Many marriages end in divorce. The numbers seem to sit right around 40-50% of marriages ending in divorce, that means that there are many kids out there just like you who have experienced the transition of married parents to divorced parents.
Many kids believe they’re the reason their parents got divorced. They think that if only they had behaved better, gotten better grades, or helped more around the house, the divorce wouldn’t have happened. But this isn’t true. Divorce is between the parents only. Even if you once heard your parents argue about you, you are not the cause.
You can’t do anything about the divorce but what YOU CAN DO is focus on taking care of yourself at this time and reestablishing new norms for yourself and your life.
For example, you may now have two different homes with two different bedrooms. How can you make a safe, calm place for yourself in each home? Can you put up soothing lights, set up your television and make a new routine for yourself at each home? This will give you some power and control in a time that may seem hectic.
You may feel at peace that your parents are no longer fighting, you may feel a deep sense of sadness or anger at times. You may think- “why am I crying and then really angry at mom or dad for what they’ve done?” All of these emotions are normal and it is important to acknowledge them as normal and that you CAN manage them.
Here are the stages of loss that you may go through:
Shock and Denial
You may be in shock that your life is about to change and not want to deal with it. This is denial when we tell ourselves, “this isn’t happening.”
In this stage you will need time to work through your anger. You may even pick one parent to be mad at and not at the other. This is normal. Try to find adults to talk to about your anger, if you can’t talk to your parents about it.
You may feel as though your life is falling apart, you may withdraw and feel sad and detached from your family and friends. If you are not talking to anyone or have any self harm or suicidal thoughts, reach out to a trusted adult.
Dialogue & Bargaining
Here you may try to get the family back together. You may fantasize about reconciliation and promise to be good if your parents will just reconsider. This may be your way of working through the guilt of feeling that you were the reason for the divorce. Remember: you did not break up the family, and it is not likely that you can get the family back together.
Reaching this stage means that you have adjusted to the reality and permanence of the divorce. The entire grief process is one of dealing with loss and requires that you overcome the sense of powerlessness that you may feel.
As you work through this; do all you can to maintain your normal schedule and activities. It is important to remember that you will go through the grief cycle at different speeds than your siblings or friends. Some children will be so glad that there is no more conflict, they will reach acceptance very quickly. For others, reaching acceptance can be a very long and difficult journey.
It’s important to know that you did not cause the divorce, you can rebuild a new life for yourself, you will go through stages of grief, and YOU WILL BE OKAY!