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Inspiring Hope for Life & Relationships

The subject of ambiguous loss is a relatively new one to me, as it relates to therapy, but is one that we frequently see with our clients (as well as in our own lives!).  Pauline Boss’ book “Ambiguous Loss:  Learning To Live With Unresolved Grief” is one of the most amazing books I have read so far this spring!

What is Ambiguous Loss? 

Ambiguous Loss is when you have no closure with loss, or when loss is surrounded by uncertainty and ambiguity– examples of this are divorce,  addictions, infidelity, dealing with an aging parent, coping with the loss of a missing child, dealing with a relationship breakup, just to name a few.  Unlike death, which has finality and an ending, ambiguous loss can be traumatic in that the survivors of this type of loss still have to deal with so much uncertainty in the healing process.  The two ways Boss explains this type of loss:  When a person is present physically, but is psychologically or emotionally absent (e.g., divorce, relationship break up, mental illness, alzheimer’s disease)– or when a person is physically absent, but is still psychologically or emotionally present (e.g., a missing child, a soldier who is missing in action).

This book not only explains ambiguous loss, but helps the reader to recognize how this type of loss is surrounded by fluctuating feelings of hope to hopelessness, while trying to make sense and find meaning in such loss. 

If you recognize an area where you might be dealing with ambiguous loss, this book is highly recommended!

For clinician’s working with Ambiguous Loss in therapy, Pauline Boss’ book “Loss, Trauma, and Resilience:  Therapeutic Work with Ambiguous Loss” is a great reference in working with clients, as well.

Joleen Watson, MS, NCC, is a therapist at Imagine Hope Counseling Group. She enjoys doing marriage counseling, relationship counseling, couples counseling, and individual counseling.  Imagine Hope also specializes in family, child and adolescent counseling and serves Indianapolis area including the surrounding areas of Carmel, Noblesville, Zionsville, Westfield, and Fishers.

Before you give up on your marriage, it is important to isolate and identify what is making you feel so upset.

Why Do You Get Upset?

Are you feeling hurt, angry, resentful, abandoned?  Did your spouse ignore your request?  Did your spouse break the trust in your marriage?  What is really behind your feelings?  The main reason we feel so upset and argue is due to fear and vulnerability.  We fear disconnection, rejection, failing, feeling worthless to someone we love.  These relational fears can make us feel out of control.

When you do the hard work and realize what has you feeling so upset, you will have the power back and will be able to use it with your most heated arguments!  Once you identify what gets you upset, or your triggers, you can change the way you respond in arguments.  You can have calmer discussions, not fear fueled escalations.

Insight into your true feelings is powerful way to avoid being reactive.  You can identify your “hot button” topics and begin to be conscience of what and why you feel the way you do.  You can be mindful of your own actions and responses to your spouse.

Stay tuned tomorrow as Natalie talks more about “hot button”issues.

*Source: Why Good Marriages Go Bad by Gary Smalley www.gosmalley.com

Written by Alexa Griffith, LMHC, LCAC, NCC, RPT

Alexa Griffith, LMHC, LCAC, NCC, RPT  is a licensed therapist and Registered Play Therapist at Imagine Hope Counseling Group. Alexa enjoys doing marriage counseling, individual counseling, couples and relationship counseling. Alexa also does play therapyfamily counseling, child counseling, and adolescent counseling. Imagine Hope serves the Indianapolis area, including the surrounding areas of Carmel, Fishers, Noblesville, Zionsville, and Westfield

 

It is sad to say that the following are America’s divorce rates: 50% percent of first marriages, 67% of second and 74% of third marriages end in divorce, according to Jennifer Baker of the Forest Institute of Professional Psychology in Springfield, Missouri.

Why is that? Why do so many marriages end in divorce? At Imagine Hope we see couples on the verge of divorce all the time. Many couples are “tardy” to therapy- meaning they have waited way too long to get outside help which has caused more damage in the relationship.

Other couples come to therapy as a last resort. They start therapy with one foot out the door and only come just to said “they tried”.

