Losing a parent…. often our first experience of grief, change, trauma, failure is by divorce of separation. What are the emotional and physical impacts that effect our lives?
I put out a question on social media and was inundated with responses. It has lead to the first here of a series of blogs about to unravel on how as adults our parents divorce emotionally and physically may still have an impact on our lives.
The questions asked are the same for each person involved.
We hope this helps.
Feel free to share to those who may be going through divorce or separation now.
The long term effects can be huge. Remember these are all ADULTS telling their still vivid memories…..
How old were you when they split up?
Well I was 16/17years old and in my first year of an already stressful college course when my parents separated and divorced.
How did your Parents Divorce Impact on Your Emotional & Physical Life? Are There Still Impacts Now?
First thing there was NO PHYSICAL VIOLENCE it was just mainly hostility and toxic atmosphere which can have its own harsh effects. The way I was told annoyed me because neither of my parents did it they asked my older sister to tell me – I felt like I was being treated like a child.
However naïve I was and however much I tried to deny the situation, I knew exactly what was going on. The atmosphere in my house had been toxic for ages – never violently just a very uncomfortable vibe.
My first feeling was fear – firstly who would I live with? How could I choose one parent over the other? Would the one I didn’t live with hate me?
As my dad didn’t have anywhere to live I stayed with my mum and sister – But then I was scared that my dad would end up on his own in a dingy little flat (thankfully that didn’t happen) and hate me for choosing sides – I tried to stay neutral but accusations of affairs had me flitting from pillar to post; I eventually decided I wasn’t involved in the relationship it was only between 2 people and I shouldn’t have an input. I was however annoyed that no one had been honest or open enough with me and my sister and just told us they were unhappy; when I asked, I was told they felt they should stay together till I had left school – cue mega guilt for making to obviously unhappy/uncivil people stay under the same roof never mind as a couple.
The way the situation played out at the time made out that my dad was the bad guy who had cheated on my mum so my sister refused to speak to him. I firmly believe (still do) that I’ve only got 1 set of parents and no matter what I want them in my life so I quickly became the piggy in the middle, constantly having to act like I’d not heard one parent slagging off the other and vice versa. Whenever I went to see my dad, my mum and sister would alienate me and treat me like I was betraying them. The only people I could talk to were my eldest sister and my best friends. They understood how frustrated and drained I was but my mum and sister didn’t see it that way. My sister still wont talk to my dad and gets angry just hearing about him. With my mum it just depends what mood she’s in on that given day.
It wasn’t just my mum and sister but also my mums side of the family who slagged off my dad to me and I know I wasn’t a child at the time but it still hurt – they still do and it still does. My dads side however had little but praise for my mum.
My dad wasn’t an angel either; he would slag off my mum AND sister to me to the point I stopped seeing him for a while – I couldn’t stop seeing my mum and sister so I just stayed out of the house as much as I could.
A LOT of lies were told during my parents separation that only came to light after (around 4years later)– I know its not from the situation itself but I’ll say why it’s related…
When all of these lies came to light (basically that although both of my parents had lied about how innocent they were in relation to having affairs and it turned out NEITHER was innocent but the situations differed immensely). We were more hurt than anything with what my mum put us through and the fact that she’d purely made my dad out to be the bad guy. She’s since had therapy for what she went through and it’s been put down to a sort of mid-life crisis.
To me, I’m sorry, but a “mid-life crisis” is no reason to lie to both of your children putting one in debt, triggering a chronic pain condition and anxiety and giving the other child severe anxiety, depression and anger issues. I lost a lot of friends and a big chunk of my life through lies so as you can probably tell I still have a lot of anger and frustration about the subject.
With my anxiety it started off as I couldn’t go anywhere/do anything that involved meeting new people, I was scared of going to unfamiliar places on nights out, which I know must have annoyed my friends but they were incredibly understanding and supportive. It then evolved into being terrified that I would end up alone (was I really that naïve to think that even though many other people’s parents split up, mine would be a fairy tale couple) This feeling of dying alone quickly manifested into depression and insomnia. I felt physically and emotionally DRAINED. So much so that I couldn’t even sleep some nights but would then sleep for 3 days in a row; all of this still happens now because with my anxiety I run through all of this every night in my head so I feel like I can’t move on.
Physically I started a toxic cycle of yo-yo dieting, smoking and spending the rest of my money going on nights out or buying clothes and make up just to try and feel like I had a little bit of control over my life – but – I was made to feel guilty about doing all this and ended up emotionally drained, where the cycle would start again. I’ve kept some of these habits, though not nearly as bad as I was. It’s a way of coping with the depression and anxiety that was triggered.
I do still feel very affected by my mum and dad splitting up and I don’t exactly know when I’ll fully deal with it but its been 7 years and I’m not much closer!
Have You Every Had Counselling or Therapy?
I didn’t even consider counselling or therapy until the 4 year catastrophe after the actual divorce when my sister thought it might be a good idea so I was referred by my GP – I didn’t go into it with the right frame of mind I don’t think as I personally don’t like talking about my issues/problems with anyone – it took my best friends 5/6 years to open up to them and even then I’ve not opened up fully. I had 2 sessions of counselling and gave up. My sister did quite well and stuck with it; we then got my mum to go for counselling which helped her a lot.
I think in the future I’d consider getting help but for now my self-therapy is retail, organising/reorganising things, making collages, piercings, tattoos and decluttering.
Hope this helps!
Lauren, Bury, Gt Manchester