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Category Archives: depression

Your Loss Is Your Gain

Thought I’d stop and check in on you. How’s your holiday been so far? It can be a tough time for a lot of people and divorced parents are no exception. There’s something about the season that can make us focus on what we’ve lost rather than what we may have gained. Whether or not you have a good relationship with your ex, the
griefholidays have a way of reminding you of the un-whole aspect of your family and then unceremoniously throwing it in your face. It may be because you’re not with your kids during the holiday. It may be because you are. It may be because you’re all together but in a very different dynamic than you were a few years ago. It may even be a very positive and happy time. But it’s still a reminder of what used to be and that things may be patched, but in some ways they’re still broken.

Believe me I get it. The hard part is that there really is no “fix.” As with the loss of a loved one, all you can do is that which fate allows, which is to acknowledge and move on. Be strong. Lick your wounds, stand up straight and use your experience to your advantage. In many ways the hurt strengthens us. There’s a grit to it that allows us to know we’ve been there and made it through. It doesn’t erase the negative or fill the emptiness, but there’s something about having lived through adversity that humbles us and reminds us that we’re human.

Look, I could sit here and do my best to pump you up with words of encouragement; telling you not to focus on the pain. But honestly, I think sometimes we need to morn our losses. We need to give our souls a chance to heal. To ignore the pain is no more healthy than it is to dwell on it. If you’re sad, that’s OK. Give yourself an opportunity to grieve. It’s a part of who you are and to ignore it would be to ignore an important element of the whole “you.” So embrace it. Accept it. Carry it with you. Hold it dear rather than bury it deep where it can do
the-only-cure-for-grief-is-actionmore damage. I believe that in each of our defeats there is a victory. In every mistake a lesson to be learned. The new year represents a new dawn and an opportunity to take the sum of our experiences and build on them. To create new goals and new aspirations. To find renewed determination to make it better. And in order to do that we need to remember the hurt as much as the pleasure. Let it inspire you. Let it motivate you.

Recognize that life is a mixed bag. Too much sugar isn’t healthy for the body. We need a proper balance of emotions to feel complete. So shed a tear for the losses, share a smile for the gains and look to tomorrow for new opportunities to sore higher than you’ve ever flown. And use these moments of emptiness to remind you of where you’ve been and how amazing it will feel to be full again. Then when you’ve given yourself a chance to take it all in and come to terms with it, it’ll be time to take action and put it all behind you.

Take advantage of this time to reflect on the past year, both good and bad. A new year is right around the corner and anxious to take you on new adventures. Let’s be ready to go and see where we end up!

 

 

 

 

 

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God Rest Ye Stressful Gentlemen

Ahh the holidays! Anyone who watches television or spends time on Facebook knows it’s the most wonderful time of the year. Everyone is so happy because it’s a time when life is pretty much perfect. We’re baking and shopping and wrapping and drinking and celebrating and worshiping. Families are in complete harmony, everyone has everything they could ever want and we’re all so gosh darn giddy we can’t help but break into a chorus of Jingle Bells every ten minutes.

And then there’s reality.

It’s about stress people! Most people I’ve talked to this holiday season seem to be way behind on just about everything. Perhaps it was the late Thanksgiving this year. But more than one friend has told me that they’re behind on Christmas cards, their house is half decorated, and they can’t find their keys. (OK, that last one was me).images-3

Let’s face it, the truth is the holidays can be incredibly stressful. Our cash flow hasn’t increased, yet our debit cards are getting dinged every fifteen seconds. We’re inundated every morning by another 83 e-mails from stores offering us 85% off and free shipping on orders over $100.00. There’s the traveling, shopping, and visiting. People seem abnormally judgmental as well, which seems contrary to what the whole Christmas thing is about, but hey, that’s just me.

The kids are out of school so there’s often childcare stress and if you’re divorced it means in most cases spreading yourself even thinner or having to be away from the kids. Depending on your relationship with your ex, you may be experiencing added anxiety attempting to schedule time with the kids and working through what can be one of the most frustrating aspects of a divorce, while at the same time trying to ensure the kids have a wonderful holiday. Regardless of the state of your divorce, chances are you’re also feeling an ounce or two of guilt for creating added stress for the kids as they get bounced around from home to home.