Let’s be real…EVERY marriage goes through hard times. Communication gets hard, feelings are hurt, disconnect happens, and pain occurs. Most people will experience a time in their marriage that they consider getting out. But just because it gets hard doesn’t mean that you can’t fix things and have a fulfilling relationship.

The key is about reaching out for help before it is too late. Learn new ways to communicate, heal the wounds, and change painful habits. It takes dedication and commitment. The road will be bumpy at times, but in the end things can turn around as long as you don’t wait until it’s too late.

If you feel like your marriage could use a “tune up”, I encourage you to reach out. Changing things now will be easier than waiting until it’s so painful you want out.

Check in tomorrow for reasons you don’t want to abandon your marriage. Thanks for reading!

Source: “Why Good Marriages Go Bad” from gosmalley.com

Written by Teri Claassen MSW, LCSW, LCAC

Teri Claassen MSW, LCSW, LCAC is a licensed therapist at Imagine Hope Counseling Group. Teri enjoys doing marriage counseling, individual counseling, couples and relationship counseling. Teri also does family counseling, child counseling, and adolescent counseling. Imagine Hope serves the Indianapolis area, including the surrounding areas of Carmel, Fishers, Noblesville, Zionsville, and Westfield.

 Myth #2 – Love Is Fleeting

There are some people whose feelings change for their significant other very quickly.  They may be in love with Partner #1 on Tuesday, but in love with Partner #2 on Friday. This isn’t real love.

In long-term relationships, there will be periods of boredom, frustration, conflict and feeling “stuck”. These emotions do not indicate a need to end the relationship. In relationships with real love, you care enough about your mate  to figure out why you’re feeling this way, and stay in the relationship to work on getting past the rough spot.

If you’re the type of person to quit after the first conflict arises, then you’re not experiencing real love. Real love sticks though tough times and doesn’t leave at the very first sign of trouble.

Myth #3 – Love Implies Constant Closeness

Some couples mistakenly assume they must be by each other’s side constantly. They rarely do things without the other, and often don’t have friendships outside the relationship. We would also call this relationship Enmeshed. (To read more on Enmeshed relationships, visit http://www.imaginehopecounseling.com/fullarticles.php?ID=55 )

Sometimes this type of couple shows jealousy when they are apart, or when one of them wants to do something without the other. Often, there is an “all or nothing” frame of mind when they view their time spent together: Either they are constantly together & happy, or apart and fighting (because one of them is jealous or feeling rejected).

In a healthy real love relationship, each person is able to have privacy and friendships outside of the relationship. Separation is viewed as healthy and encouraged by both parties. In fact, each person understands that if separation does not occur, strain will be felt in the relationship due to the constant closeness.

We hope that everyone experiences real love and is able to throw all myths out the window. Thank you for reading, please come back for a visit as we have several more myths to uncover!

*Source: “I Never Knew I Had A Choice” by Gerald Corey

Written by: Tamara Wilhelm MA, LMHC, LCAC

*Tamara enjoys doing marriage counseling, individual counseling, & couples counseling  at Imagine Hope. We also specialize in family counseling, child & adolescent counseling. Imagine Hope serves the Indianapolis area, including the surrounding areas of Carmel, Noblesville, Zionsville, Westfield & Fishers.

People love love. Romance can be like a drug to many. But the danger of this is that people don’t truly understand what love is. They bring misconceptions about love into their relationship and end up with hurt feelings, confusion, and sometimes the ending of the relationship.

Because society has such an impact on how we view love (and we know how twisted our society’s lens of the world can be!), we want to help our readers understand the myths about love that could be doing damage in their relationships.

We are sharing from Gerald Corey’s book, “I never knew I had a choice”, and how the thoughts we have about love might keep us from feeling loved. When we have false beliefs about love, they might block the ability for love to sink in.

Myth #1- Love is Eternal

The intense feelings of love at the beginning of a relationship can be awesome, but sometimes people believe that stage of love should happen all through the relationship.

When you believe that the love shown on chick-flicks and heard on the radio must be sustained, you set yourself up for disappointment. It is unrealistic to keep up the love struck feeling long term.

As a person grows and matures, we expect them to change, right? The same is true for a relationship. As a couple grows and matures in their relationship, their love will change.

