How to Deal with Pandemic Stress in the Middle of Divorce, Custody Battles & Unhealthy Relationships
For all my current clients, those who think they one day may be my client, and for those reading this post wondering if divorce is right for you:
Wow, what a stressful couple of weeks this has been. Even under the best of circumstances the uncertainty of who will get sick next, what’s going to happen with this pandemic to those we love, this country, our economy, it is enough to make anyone feel like more is on their plate than they can handle. When you add in all the negative things my clients already deal with—abusive relationships, caring for children without help, angry exes whose sole purpose appears to be to make their life miserable, social workers checking up on them—well, it would be natural to at times feel hopeless, but please read on.
Be Strong For Your Children
First, if you feel like giving up, look at your children and use them as a source of motivation. Giving up is something that parents cannot do. Our children rely on us for everything. Yes, food and shelter–but also their emotional well-being. They take cues from us about whether they should worry or be calm, carry on or lose it. Your job is to love them through this and they need you
Know This is Temporary
Second, remind yourself, that it will not always be this way. When we feel our most intense and negative feelings of sadness and anger, it can feel as if these feelings and the circumstances that lead to these feelings will never change. That is not true. We don’t know when things will change, or what those changes may look like, but we can rest assured that things will change.
If you currently feel trapped in a house with an emotionally abusive spouse, you won’t always be trapped. If you feel you have no control, you will again one day have control. If you feel angry or frustrated, those feelings will subside. If you feel intense sadness or hopelessness, think of those feelings as a passing rain shower and remember that it does not always rain.
Be Kind to One Another
Third, give others the benefit of the doubt. Your child, spouse, or ex may say something hurtful or do something that adds to your stress. Keep in mind how much stress and uncertainty everyone is going through right now. Their behavior is probably not about you at all. If you are not personally sick or financially affected, then your spouse, or ex, or just about anyone you come into contact with may not be so fortunate.
With your children, keep in mind that with school closing, extracurriculars canceling and not being allowed to be around friends has upended their world in ways they cannot even express. Don’t accept the invitation for every argument. Don’t take every action personally. Give those you deal with grace and forgiveness. And even if you’re right and your ex is out to personally make your life miserable, don’t give him or her the satisfaction of succeeding.
Give Yourself Grace
Finally, forgive yourself. A lot is being asked of you right now. You have given up your normal, your routine. You may have to suddenly be a geometry teacher, potty trainer, house cleaner and cook–without enough money and without the support of your friends and family. You are expected to model calm behavior for your kids, be the sounding board for your stressed spouse and deal with people on the phone who are trying to get you to pay your bills. You are not going to be perfect at any or all of it. You are going to make mistakes, lose your temper or maybe even cry when you shouldn’t cry. You’re going to burn the food and wish you could take back a purchase.
It’s ok. Forgive yourself. This is uncharted territory for everyone. No one is good at something without lots of practice. Think of this as practice and just as you wouldn’t berate a child for falling off a bike after taking off the training wheels, don’t berate yourself. Just keep going.
I’m Here for You
To all my clients: I am here for you. If you need legal help, email me and I will email back. Or I’ll set up a telephone call or zoom conference. If you just need to talk, let me know. If you just need to vent in an email and know that someone is reading it and cares, then please know that I care. My clients are all special to me and I don’t take on a case unless I feel that client is a good fit for me. We all need to be there for each other right now.
To those who wish to be my clients: I am still doing consultations by phone and zoom. Fill out the online form here with your name and email and we will set up a consultation. Courts are still open to deal with emergencies and even if it’s not an emergency, I can give you advice that may help you until we can get to court.
To those who are not ready yet to reach out: it is ok. If/when you decide you need help, I will be here.