Loss – When the Relationship Ends
The loss of a relationship is one of the most difficult things that we may have to come to terms with, because it isn’t just the loss of a partner, but also the loss of a planned future together and having to cope with the changes in relationships with friends and family, many of whom may take sides. Add into this the financial and practical issues that have to be dealt with and it isn’t surprising that many cope by staying in denial, hoping that the other will return, whilst being angry at the ‘unfairness’ of it all.
The person who has had least control over the ending may find themselves unable to accept the that it is really over and watch the solicitors’ letters building up unanswered, or fire back defensively, perhaps hoping that the other will see the pain that they are putting them through.
When all efforts at convincing their former partner to return have come to nothing, and the reality is that the partner is not coming back, it can lead to depression, a time of feeling low and unable to join in everyday life as they would have done in the past.
With time people come to accept their loss and no longer feel the need to relive the events. It is an ending and, as with all endings, a new beginning. It is often a time to rediscover the person that they are and move on.
This is a process that can, and often does, get stuck at any stage and people find it helpful to have someone to talk things through with, either a trusted friend or a counsellor, to reflect on the past and look at how the future could look. Having someone alongside them to listen and help unravel the emotional turmoil, with kindness and compassion, can help make sense of what happened and start to heal the hurt.
Separation from a Child’s Perspective
Many of us think that holidays are great, but being together as a family can throw the spotlight on relationship issues that would normally be buried in the day to day busyness of our lives. Sometimes this can be a great opportunity to sort out these issues, relax and start afresh, but what if the problems won’t go away? Over 40% of marriages end in divorce and one of the toughest parts for parents is telling the children and working out the best way to minimise the upset for them. How and when to do it and how to make it ok for them?
The truth is that there is no good time for telling bad news. According to the age of the child it will be taken in different ways, and if this is where you find yourself now, it is helpful if you have worked out beforehand how you can set yourselves up, after separating, so that you can provide the mutual care for your children between you.
The question of whether it is better to stay together ‘for the sake of the children’ can perhaps be answered by the level of conflict between the parents. As a counsellor who works with children and young people I have found that most say that the worst thing about their Mum and Dad separating was the arguing beforehand, and the best is if the shouting has stopped. Living in a violent or abusive atmosphere leaves long term scars for all.
Post-separation many children feel that they are drawn into taking sides. They want to be able to love both parents, but often end up walking on egg shells, quickly learning to avoid saying anything about Mum when with Dad, and Dad when with Mum. If they see one parent upset they may feel obliged to join in seeing the other parent as the ‘bad’ one. They may feel guilty about spending time with one or other parent if they think that the other is left at home, alone and sad.
Anger issues can surface, but this is a healthy reaction, a way of saying that they are not happy, and as long as being angry gets them listened to, and they can express it safely, they are less likely to bottle it all up. Finding someone for them to talk to that isn’t judgmental can be the key to helping them through a difficult time, whether it is a family member, friend or therapist.
It doesn’t have to be all doom and gloom though. The least damage is done when parents can continue to work together for their children, even if they are in conflict about other things. Those that make arrangements for when/where/how they see the children based on the child’s needs have the best long term outcomes. The children won’t understand that how often they visit a parent is dependent on a financial agreement or one parent trying to score points against the other. They simply need to know that they are loved by both and that they don’t have to choose between them.