Read an Excerpt
Healing After Divorce
100 Practical Ideas For Kids
By Alan D. Wolfelt, Raelynn Maloney
Center for Loss and Life TransitionCopyright © 2011 Alan D. Wolfelt, Ph.D. and Raelynn Maloney, Ph.D.
All rights reserved.
LEARN ABOUT DIVORCE GRIEF.
What is grief?
The word grief rhymes with leaf.
Grief is all of the things you feel in your heart, think inside your head, and feel inside your body about your parents' divorce. You might feel sad, mad, confused, scared, unsure, or worried. Your tummy might hurt, or it might be hard to fall asleep.
When you have grief you are grieving (a word that rhymes with leaving).
Write or draw what you think your grief looks like here.
LEARN ABOUT MOURNING.
What is mourning?
Mourning sounds just like the word at the end of this sentence: "I eat breakfast every morning."
The kind of mourning we are teaching you about is an action word like running or jumping. Mourning is the action of letting your grief thoughts and feelings come out.
When you mourn you will feel better and this divorce will not be so hard. If you keep everything inside, you will not feel good because that means you are carrying your grief. You have to let all those painful feelings out. And you have to do it over and over again, until you don't feel them as much as you did before.
Write or draw what you look like when you are mourning.
LEARN HOW GRIEF AND MOURNING ARE DIFFERENT FROM EACH OTHER.
Grief is all of the feelings you feel on the inside about the divorce. You might feel sad or angry or confused or frustrated or tired or relieved.
Mourning is letting your feelings out by talking, crying, laughing, complaining, drawing, dancing, running, and writing.
Write or draw what grief and mourning might say to each other if they were cartoon characters, monsters, or animals.
BE NICE TO YOURSELF.
Is the divorce one of the hardest things that has ever happened in your life?
It is not easy to have so many things change all at once.
Be nice to yourself during this divorce. Imagine that you are your own best friend.
Some ways to be nice to yourself are:
* - Make a list of all of the things that are good about you.
* - Let yourself cry if you need to cry.
* - Take a nap when your body feels tired.
* - Think about all the things that you are good at or like to do.
* - Tell yourself that you are going to make it through this divorce!
* - Remind yourself that your mom and dad love you very much.
* - Think of a friend who is special to you.
Write or draw something that shows you being nice to yourself.
KNOW THAT THE DIVORCE IS REAL.
Your family is getting a divorce. Divorce means that your parents are not going to stay married anymore. It also means that you are not going to all live together in the same place. That is hard to believe because living together may be the only way it's ever been.
Some days you may not want to think about the divorce. You may even want to pretend it never happened. That's okay to do some days but not every day.
It's hard to accept that your family is really getting a divorce. It is hard to believe that things will never be the same again. But it's true. If you can accept this, you will start feeling better. You will start to see that some of the changes the divorce brings are good.
Write or draw your feelings about the divorce being real.
LET YOURSELF BE UPSET.
Feeling sad or angry or upset is no fun. But it's okay to feel this way right now. Something really sad has happened in your life.
You don't have to feel upset every minute, though. It's also okay to laugh and play and have fun. Think of play as your job as a kid.
You will feel upset sometimes. You might feel itchy inside, like your feelings want to burst out. You might feel angry, scared, sad, or worried. Find a way to get these feelings out. You could draw, write, run around, build something, have a pillow fight — whatever feels right.
Be sure you find a way to get your upset feelings out in a way that doesn't hurt you or anyone else.
Write or draw what you look like when you are upset.
REMEMBER WHAT YOUR FAMILY WAS LIKE BEFORE THE DIVORCE.
It's good to remember how it felt to be with your family before the divorce. Even though things are changing, you will always have memories of fun and happy times. You might also have memories of hard and stressful times.
All of these memories are okay to have and to talk about. It's good to talk about what you remember to grownups who are good listeners.
It might help to look at pictures of trips your family took together or special times you spent with your family when you were all together.
If you feel like crying or laughing when you look at pictures, go ahead. This is another way to get your feelings out. Remember that letting feelings out means you are mourning.
Write or draw your feelings about your family before the divorce.
UNDERSTAND THAT YOUR LIFE IS DIFFERENT NOW.
When families get divorced a lot of things change, big and little. What has changed for you?
Divorce can change the way you spend your days. Your daily routine might be different now. Maybe you take the bus to school instead of getting a ride. Or maybe you come home to an empty house after school. What is different right now?
When families change each person might have things that change about them, too. Know this: Your mom is still your mom. Your dad is still your dad. Yet your mom is not going to be a wife anymore and your dad is not going to be a husband.
Your life will not be exactly the same ever again. That doesn't mean it won't be happy, it will just be different. Someday you will get used to the difference.
Write or draw your feelings about your changed life.
You might find that you are filled with questions. Questions like:
* - Why do grownups get divorced?
* - Why do families change?
* - What will happen after the divorce?
* - Why can't my parents just stay together?
Pretend the divorce is a cave and go in and explore it. Look at the walls, the ground, the rocks, and the light. Exploring divorce will help you to understand it better and feel less upset about it later on.
If you can, talk to your parents or another grownup about why this is happening. They might not have the answers, but talking about it helps.
Write or draw your feelings about exploring divorce.
LET OTHERS HELP YOU WITH YOUR GRIEF.
Grief is hard. You need people who love you to help when you have grief in your heart and in your head.
Don't be afraid to let someone help you, especially grownups.
If you need help and no one notices, it's okay to ask for help from your parent, teacher, aunt, or neighbor. Just say, "I need help with all of these feelings I am having." Or you could say, "This divorce is hard and I don't know what to do about it."
Write or draw your feelings about getting help from others.
FEEL NOTHING SOMETIMES.
