Why can’t we just drop everything we’ve said?

All I want is a peaceful night in bed… 

Without these bizarre thoughts all runnin’ through my head

Sometimes you make me wish I was dead…

I Know It Is Hard” describes the experience of Domestic Violence by Proxy/Alienation from the broken heart of a teen.

The powerful words of the rap song “I Know It Is Hard” were written and performed by a teen who has been physically alienated from a parent and used as a weapon since the age of 14.

The video was posted online after being sent to a targeted parent in 2012.

 

The article Fragmented Child: Disorganized Attachment and Dissociation by Robert T. Muller Ph.D describes how abuse can destroy a child’s sense of self, and cause them to seek refuge from a painful reality by dissociating.

The “Fragmented Child” article was very helpful to me to identify many of the symptoms I have seen in my own children; I am sharing a link to this article along with some of my own experiences to raise awareness about the effects of abuse on children. I also feel a purpose in sharing my story to illustrate the devastating impact of family court rulings that place children in the care and custody of an abusive or unfit parent – much of the harm inflicted on my children could have been prevented if the family court had protected them from abuse.

What is Dissociation?

In “Fragmented Child”, Muller describes dissociation and its cause. The “fragmented child” is one who uses dissociation as a defense mechanism to deal with a stressful, traumatic or abusive situation.

Muller says about dissociation,“As a way of coping, dissociation occurs when the brain compartmentalizes traumatic experiences to keep people from feeling too much pain, be it physical, emotional, or both. When dissociation occurs, you experience a detachment from reality, like ‘spacing out.’ Part of you just isn’t ‘there in the moment.’” Children who grow up in an abusive homes often dissociate because they can not handle the trauma, pain and/or dysfunctional environment.

Dissociation happens when there is a trauma or assault, our first instinct is to go into “fight or flight” mode. When there is no escape, the flight is taken into the mind – away from a present danger. Dissociation is a defense mechanism where a person separates from their memory something they do not want to deal with. There is a range of mild dissociation to full blown dissociative identity disorder (separating a part of yourself from memory). Amnesia may occur with dissociation because the mind is shutting out or erasing a painful reality.

Through dissociation, memory of the trauma is held within fragmented parts of the mind. The trauma causes the mind to break or split off into smaller pieces that make it easier to process what has occurred. Over time those fragments may form their own distinct parts or identities. Triggers or memories of trauma release the memories which emerge (this occurs in a variety of ways).

People who experience dissociation commonly report feeling numb, spaced out, may have amnesia, and feel disconnected. A dissociative disorder changes the way a person sees reality and impairs memory, consciousness and a person’s sense of identity.

For more info on Dissociative Disorders please visit: Dissociative disorders (by Mind for Better Mental Health(

Understanding the Dissociative Disorders by Marlene Steinberg, M.D.

Public Domain: http://absfreepic.com

The Devastating Impact – When Courts Order Children into the Custody of Abusers: What I Have Seen in my own Children

My children are victims of abuse who have been further traumatized when the family court gave sole custody to the identified abuser. My children suffer from debilitating psychological, behavioral and social problems as a result of the abuse. My children have had their childhood stolen from them.

It is distressing to realize that your children are coping with a dysfunctional home environment by dissociating, and that your efforts to protect your children are being challenged, and prevented, by the family court system. Filing protective orders or asking for a change of custody based on abuse or endangerment has resulted in reprieve, and punishment from the courts (financial sanctions, loss of visitation and/or custody, ordered into supervised visitation, gag orders, jail are all common forms courts punish protective parents). Seeking therapy and professional help for my family has resulted in me being accused of harming my children, being told I need to “co-parent” better and otherwise being told my concerns of abuse, and the supporting documentation I offer, is not credible. My legal rights have also been violated in the court process. I am told to stay silent, stop raising concerns, be a more “cooperative” parent. No parent should be asked to enable the abuse of their own children.

I have seen the following indicators of dissociation present in my own children:

1) Talking to my children, they are sometimes triggered or can not deal with a difficult emotion, their response is a blank face (emotionless) and silence. The tone of voice may sound monotone. Or their mood may not match the current situation or the prevalent emotions of the day (for example, it’s a birthday party, everyone is happy but the children are silent and withdrawn).