The holidays are also a time when people miss loved ones who aren’t around to celebrate with. We forget how many people are either separated due to military service, work, divorce or death. If you’re human, there’s a very good chance you fall into one of those categories and are missing someone this holiday season. As my readers know, this aspect of the holidays is hitting close to home this year and its affect is unmistakable. It can really put your holiday season into a tailspin and is a great cause of depression during this time of year.

And yet we move forward, faced with a choice of succumbing to the stresses that the holidays bring, or focusing our attention on bringing cheer to those around us. The reality is that the holidays aren’t unlike any
images-2other time of the year. There’s good and there’s bad. And that which we choose to focus on is really up to us. It’s easy during down time to focus on the negatives and the hardships. To feel sorry for ourselves. To stress about bills, schedules, family, traveling and being alone. But don’t we do that enough during the other 364 days a year?

My wish for you this year is that you can find joy in the season. To see through the clutter and allow the spirit of the holidays into your heart. To rise above and combat every argument with a smile and a cookie. I guarantee you that no matter how bad your world is, the guy across the street is struggling just as much if not more. Let’s face it, we all have our crosses to bare. That’s one aspect of life we really have no control over. And I’ve seen people dragging crosses ten times bigger than mine. Some things just are what they are and it’s up to us to pull up our big girl panties and keep moving forward. Otherwise we trip on em, and then we just look stupid. Let’s just be honest and say it; for many the holidays suck. So let’s all band together and have a sucky holiday together. Maybe in doing so we’ll discover a spirit we hadn’t anticipated.

I believe the holidays are a chance to let people know that they’re not alone. That someone on this earth may be hurting too for the exact same reason. It’s not easy though. It means shrugging off our own hardships and opening our hearts to another who may be hurting as well. Sometimes it’s something as simple as a smile, a friendly greeting or just an acknowledgement that someone recognizes your pain. And so I say to you, you’re not alone and you’re going to be OK. So turn on some Christmas music, make some hot cocoa and do your best to focus on the positives. I’m pretty sure if you look hard enough you have a stocking full.

 

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Learning To Say Goodbye

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My brother-in-law Paul and me.

For the past several years I’ve worked hard to ensure that my children know my family. My sisters and parents all live 700 plus miles away, which has made it a challenge at times. So, we make the trip up north at least once and typically two or three times a year to play and visit. At one point my ex-wife and I even moved everyone up to Buffalo for six months to make sure a connection would be made. All told, the benefits have been enormous. The relationships my children have with their aunts and uncles are something they will carry with them the rest of their lives and their memories with them are too numerous to mention.

Today I find myself helping guide them through the first negative that comes with having a strong relationship with a relative; having to saying goodbye. The passing of my brother-in-law Paul has been nothing short of a strong blow to the gut and we are all feeling the impact. This is the first loss we’ve had within our immediate little circle and my sisters, parents and I are all in a state of shock. And as usual, my kids are watching. They’re watching me talk on the phone with my family. They’re watching me break down in front of the dairy section at Kroger. They’re watching me stare off into space as I try to make sense of it all. And they’re watching me do laundry and clean the kitchen as I deal with the day to day operations of our lives which simply don’t stop.

The children lost an uncle and I a big brother. He was the husband of my eldest sister and he influenced me in more ways than I care to mention. He was a teacher, a photographer, a carpenter and a business owner. He probably taught me as much about life as my own father did as he was a part of my world from the age of
three. He encouraged my sense of humor, taught me to play pool, helped me build my first bookshelf and helped me chop down my first Christmas tree. My kids of course are full of questions. And they have all requested to make the trip north with me to say goodbye and be there with the rest of my family.

