When I was nine years old our family got divorced.
I say it this way because in one day our American stepmother moved back to Texas with our younger brother and sister.
Overnight, dad found himself the solo caretaker of my sister and I, in our English suburb.
He carried his grief with dignity – compartmentalizing it as best he could – to deal with later. My father kept a diary through this tough time.
After work, he also went to the bar, the theatre in London, walked in nature, golfed with his best friend and wrote avidly. He took cooking classes (I’ll never forget the gooseberry salad or the pink and blue pasta) and he eventually started dating.
He parented us through those first, tough years, steering us as best he could through his emotional exhaustion.
Grief takes a lot of energy. It can swallow up your ability to connect with even your closest family and friends – as you try and protect them from waves of emotion that you fear might sweep you away.
I became aware of my ‘coach heart’ as my sister and I watched our Dad go through his divorce grief.
As a youngster, I wanted Dad to feel better. Of course, at that time I had no idea how to help. Besides the obvious maturity deficit, my mind was swimming with preteen angst, crushes and best friend drama.
However, I welcomed opportunities to hear my father out when he was ready. As the years went on and he slowly unpacked his grief, Dad opened up at times.
We talked late into the night as we sat in old, avocado green armchairs in front of the fireplace of our home in Ireland. I relished hearing him finally vocalize his feelings about the past, and we were able to revisit some of the quirkiness of the tough years.
Dad took a long, quiet road to healing. He pushed his grief deep down and packed it away, no doubt so that he could continue to function as a parent and keep our family afloat.
As the years went by, however, he also modeled flexibility and openness to change. He took dance classes, and eventually met our beloved Sam (wife #3) in pursuit of the perfect tango partner. Yes, my friends, tango.
Eventually I became a Life Coach, working with men and women as they go through the process of divorce and tough breakups.
People can learn to handle the waves of emotion (even negative emotions) and to use the thoughts and emotions that once bothered them to help them become what they truly long to be.
As for grief, time heals us only after we face it.
Divorce grief can look like anger, denial, or depression. People forget that this is the same grief cycle as losing a beloved family member, and it can go on for a lot longer. Along with that, we often feel a host of other feelings – guilt, shame and self reproach being common to most.
These days men and women don’t have to take the long, lonely road – or bear divorce grief all alone. If you want the company of others in the same boat, there are community groups and specialized workshops out there for you.
If you prefer the luxury of privacy and individual attention, work with a Life Coach or a Counselor.
And hats off to you Dad. Tango on.
Erina is a Certified Life Coach, author of coaching manual ‘Change Your Mind with Affirmations’, a blogger, and fine artist.
Three countries have been home. She was born in Dallas,Texas, but moved to England at five years old. (A tough transition for her accent!) The family moved again during her teen years to the beautiful fishing village of Glengarriff, Ireland, where she finished school and attended nearby University College Cork.
The day after sitting the last exam for her BA, she followed her heart back to the States, landing for a while in Boulder, Colorado.
Finally, she took root with her husband and their three children in Chagrin Falls, Ohio – “the longest I’ve lived anywhere in my life.”
Erina was Certified as a Life Coach through The Life Coach School in California, by nationally acclaimed Master Coach Instructor Brooke Castillo. She maintains “I’ve always been a coach at heart”.
Please check out her website for more info at www.acomfortablemind.com or call 440-622-0532.
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