2) The child withdraws into their own world – retreating into distractions, video games or computer time, imagination or an intense interest that draws their attention away from the present and into an inner world. The interest dominates the child’s focus, and they have trouble staying emotionally regulated without it.

3) After a long separation from my child, I am finally able to reconnect or have some contact with the children. I am overjoyed, and emotional. The child appears detached, appears emotionless, eyes are blank, voice is flat and mood is somber or withdrawn. At times a glimmer of my child once was will appear. Maybe I will get an unexpected hug. Or my child will create a card or picture for me, showing love or affection. It is confusing to see the dramatic changes – the conflicting closeness followed by the coldness, some children reject the targeted parent entirely.

4) The child is reminded or triggered by a memory of past trauma or abuse, and they freeze or lock up. They are unable to talk or move – sometimes they blank out. Other times they are aware of what is happening around them but unable to move or interact with their environment. Amnesia often follows these events. Or the child is unable to identify how they are feeling or what they are thinking.

5) When the child is overwhelmed by memories of trauma or abuse, they have violent or intense tantrums. Often there is very little or no memory of the tantrums. They may fall asleep after the tantrum due to exhaustion. There may be physical or emotional signs of dissociation that is associated with the onset of the tantrums – regressive behavior, mood swings, a drastic change in facial expression or appearance (this is an emotional change), banging their head on the wall, etc

Other signs of dissociation in children may include: Memory loss, inability to concentrate or focus, hyperactivity, mood swings, nightmares, a flat or monotone voice, appearing weak or lethargic, anxiety, and changes in personality.

When Family Court Professionals Fail to Recognize the Impact of Abuse on Children

The judges, Guardian ad Litem, evaluator, attorney for my abusive ex and other family court professionals working with my children, etc who do not understand the effects of abuse and trauma on children, commonly assign blame to one parent for causing reported behavioral and emotional problems in a child. Other times the court will deny any problem exists with the children (this happens even when there is ample evidence and documentation) and falsely accuse the targeted parent of having some kind of mental illness that causes a parent to report abuse and seek help for this child. In this way, victims of abuse are not being protected by the family court, and are being re-victimized.

Where there is no safety for children, some have chosen to escape the abuse, pain and ugly world they live in through dissociation.

— EJ, May 2016

Some thoughts on how the loss of my children due to an unjust family court order has motivated me to fight for family court reform. This post give you a glimpse into my family, and what the loss of my children means for us.

I dropped my youngest child (not involved in this custody dispute) off at preschool, he gave me the biggest hug and said “Love you Mommy… see ‘ya!” then ran off into the classroom. I remember the tight squeeze of my son’s arms wrapped around his neck. The softness of his hair under my chin. How he smells like bubblegum toothpaste and the crisp, wintery air that dusted snowflakes on his coat. I remember the sound of my child’s sneakers slapping across the linoleum floor when he ran into the classroom. And when the day is done, I will pick my child up from school, we will share our life together, as family.

I treasure each moment with my youngest child because I know the deep pain of being forced to live without your children.

My two oldest children have been unjustly taken from me and sole custody was given to an alleged abuser, with over a dozen child abuse allegations against him. As a result of the abuse, both children have suffered from anxiety, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, problems socializing, problems communicating and more. My daughter has been diagnosed with “adjustment disorder” for almost her entire life…I think it is a sign that she has never truly “adjusted” being forced to live an abuser. My son has clear memories of abuse, and when he was younger he would bang his head on the wall or hit himself in the head because physical pain was the only way to drown out the memories. My son now lives a “double life”. He has learned to project an image to the outside world, what he wants people to see…and hides who he really is. My son says that he on purpose blocks things out as a way to cope.

The abuser is using sole custody to totally exclude me from the life of my children. I do not get basic updates about their care or schooling. I wake up each morning with a tremendous emptiness. I do not get the chatter at the table as we eat breakfast. I do not get the hugs. I do not know what my children do during the day, or if they remember to say their bedtime prayers at night. I do not get to see my little girl grow up, and cringe at the thought of an abuser, who has shown no respect for women, is now guiding my little girl as she grows into a teen…all those important questions and conversations a mother and daughter share, will never happen for us. My oldest son spends all of his time on the internet; he has a new family in video games and Skype.