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Paul playing Uno with the kids

And so, we will make this trip together. As much as I want to protect them from pain, there are life lessons that can’t be avoided no matter how much we try. This week they will no doubt cry and feel a pain that until now has
been foreign to them. They will see others, including their father, struggle to make sense of their uncle’s passing. But at some point in their life they will have to say goodbye to someone and if there is any comfort to be found in all of this, it is that they will do so within a supportive circle. A circle they’ve spent the past several years becoming a more integral part of with every visit. They will need hugs and need to hug. But along with their pain, they will know the value of being a part of a family they are now completely vested in.

As a man who has made an art out of keeping people at arm’s length (including my family at times); teaching my children to open themselves up to hurt by opening themselves up to love has proven to be a daunting task. But just knowing how much they have learned from knowing Paul and the rest of my family, knowing how much laughter and joy they have experienced from being around them throughout these past several years; I myself have reflected on how much can be gained from making ourselves vulnerable. Paul taught us all a great deal. And as one friend put it, even in passing, he’s managed to find a way to teach one final valuable lesson. How to say goodbye.

 

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If You Only Knew What Your Kids Think

I recently discovered a growing number of kids who are reading and sharing LAADD and I’ve gotta tell you, it’s mind blowing. In most cases they are children whose parents are divorced or split, and as I read their own blogs, at times, quite frankly, I’m brought to tears. Their stories, their perspectives, their lives are, in some cases, rocked to the core by what they are witnessing. Their views of their parents and how they perceive the reasoning behind the choices their parents have made are at times down right chilling.

As a divorced parent, you need to know your children are watching. EVERYTHING. And they understand more than you often give them credit for. At the same time, they see things through the eyes of someone who’s never dealt with the pain that you’ve encountered. All they see is selfishness on the part of their parents. Theyimages don’t know the hurt you or your ex are experiencing. Nor could they comprehend it. They’ve never been married. They’ve never experienced some of the things you or I have. They can only judge what they see by what they can relate to and because of that their views can be somewhat skewed. But it is still their perception and it is their reality. What I’ve gathered from reading their own blog entries is that in many cases, they’re not impressed. And more often than not, they are hurting.

Their hurt is deep and shaping the way they view the world and the people around them. Whether or not they see themselves as a reason for the divorce, they still feel abandoned and unimportant. They consider themselves an afterthought. They view themselves as very much on their own. My guess is that part of the reason for this perception is that as single parents we have to be everywhere at once and often turn them away when they are trying to connect. Part of it may be because they see us worried more about our own emotional needs than theirs. In being passed back and forth they likely feel like a hot potato. Even if it isn’t true, in their heads they likely interpret us as saying, “OK, it’s your turn to deal with them.” They feel less like part of the team and more like the ball being tossed back and forth. Regardless of the why, what I’m reading in many cases is an internal emptiness. A dark void that has surrounded them. This void has made them cynical, cold and lost.

I share this with you as a reminder that we need to constantly renew our focus on the emotional and psychological needs of our kids. They didn’t ask to be brought into this scenario. We thrust it upon them. Regardless of who walked out, cheated, abused or initiated the separation, on some level our own choices in life are now directly affecting them. Even if one or both parents are a huge positive, any negative is going to be taken personally. No matter how many times we tell them we love them or want them around, in many cases they see regret in our eyes and ask themselves if bigstock_depression_184004181part of that regret is having had them. They ask themselves if they are your baggage first and your kid second.

I am so thankful for what I have learned through this journey. Some of it has been gratifying and other parts difficult to swallow. All of it has shaken me to the core. There is so much hurt to go around. So much pain, much of which bubbles under the surface, hidden from public view. It’s all the more reason to do everything we can to stay focused on the positive. To balance the negative and hurt with compassion and understanding. To view ourselves as part of the solution not part of the problem. To put our egos aside and take the high road. To hold our tongues and be aware of the big picture. We choose every day how to react to those around us. Our ex’s, our friends, neighbors, family and yes, our kids. And we have the power to set the tone. It’s not always easy and there is always the potential for misinterpretation, misinformed assumptions, and overreactions. Just stop when you’re at your limit or feel yourself on the verge of completely losing it. Do yourself a favor and remind yourself every day that you are the foundation your kids so desperately need. Know that they need to have a strong sense of belonging to a family. You have so much power to establish the energy of the room and build a healthy, encouraging, environment for their fragile, still developing egos. They want you to be there for them regardless of what they may say. And if you’re not, they will find somewhere else to turn. And often that place can be dark and and incredibly destructive.

