Advice

Being a child of divorce/separation

Sometimes it is healthier to part ways. Source : Siora Photography (via Unsplash)

By Imogen Killner

I have been a child of divorce and separation twice, the first when I was 4 and the second when I was 15. To be honest, there is never an easy way to deal with it. I developed a lot of coping strategies as a child and teenager, such as distracting myself and mentally blocking it all out and reading Harry Potter to escape from reality.

These worked really well in the short-term, and are quite popular with other children of divorce, but led to complications in the long-term. Because I did not talk about my feelings of loss and abandonment, anger and confusion, I learnt to bottle up my feelings in an unhealthy way. Whilst I never showed it, I felt like an outsider at school, as none of my friends had been through the same experience. I couldn’t join in with the jokes about Dads because I never really had a real one. This was never a cry for help or a plead for pity, it was just something that I couldn’t relate to.

With the long-term complications of bottling up my feelings, I began to burst during my sixth form years. For me, the second separation was easiest as it was a healthy separation, and I consider my ex-step-dad to be my real father, but a change in routine was nonetheless startling at such a vital part of my teenage years. I have been to various forms of counseling in my life, starting when I was about 11 to discuss my biological father and all the way to 17 when I realized my feelings were more complicated than I expected. I cannot recommend counselling enough, even if it is just one session.

The mere act of talking about your feelings lessens the blow of pain massively. I developed new coping strategies, for example my mum and I created an imaginary treasure chest that sat in the back of my head for any good, or bad, memories of my dad that I never liked to acknowledge. In the summer between first and second year I started CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy), which I can only recommend to those with mental illnesses that are becoming increasingly out of control. I would not recommend this purely to children of divorce, as counselling can help with that. For those with psychological issues, CBT works to unwind any behavioral patterns that you develop and helps you to understand how your head works. CBT was a life-saver when it came to discussing separation and divorce, and has left me feeling like I finally have closure with it all.

This is not to dismiss young adults who are experiencing divorce. I highly recommend using the university’s student support and wellbeing services to avoid bottling up feelings that may affect your grades and mental state. If you were a child dealing with divorce, do talk to a professional if you feel as if you don’t have closure. And remember, it is never your fault, and it does get better.

Disclaimer: I can only talk for my personal experience with divorce, and want to reassure the reader that every human has different coping strategies and feelings surrounding it.

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