There is not a day that goes by that I do not feel the incredible grief for my children… the place where my children once nestled in my womb, safe beneath my heart, is empty.

The future for my family is a frame with no photograph.

It was my dream to be a stay at home mom. I wanted to be on the PTA, and attend play groups. I wanted to take my daughter to dance class, and play dress up with her. I wanted to encourage my son to develop his interest in science, and do crazy experiments together… Now I am the Mom involved in never-ending court proceedings. The Mom studying legal blogs, court rulings and rules of procedure—to fight a legal battle just so I can have a place in my children’s lives. I escaped the abuse to give my kids a better life, and now the Court is telling me their life is better with the abuser. Horrific.

I am the Mom who attends meetings, speaks out and takes every opportunity to advocate for my kids…and others like them… families negatively impacted by the failures and injustice within the family court system.

I will never stop fighting to keep my kids safe and to bring them home.

— “EJ”

Talking to a “Protective Mother” Who Lost Custody of Children
Due to an Unjust Court Ruling: 10 Comments to Avoid & Why

PART TWO COMMENTS #5-1

These tips are for family, friends, community supports, professionals and others who are in a position to help or support a “Protective Mother”. It is devastating for a Mother to lose custody of her children—especially in a family court proceeding where she may feel victimized, violated and abused (and there no recourse for justice). Those closest to the Mother often struggle with what to say or how to help. Sometimes comments made to help actually hurt the Mother. Other times, those making comments struggle with their own emotions and/or grief and their actions and behavior causes hurt or harm because they are also struggling or don’t know what to say. Some just don’t believe that a court of law would make a mistake, and believe the Mother must have done something wrong to lose custody. These 10 Comments are commonly reported among Protective Mothers to be hurtful, and traumatic. I am sharing these comments to raise awareness, and offer tips on how to better offer emotional support to Protective Mothers.

grief

5. Don’t tell a Mother how you want to hurt or get revenge on the ex. And don’t vent or dump anger, hatred or plotting revenge onto the Mother. This happens when a Mother tells her story and there is a strong reaction that involves harming the ex or fantasies of getting back at him.
The Reality: Holding in hurt, anger, hopelessness and other feelings intensifies those feels, and will ultimately cause more hurt and pain in your life—or that of someone else if you lash out. Words and actions to hurt or get revenge on an ex will negatively impact the custody case of the Protective Mother, and may cause her to be punished by the Court—even if she did not commit any crime or wrongdoing.
I heard a lot of anger towards my ex after I lost custody of my children; it made me afraid of talking about my situation because I felt I had to take care of and protect my friends and family members from the bad news. As a result I felt alone. Or hearing intense anger about the abuser intensified my own feelings or triggered memories of abuse.
If you are a friend or family member of a Protective Mother, and witnessed her being abused or losing custody, it is normal to feel empathy—to feel hurt, anger or frustration but don’t dump or project those feelings onto the Mother of the ex. Recognize that in your role as a support, at times, you will need support or rest—the loss of the child and trauma of family court will affect you as well.
Another tip: Take time for hobbies, recreation, social activities and other activities that are important to you, don’t withdraw or isolate. It is important to have an outlet, and to keep a connection to the things that bare a positive for you. When you can use your energy in activities or ways that make you feel good about yourself, or offer a way to vent frustrations in a safe, healthy way—that will help you work through the pain and hurt, and lead to healing. It may also be something you can enjoy together with the Protective Mom, and be another way of offering support.

4. Don’t completely Ignore the Situation and Act Like Everything is Fine.
The Reality: Acting like everything is fine, and ignoring the most traumatic loss a Mother can experience—her children—IS NOT HELPFUL! This will make a Mother feel alone, isolated and that she has no one to turn to for comfort or support. It is better to be honest and up front about your own feelings and limitations, so the Mother knows what to expect.
Then again, if the family or friends are acting like the loss of your children is no big deal, and seem unable to empathize with you, this may indicate an unhealthy relationship. You may have to reconsider this relationship and what your role in it.

