Going through the experience of divorce is plagued with SO many different emotions: fear, shame, guilt, anger, sadness, grief, resentment, jealousy, relief, happiness, hope, despair, depression, elation. As parents, if we feel guilty or responsible for splitting up the marriage, we can eternally try to make it up to our children for our part in the break up of the marriage. This guilt can negatively impact the quality of our relationships with our children.
My Story of Divorce Guilt & Maddie
When I got divorced, I gave my spouse custody of our 2 year old daughter, Maddie. I felt forced into this decision because what I really wanted was joint custody. But because I wanted out of the marriage, guilt influenced this regretful choice. Guilt continued to follow me for many years afterwards because I questioned how I could use such poor judgment.
My grief re-surfaced when Maddie began going into the hospital with CF exacerbations when she was fifteen years old. Her hospital visits continued to increase in frequency from once a year to 2-3 times a year. Her body couldn’t take the repeated assaults of IV antibiotics, and in addition she had CF-induced diabetes. She continued to lose weight, and I especially anticipated her death in the last year when she had to go on oxygen for a couple of weeks while outside of the hospital.
Causes of Divorce Guilt
The Impact of Divorce Guilt
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Managing Divorce Guilt
There are ways to manage divorce guilt in a healthy way that can improve our relationships with our children. When a couple decides to get a divorce, guilt is often one of the first emotions that they feel. This guilt can be especially strong when there are children involved. Here are 6 tips for managing divorce guilt with kids:
- Don’t try to hide your feelings from your kids. It’s important for them to see that you’re going through a tough time too. They feel it anyway, whether you verbalize it or not.
- Forgive yourself. Remember you did what you did because you didn’t have a better alternative at the time. It made sense to who you were then. Go easy and gentle on yourself as you take responsibility for your past choices.
- Take good physical, mental and emotional care of yourself. The more you can connect with yourself and see you deserve to be cared for, the better you’ll connect with your kids and others and be able to let go of the guilt.
- Let them know that the divorce is not their fault. Reassure them that both parents still love them and will always be there for them.
- Help them find ways to express their feelings about the divorce. Kids may want to talk about it, write about it, or draw pictures about it.
- Make sure they have plenty of one-on-one time with both parents. This will help them feel loved and supported by both parents during this difficult time.
Using EFT to Relieve Feelings of Guilt & Shame