There is so much our kids don’t share with us. Perhaps sometimes we purposefully turn a blind eye to it simply because we don’t want to hear it. Maybe we prefer to live in ignorant bliss. But it’s important for us to be aware of their reality. Ignoring it is not the answer. Get it out and address it head on. Some of the conversations are going to be difficult. Some of the things you hear are going to hurt. But remember, you’re the adult. Teach your kid to face the negative head on by constantly being there for them. As a parent, by definition, you’re often the enforcer of rules and bearer of bad news. But let them know you can also provide them with an open forum free from judgement. There are things they’ll want to keep to themselves, but there are things they want to and need to share. But they’ll only do it if you’ll let them and they feel safe in doing it. Do your best to let them know that when needed they can come to you to discuss things. And above all let them know they are the single most important thing in the world to you. They need to know that fact down to their very core.

 

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Join The Club

Why would you read this blog? Well. If you’re a divorced dad (or mom for that matter), you’re kind of part of the club. When you got divorced, your friends and family likely rallied behind you and supported you in the only way they knew how. But as much as we appreciate the support of those around us, there is still an emptiness you feel unless you’re able to connect with others who are living the same experience.

I can demonstrate empathy for someone with a broken arm, but I can’t connect with them on a level of true understanding and compassion simply because I’ve never had to live day to day with the emotional or physicalpolls_alone_0603_585011_poll_xlarge challenges of having to survive with only one workable set of fingers.

Those who don’t have kids, can’t fully appreciate what a day with kids is like. Anyone who isn’t divorced with kids, can’t truly appreciate the level of energy true commitment to those lives requires to make it work. They can support, love, embrace, and encourage. But they will never truly understand what life as a single divorced dad is like unless you are a single divorced dad as well. At times it can cause you to feel alone in a crowded room. You need the support and appreciate the encouragement, but you can still feel alone when you don’t feel like people fully understand what you’re going through.

And so, this blog was created as a point of reference, written by a single divorced father of three who is attempting, like other single divorced dads, to make it through the hours, days, weeks, months, and years with a positive attitude and with the strength to raise well adjusted happy children.

It’s one thing for a doctor of psychology to tell you it’ll all be OK. Or to hear from your married brother that you’re going to make it. But it’s another when a fellow father struggling with getting the kids to soccer practice, their yearbook meeting, dance class, making their lunches, being there when they get home, having their favorite keep-calm-and-join-the-club-6jeans ready in the morning, making sure everyone is together for a healthy dinner, and coordinating with an ex who has their own set of demands to deal with, tells you that you can do it; it simply holds a little more weight.

And I’m here to tell you, you can do it. You’re going to make it. You’re not alone. There are others going through exactly the same thing. It sucks, it’s hard, it’s demanding and it’s draining. It will test you on every level emotionally and physically. You will fail, and you will succeed. You will laugh. You will cry. You will smile. You will scream. You will let people down because you’re simply at capacity and don’t have anything else to give. You will also celebrate victories with friends and family when you need it most. You will have days when you’ll feel like it’s all going to fall apart. But you will recover and recognize that it won’t. There will be victories. There will be hugs. You will find moments of peace and acceptance. You will recognize strengths you never would have known you had if it hadn’t been for the divorce. You will grow and so will your children. There are so many positives to look for. So many amazing moments. And so many things you can do to make it a positive.

My hope is that you can find a word or two here and there that encourages you to smile and get up ready to take on the world. A world that may be foreign to you. One that may appear overwhelming at times, but is manageable if you simply take it one step at a time.

So, from one divorced father to another; I assure you, you can make it. Oh, and welcome to the club. Glad to have you.

 

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