3. Should’s… Don’t tell a Mother what they “should” have done differently in Court or in their marriage/divorce. Or criticize the mom’s lifestyle, appearance, employment, religion, etc. to excuse/blame/justify what happened.
The Reality: See #6. Similarly, don’t give a Mom “shoulds” if her appearance, demeanor, habits etc change after losing her children. Be understanding the loss of a child is incredibly painful and traumatic
—it feels like a death even though your children are alive, especially when you cannot have contact with those children. So be sensitive and understanding to the needs of the Mother, and allow her time to grieve and process. If you see the Mother is struggling, gently ask to help or offer support but also respect her answer, don’t force yourself onto her. I remember that after I lost my kids, my church sent me a postcard that said “We prayed for you” and the prayer team signed their names to it—that meant so much to me. Simple gestures go a long way, and one of the most profound gestures is loving acceptance. Give the Mother your love and acceptance—not your “should’s”,

2. Comments that you must have done something to make the Court take your kids/Good moms don’t lose custody of their children. Comments that Insist a Mother must “prove” her case. Examples: I don’t believe you//Judges would never award custody an abuser/Courts are always fair etc …

The Reality: Fit, loving Mothers who are primary caregivers lose custody at alarming rates—this is happen across the US, and all over the world. Your initial reaction may be disbelief, and for good reason, but don’t project that disbelief onto the Mother—take some time to process your own feelings before approaching the Mother or take time to educate yourself on the issues. The Mother will be hurting, and will need your support. The questions you have are probably are ones running through the Mother’s mind over and over. And are questions family court reformers are struggling with now. Even if you don’t have the answers for what happened in court or in her custody situation, focus on what you do have control of and ways you can offer support or help—make a cup of hot chocolate, suggest a support group or day at the spa, lead a prayer, bring her a meal, offer to help with housework.. etc When the Mother is ready, she may open up and talk more about her situation, for her to do that she must have trust in you, and feel safe. That process begins with offering support, and being present with her in her pain—not questioning, just being available.

1. Don’t say or do things that jeopardize the current custody case, custody situation or the Mother’s relationship to her child(ren).
This may include: Social media posts that threaten, criticize or harass the ex. Contacting the ex or making deals in order to see the children (or for other reasons). Publicly criticizing the Mother or showing a lack or support. Not respecting the Mother’s wishes or requests regarding her children or need for privacy. Breaking court orders. Talking negatively about either parent in front of the children. Putting the child in the middle of the custody dispute. Attending court hearings and showing emotional displays or outbursts in court, threatening either party, being disruptive or dressing provocatively in court. Publicly criticizing, harassing or naming the judge, attorneys, or other involved parties. Publicly naming the children, and revealing sensitive information about abuse allegations or information that should be private (legal name, address, date of birth, where they live, etc). Getting revenge on either party.

The Reality: DO NOT take the law into your own hands! Even though the Court situation can seem hopeless or that there is no justice, do not make it worse with aggressive, hostile or crazy behavior and actions that may cause the Court to further punish the Mother or restrict her parenting time—this is NOT helpful.

Consider seeking support and finding a safe outlet instead. Support may come from friends, family, community. Church, Professional help (lawyers, support group, counseling, religious support, classes, grief group etc).

Lisa Copen Quote

Talking to a “Protective Mother” Who Lost Custody of Children Due to an Unjust Court Ruling: 10 Comments to Avoid & Why

PART ONE: COMMENTS 10-6

These tips are for family, friends, community supports, professionals and others who are in a position to help or support a “Protective Mother”. It is devastating for a Mother to lose custody of her children—especially in a family court proceeding where she may feel victimized, violated and abused (and there no recourse for justice). Those closest to the Mother often struggle with what to say or how to help. Sometimes comments made to help actually hurt the Mother. Other times, those making comments struggle with their own emotions and/or grief and their actions and behavior causes hurt or harm because they are also struggling or don’t know what to say. Some just don’t believe that a court of law would make a mistake, and believe the Mother must have done something wrong to lose custody.

These 10 Comments are commonly reported among Protective Mothers to be hurtful, and traumatic. I am sharing these comments to raise awareness, and offer tips on how to better offer emotional support to Protective Mothers.

What is a “Protective Mom”?: A Protective Mother fights to protect her child(ren) from domestic abuse that occurred in their relationship with an ex spouse/partner. After the Mother escapes the abuse, an abusive ex often uses legal proceedings to intimidate, control, or retaliate against her. Protective Mothers raise concerns about abuse in family court only to lose custody, parenting time and/or rights to her child(ren) due to corruption and systematic failures in family court. Children are then vulnerable to further abuse, and forcibly separated from a fit, loving mother.

