had such dark thoughts. That troubled moment has remained in my memory for 30 years.
Separating and separating by leaving your children and family home is an experience that we are ill prepared for no matter our gender or our position on separating.
I offer this anecdote because it is a common experience.
It is important that a plan is in place for future, sharing/spending time with your children before leaving the home. DO NOT ASSUME that it will all be worked out . . . eventually. Recovery is more difficult for a parent who is not seeing or assured that they will be with their children on a predictable, regular schedule, sooner than later. Consider a mediator or another suitable professional to work out an interim parenting plan prior to anyone leaving the family home, if possible.
In this site’s resources there are readings that may meet where you are in the separating process. Dealing with the different stages of grief—similar to the death of a loved one—may be the best starting point. Many authors focus on the journey that most separated parents go through in some way.
Your resilience is perhaps the most important gift that you can showcase to your children. Resilience will serve you well. Included in the readings are research on the prevalence of depression for fathers and mothers going through a separation. Remember, for many parents the separation often follows many months, even years, of feeling low or worse. Many parents experience what is called situational depression depression directly triggered by the separation and the many negative outcomes that are directly related.
The most significant of these outcomes are almost always connected to the challenges faced in every important relationship.
Included among our resources are book recommendations and personal stories that our 600+ clients found to be supportive in their journey to personal survival and even family renewal. Please take time to consider the resources on mental health and depression, as these things can have direct consequences upon your children and your workplace. Many of the resources available on this site are intended to inspire or to awaken us to the changes taking place in every intimate, family relationship. There is going to be a great deal on your plate for some time, and many will be parenting or relationship problems you have never before encountered. Support groups or educational seminars may provide similar understanding and a sense of comradery with fellow travelers on this journey of separation.
Books and resources can provide an understanding of what was going on in the chaos of your family’s life. I considered those books I encountered in my own journey to be lifesaving, for they provided insight that cut through the chaos and restored some form of equilibrium. I found comfort in learning that those things that were happening in my life had happened to many others. It didn’t always solve the specific issues, but it removed doubt about my own sanity and what I was facing going forward. That was very important!