Has your foot or leg ever fallen asleep because you rested on it too long? At first it feels completely numb, then it starts to tingle and hurt.
Your grief might feel like that, too. At first you might feel nothing. This is called feeling numb. It's okay to feel numb because soon you'll start to tingle and hurt. Try not to shove your hurt feelings back down. Let them come out a little at a time, even if they sting a bit.
Write or draw what numb feels like.
PLAY TO GET GRIEF OUT.
Even kids who feel grief like to play.
Playing is what kids are supposed to do. Have fun playing every day.
Sometimes grief escapes when we move our bodies.
For example, you can get out mad feelings by playing kickball or sad feelings by playing with your stuffed animals.
Draw yourself playing games or doing activities that let out your grief.
TALK TO GROWNUPS WHO ARE GOOD LISTENERS.
It's important to find grownups to talk to about your grief.
Think about the grownups in your life. Which ones make you feel safe and loved, and which ones are good listeners?
Maybe you want to tell them your feelings or ask them questions. Kids usually have a lot of questions when their families get divorced. Grownups might not have the answers, but it's still good to ask the questions that are floating around in your head.
Make a list of the grownups who have good listening ears and talk with one today.
TALK TO A FRIEND.
Did you know that friends are there to share both good times and hard times?
Your friends probably don't know what to say to you about the divorce. Some kids do not know what grief is and have never felt it, unless they have been through divorce or the death of someone they loved.
Do you have a friend whose family is divorced? If so, ask your friend to tell you the story of the divorce. You might find that your friend feels some of what you feel. Share your story, also.
Draw a picture of you and your friends sharing your stories about divorce.
CRY WHEN YOU NEED TO.
Crying is not only for babies or little kids. Crying is for everyone because everyone's eyes make tears.
Do you think that it's okay to cry when your body gets hurt, like when you get a cut? It's also okay to cry when your insides get hurt, like when your life changes because of divorce.
Crying helps your body let out its sadness, anger, hurt, and confusion.
If you can, find a grownup who will hold you when you feel like crying.
What thing about the divorce makes you want to cry? Write or draw about it here.
GET GOOD SLEEP.
Grief can really tire you out. When things change we get tired more easily.
When you are tired you might feel grumpy or you might have a harder time controlling your anger. You might get frustrated more easily than usual. You might have a hard time focusing on your schoolwork.
Your body needs extra sleep right now. Go to bed early if you are feeling tired. Take a nap after school if you need to. It's okay to spend time relaxing and doing nothing.
How do you know when you are tired? Write or draw the messages your body sends you when you are tired.
FEED YOURSELF GOOD FOOD.
Grief can leave you feeling hungry. Your body needs good food like a car needs clean gas. Your body will feel better if you give it good food to fuel it right now.
Sometimes when we have grief our body plays tricks on us: we don't feel hungry even when our body needs food or we can't sleep even when our body is tired. When our body is tricky like that, we have to make ourselves eat and sleep.
Try to eat a good breakfast every morning even if you are not that hungry. Do you know what the four food groups are? They are grains, vegetables and fruits, milk, and meat and beans. Try to eat from each food group at least once a day and get at least five servings of fruits and veggies.
Make a list of your favorite healthy foods or draw them here.
DRINK A LOT OF WATER.
Besides good food and good rest, your body needs a lot of water right now.
Did you know that over half of your body weight is water? Our bodies need water to work right.
Get in the habit of drinking from a water fountain whenever you see one. Take a water bottle to school if your teacher says it's okay. Drink a big glass of water after school each day and another one after playing outside.
Draw a happy body that has plenty of water.
RUN AROUND OUTSIDE.
There's something about the outdoors that makes us feel better. The bright sun, blue sky, and wind in our faces feels refreshing and satisfying.
Is it a nice day outside? If so, go outside and do something fun. Practice shooting baskets or kicking a ball in a goal. Jump on a tramp. Roll down a hill. Climb a tree. Play tag with neighbor kids. Go on a nature walk. Go to the park and slide or swing. Play in the sandbox.
If the weather is not very nice, sit on the step and watch the rain come down or relax on the grass and count the clouds in the sky.
Draw a picture of you doing something you enjoy outside.
FIND A GRIEF HIDE-OUT.
Sometimes it's good to have a private spot to go to when you want to be alone with your grief or sad feelings. Do you have a special place to go? It could be a fort in your backyard, a favorite big tree or boulder, or a quiet place in your house.
When you are in your grief hide-out, you can cry, write, draw, play, sing, dance, talk out loud, or just sit and think.
If you want, hide some goodies there. If it is outside, put them in a Ziploc baggie. Gather up a notebook, journal, sketchpad, comic book, or snacks.
What cool things would you want to put in your grief hide-out? Make a list and show it to your mom and dad.
DON'T BE ALONE TOO MUCH.
If you want to be alone with your grief, that's okay to do sometimes. Go to your room or your grief hide-out to have time alone.
But don't do it all of the time. It's good to be around other people, especially if they make you feel good inside. If you feel sad and want to be alone, try talking to someone who cares about you, instead.
Outline your hand with a pencil in the space below. In each finger write the name of someone you can call or spend time with if you are feeling alone.
LET YOURSELF FEEL HAPPY.
Just because something sad has happened in your life doesn't mean you can't feel happy.
Do something every day that makes you feel good and smile. Watch a funny show, share a joke with a friend, or play a silly game.
Having fun doesn't mean the sadness will go away. It just means that you are not letting the sadness be with you all of the time.
Excerpted from Healing After Divorce by Alan D. Wolfelt, Raelynn Maloney. Copyright © 2011 Alan D. Wolfelt, Ph.D. and Raelynn Maloney, Ph.D.. Excerpted by permission of Center for Loss and Life Transition.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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