These comments are not meant to generalize all custody situations but to explore how domestic violence and controlling behavior does not simply end with the relationship but continues, and even escalates, after the victim has left—and how family members and friends struggle with how to best support the Mother, who is further devastated when an abusive ex gains custody of her children.

10 Comments to Avoid & Why

10. Do Not make a “deal with the devil” to gain access to or contact with the children, who are now in the custody and control of the ex.

An abusive ex may engage the support of a concerned friend or family member—he may lie, manipulate or use the children as pawns to win their trust and gain an “ally”. Why? Once the abuser has won the support of someone closest to the Mother, he will use that person for his own reasons—which may include isolating the mother, gaining an “ally” to fight against the mother, getting information about the mother or otherwise escalating the control and abuse. An abuser will never see these people as a friend or family member, they are just serving his own needs.

Do NOT negotiate with an abuser to gain access or visitation with the children; this may pose a safety risk to both Mother and Child, and may damage her custody case/situation. This includes: Giving emotional, financial or other support to the ex to gain access or visitation with the children. Testifying in court or providing statements to professionals on behalf of the ex. Violating court orders (which often jeopardizes the Mother’s case and/or custody arrangement). Not respecting the wishes or preferences of the Mother. Criticizing, bullying or pressuring the Mother into unsafe situations so you can gain access to the children. Offering support or help to the Mother than taking it away in order to compel her to do what you want. Not being understanding or supportive of a Mother’s custody arrangement or time with her children (putting your needs and wants first). Etc

The Reality: You may feel justified to take these actions because you want to continue your relationship with the children but what you are doing is causing more harm to the family, and showing the children that abuse is acceptable. A child who has been a victim of domestic violence or witnessed it, knows something is not right in the home. A child also knows something is wrong when their Mother is taken away, suddenly and without explanation. To see a loved one make deals and become allies with an abuser enforces to that child that they cannot trust adults, and that coping with abuse involves appeasing the abuser. This will only cause more pain and hurt in the child’s life. Especially if your actions contribute to the child becoming alienated from their Mother, or result in the Court restricting her parenting time.

Instead, take a stand against abuse. Model healthy, appropriate behavior in your words and actions. Be a source of support to Mother and Child. A safe haven. Someone they can trust or rely on.

If you are a friend or family member who is hurting or grieving because an unjust court order forcibly took a child from your life, and gave custody to an abuser, the answer is NOT seeking an alliance with the abuser. There are other ways to maintain the bond that has been broken (although that will be different from the relationship you once shared), and also receive the support you may need. Ideas include: come together as a family, as a community to seek support or comfort in each other. To share special memories. To grieve, and heal. Go to court with the Mother to offer support. Start a fundraiser to help with legal costs. Pray. Seek a support group. Volunteer to fill the void, and use those same energies in a positive way. Find ways within the Court order to maintain contact with the child (regular phone calls, e-mail, letters, spending holidays together, etc.) Most important- do not accept, appease or tolerate abuse.

9. Comments that the Mother just needs to “move on with your life”, “get over it” or “forgive/make peace” etc
The Reality: For a Mother, her children are an inseparable part of who she is, what her life is—she carried them in your body for nine months and nurtured their life. She nursed them through sickness. Prayed over them. Poured her love, energy and soul into her children. A child can never truly be separated from their mother—she will always carry a part of her children with her. A Mother does not move on, or forget or make peace after the loss of a child. Her world is totally shattered, never to be put together in the same way again. The Mother may experience nightmares, fits of crying, depression, anxiety and physical illness and other physical or emotional symptoms because of the loss and grief. The loss of children due to an unjust court situation is made even worse when the Mother believes her children are not safe, when a dangerous abuser wins custody.

To tell a Mother to just “move on” or “get over it” implies that she needs to accept the abuse and injustice and just go back to life as normal; this is extremely damaging. It is better to just to be honest about what you are thinking and feeling. If you hear a Mother’s story and just don’t know what to say or how to comfort her, admit that you don’t have the answers or you don’t understand or you don’t know what to say; that is understandable.

If you struggle with what to say to a grieving Mother, try another approach. After I lost my children, I had a friend who never had children, and didn’t really know what to say or how to approach the subject of abuse with my ex, and losing custody of my children. He would offer to take me to a coffee shop, where we would hang out playing checkers, or sometimes we just sat at a park, in silence. Knowing I had a friend to just be there gave so much comfort. It was nice to have the presence of a caring friend who didn’t judge or ask questions or pressure me to do anything. When I felt comfortable I would talk. Other times I just needed a distraction.

Just being present, offering a shoulder to cry on, or welcoming a Mother into your are good ways to show support—open displays of support and affection can are as important as words. If you don’t have the words, try giving your support with loving actions or demonstrations of care (and respect her choice whether to participate or not).

8. Comments that it must be nice having “a break from your kids”.
The Reality: See #9. Protective Mothers who are forcibly separated from children due to unjust family court rulings experience considerable trauma and grief—they may not see their children for weeks, months, years and some lose all contact with their children. Other Mothers are subjected to further abuse, intimidation, humiliation and controlling behavior from their abusive ex partner when attempting to see or contact children. It is important to offer emotional support to a Mother based on where she is, do not project your own feelings or ideas onto her—and do not vent your own frustrations about your children onto her. Be there to listen, offer a hug, pray or whatever else the Mother is comfortable with. Let the Mother express what is needed, and respect her boundaries. Most important, understand this is a significant loss, very painful to endure.

7. Comments that involve spiritual or religious advice based on opinion, judgment or assumption. Examples: This is “God’s will”, “If God wants you to have your kids back, He will make a way”, You are being “punished” for a sin or other wrong, “God hates divorce”, and “You are being tested” etc.

It is normal to question why bad things happen in this world—why there is abuse or injustice, why bad things happen to good people. It is normal to wrestle with faith at times, to struggle with thoughts or emotions; especially at times you are struggling with or dealing with situations beyond your control. But it is not okay to vent your frustrations, emotions, or other personal issues onto another person—especially some who is vulnerable, and struggling, like a Protective Mother. When someone is struggling or hurting, they need compassion not judgment, shame or religious clichés. If you cannot offer that support, it is better to be honest, and set a boundary rather than say or do something that will negatively impact someone else. Seek help from a church leader or other community resource as an alternative but be open to what you can help with, or how you are able to give.

Similarly, churches and congregations are supposed to be places of refuge and support for needy people. If you find someone hurting, crying, or reacting poorly to advise you have given, it may be time to examine your message, and what you are offering. If you cannot offer the support that is needed, be honest, and help find another resource. And be open to growth in yourself, and in your church as a whole—which may involve further education, support from another church/organization or working together as a whole to meet a need. You also may want to work with a faith based organization that is working with abuse victims.

6. Comments that, “I knew all along”…Remarks that you knew the relationship was troubled or you could foresee problems, or you would have done things differently. Those who make these remarks usually stayed silent during the course of the relationship and then pounce with comments when it is over, the comments often sound harsh, critical or judgmental.
The Reality: Abusers are often charming and/or manipulative, they know how to win people to their side, it is difficult to predict the outcome. Even after a woman has left the abuse, there may still be a lot of unanswered questions—she may never have the answers.

Part of healing is letting go of “should’s” and being able to feel empowered over your life, your body, your choices in the present. Healing also includes finding healthy ways to deal with mistakes without living in regret or dwelling on the past—which will only make you feel victimized. Domestic Violence agencies and organizations may offer help in the way of classes/education, support groups, family support, counseling and advocacy services to help process what has happened, receive support from professionals, and receive feedback from other woman who have also survived abuse. You are not alone!

Note: This is a list of things that can help with the “holiday blues” and what to avoid. This is NOT to be used as or to replace medical or therapeutic advice.

These are insights that have resulted from my own experiences in dealing with the grief/loss/trauma of losing my children due to an unjust court ruling that gave full custody an alleged abuser, and has alienated me from my children. Please feel free to add your thoughts or self care tips to the comment section below!

Self Care is what you to give yourself nurturing and care. Self Care can be used for a variety of reasons: to help relax, to lessen anxiety, to help cope with a difficult situation, to work on a personal goal…are just a few ways self care can be utilized.

Some Self-Care Tips for dealing with the “holiday” blues:

** 1) DON’T CAVE IN TO PRESSURE, EXPECTATIONS or SHOULD’S. Forcing yourself to do things trigger painful memories, or to act like everything is fine when it is not or giving in to make others happy at your expense is harmful.

DO BE ASSERTIVE to express your needs. It may help to talk with a supportive person (friend, family, religious support, support group, counselor, etc) ahead of time to come up with a plan on how to deal with the holidays or to help you learn how to better communicate and express your needs.

** 2) DON’T ISOLATE OR WITHDRAW. At times you may need to take time for yourself but if you increasingly find yourself alone, avoiding social relationships or feeling trapped by grief, that may be a sign that isolation is working against you.

DO STEP OUTSIDE OF YOUR GRIEF. If needed, seek additional support or professional help. Visit friends or family. Go outside/be in nature. Seek spiritual support. Attend a grief support group or other support group.

** 3) DO DISTRACTION: Distraction helps overcome feeling “stuck”, can help when you are focusing too much on one thing, and can change your mood. Some ideas: Relaxing bath/spa/manicure, Music, Movies, Scrapbooking/Journaling, Spending time with friends/family, Visit park or museum, and Prayer/Meditation, Cooking/Baking etc.

DON’T: Abuse drugs, alcohol, ENGAGE IN RISKY OR UNSAFE BEHAVIORS TO DISTRACT! If you finding yourself in dangerous situations or feel out of control, immediately seek help or call a crisis line.

** 4) DO RE-FOCUS YOUR ENERGY: Grief/loss/trauma drains a tremendous amount of energy and personal resources, and at time can be overwhelming or feel like it is holding you back. Re-focusing involves using that energy in a positive way so you can move beyond the grief (making it more manageable, and giving you more control over your thoughts and emotions). Some ideas: Volunteering, Spending time with pets, Spending time with friends/family/spiritual support, Enjoying a hobby, Gardening, Exercise (Aerobics, Yoga, Hiking, Biking, Walking, Swimming, Dance, Sports etc.), Community Education or other classes, Support Group, Art/Craft/Sewing Projects, Play musical instrument, Cleaning, Going to the mall, Going to amusement park, etc.

Refocusing your energy can also be to take things associated with your grief, loss or memories and re-channel them into something that has purpose or meaning to you. Or to adapt what was lost to a new situation or new purpose.
One way I re-focused: As a mother, I really missed cooking family meals. Cooking was a way for me to share my creativity, and love with my family. I re-focused my cooking energy, that was largely used in grief, and found new purpose by cooking meals or treats for friends/family who were in need or who were ill and then delivering the food. This helped me feel connected to an important part of what made me feel like a “mom” and helped me move past the grief of not being able to cook for my own children because I found other ways I could share, and use my talents.

** 5) DON’T PRETEND EVERYTHING FINE OR NORMAL. This may actually increase your feelings of grief, trauma or helplessness.

DO: BE REAL! Be gentle, and give yourself positive messages. There may be days you do not meet your own expectations, or you are not reaching the goals you feel you should. Let go, tell yourself “it’s okay” and focus what’s important—you! You may need extra self-care during tough times. It is okay to take your time to process, grieve, heal and do what you need in order to cope, and rebuild your life–even if those steps are not the way you used to live life, they are steps towards healing and growth.

** BONUS TIP: CELEBRATE THE HOLIDAYS OR SPECIAL EVENT IN A WAY THAT IS MEANINGFUL TO YOU!
Certain holidays or special events may be triggering or difficult to cope with. Consider honoring or celebrating the event in a different way—one that has meaning to you, and is comforting. Or perhaps this is a day for you to distract, re-focus your energy or do extra self-care. Be creative, and gentle on yourself. Ideas: Volunteer, Light a candle, Release a balloon, Spend time with supportive people, Go on a daytrip, Wrap yourself in a warm blanket or heating pad, Enjoy a special meal or treat, Get a makeover, Go fishing, Go on a picnic, Get a massage, Take time to honor or remember your loved one, Say a prayer, Meditate, Go out for dinner etc.

Grief is only one step along the journey of loss, there is much more ahead. Hurt, loss and grief can be overwhelming but there is hope—grief does not have to define your life, these painful steps ultimately lead towards healing. The loss may never go away or be replaced, but it is possible to lessen the painful emotions, and rebuild your life—even to experience joy again. To find strength where there was hurt. To find hope where there is despair. To hold your loved one close but not be held back. To remember without the painful knife stabbing through your heart. To smile where you once cried. To celebrate a holiday, birthday, anniversary or special event in peace. To reconnect to life. To regain your voice. To find purpose. To re-discover a dream. To dedicate yourself to a cause. To take the next step, and another.

— EJ Perth, © 2013.

 For parents and caregivers experiencing the loss of a child due to family court injustice, divorce, and other types of separation.

 

 

Know When to Ask for Help: Notice the signs of stress and seek help or support.

 

Common signs of stress may include- fear/anxiety, racing/repetitive thoughts, over eating, sleeping too little or too much, crying, and lack of energy (not wanting to do things you once enjoyed). It’s understandable that you would feel that way, especially if you have survived trauma, abuse, lengthy court proceedings and loss of a child/forcible separation. Be gentle with yourself. Make a plan to deal with stress, especially for times you may be triggered most like during holidays.

 

Get support for you: Visit/Call friends, Visit/Call Family, Go to a special place that is comforting to you (church, park, museum, coffee shop, etc), Go for a drive, Call a local crisis line, Exercise, Watch a movie, Read a book/journal

Don’t feel obligated to spend time with people who don’t support you. Avoid stressful situations or relationships with a polite refusal. Setting boundaries is important to maintaining your strength, and being able to focus on what is most important.

 

 

 

Make a Call: Call a support or crisis line if needed.

 

Here are some links to crisis numbers in the USA, most are toll free

Support4Hope Crisis Numbers- http://www.support4hope.com/crisisnumbers.htm

 

Suicide Hotlines: http://suicidehotlines.com/

 

4Therapy Hotline and Crisis Lines: http://www.4therapy.com/consumer/resources/item.php?categoryid=32&uniqueid=7006

 

Prayer Page Prayer Lines: http://www.prayerpage.org/1800/

 

The Encourage Prayer Line: http://www.encourager.us/prayer_request.htm

 

  Turn Up the Music: Music is a good way to boost your mood, and give yourself comforting or positive messages. Especially if you are dealing with trauma or painful memories, music may soothe or redirect your thoughts.

 

Take Things Slow: Don’t try to plan too much or take on too much. Give yourself time–sleep in, take a long bath, cry, make a phone call.  Adding too many activities or “should do’s” will provoke unneccesary stress, and may cause further harm. So be gentle with yourself ❤

 

 It’s Okay to Plan a Holiday without Your Child: It’s okay to visit friends, family or go places even if your child is not with you. Those activities may be painful, and you may feel a loss—even though your child is not with you, they will be close in your love and care for them.

 You may want to commemorate your child by saying a prayer, looking at pictures, spending time with things that remind you of them, lighting a candle, or speaking with others who are close to your family. You are going through a grieving process, and its is understandable to want to remain close to your child, in any way you can.

 If your thoughts provoke anxiety, nightmares, inability to cope with every day life or you feel“stuck” or overhelmed, you may want to seek help from a counselor or support group.

 

 Send your child a card or letter: Be positive, and let your child know you care. You may want to include a “treat” such as stickers, coloring sheets/mazes/word finds (etc), cartoons/comics or photos.

 

 Call Your Child on the Phone/Send an E-mail: If you are not sure what to say, stay positive! You may want to read a short book, sing a favorite song or have some jokes on hand.

Keep the conversation light, and centered on the moment—ie: don’t get into the past or difficult things your family is experiencing.

 

 Some ideas for topics to talk about: Cartoons/Movies, School, Friends, Holiday Plans, Music, Funny Stories, Favorite Memories, Riddles/Jokes, Animals, Sports

 Let your child know you care, be sure to reinforce positive messages

 

My thoughts & prayers are with you — Evanlee, 2009

See Also:

Common Responses After Losing a Child

https://parentingabusedkids.wordpress.com/2008/11/07/common-responses-after-losing-a-child/

 

Writing a Fun, Meaningful Letter to Your Child

https://parentingabusedkids.wordpress.com/2009/03/11/letter2child/