The love can deepen through good times and through conflict. You can experience a richness that is much more intense than the beginning phases of a relationship.

Some couples struggle with the changes. They fight for the love struck feeling and end up growing apart in different directions. They miss out on the chance to experience the depth that love can change into by believing that love is eternal.

Make sure you adjust the expectation of love as you grow as a couple. It will be much more fulfilling in the long run!

We hope you are able to see how your ideas of love are impacting your relationship. When you view love in a realistic way, you are much more likely to get the love you need in your relationship. Check in tomorrow for more!

Source: “I Never Knew I Had A Choice” by Gerald Corey

Written by Teri Claassen MSW, LCSW, LCAC

Teri Claassen MSW, LCSW, LCAC is a licensed therapist at Imagine Hope Counseling Group. Teri enjoys doing marriage counseling, individual counseling, couples and relationship counseling. Teri also does family counseling, child counseling, and adolescent counseling. Imagine Hope serves the Indianapolis area, including the surrounding areas of Carmel, Fishers, Noblesville, Zionsville, and Westfield.

  • Give your child some element of control.  Kids feels totally out of control of their world while going through a divorce.  Try to find ways to let them make small decisions so they don’t feel completely powerless in such a vulnerable time.  For example:  What color to paint their room in the new house, what to have for dinner, what recreational activity to do, etc.
  • If you see any concerns with your child’s reaction to the divorce, seek professional help.  Counseling can be one of the greatest ways to give your child an uninvolved, safe sounding board as they are dealing with the divorce.

Some of the resources we recommend for parents as they strive to do what is best for their child during a divorce are:

Helping your kids cope with divorce the Sandcastles Way by Gary Neuman  (A must for kids of all ages!)

Was it the Chocolate Pudding?:  A Story for Little Kids About Divorce by Sandra Levins and Bryan Langdo (for kids ages 2-6)

Mama and Daddy Bear’s Divorce by Cornelia Maude Spelman (for kids ages 2-6)

This is Me and my Two Families: An Awareness Scrapbook/Journal for Children

Living in Stepfamilies by M.D. Evans (for kids ages 4 and up)

Ginny Morris and Mom’s House, Dad’s House by Mary Collins Gallagher (for kids ages 8-12)

Help! A Girl’s Guide to Divorce and Stepfamilies by Nancy Holyoke (for girls ages 8 and up)

The Divorce Helpbook for Teens by Cynthia MacGregor (for teens)

Thank you for joining us this week!

Joleen Watson, MS, NCC, is a therapist at Imagine Hope Counseling Group. She enjoys doing marriage counseling, relationship counseling, couples counseling, and individual counseling.  Imagine Hope also specializes in family, child and adolescent counseling and serves Indianapolis area including the surrounding areas of Carmel, Noblesville, Zionsville, Westfield, and Fishers.

Like Teri I am a child of divorce. I have a clear memory of my parents separation and divorce 32 years later.  I remember what thoughts ran through my head, what questions I had, which ones I asked and which ones I did not.  I remember looking to my brother for guidance on how to respond, but he is almost 8 years older than me.  He felt differently than I did.  He needed different information than I did.

It is very important to know that while all children are impacted by divorce, it impacts children very differently at different ages.  Children have different stages of development and impact will vary depending on what developmental stage the child is in.  While all development is individual to the child, the following summary will help you and your co parent understand how your child my be impacted by your divorce.

Infant to 2 years old- Infants depend on parents for meeting their needs.  When their needs are met consistently, they are able to develop trust in others.  Toddlers form healthy attachments to caregivers during 8-18 months of age.  It is important during your separation that you keep routine as consistent as possible.  The toddler will feel the loss of a primary caregiver.  You may see your baby show sleep disturbances, clinginess, and crying.  During these times it is best to provide opportunities for both parents to provide physical comfort and consistent routine. Communication between co parents is essential at this stage since the child cannot speak for themselves.

Ages 2-4- Preschool aged children are developing more independence, have verbal skills to express feelings and needs and cam keep the absent parent in their minds to comfort themselves.  Children of this age may interpret the loss of contact with a parent as abandonment. They may feel responsible for the separation.  They often have fears about their needs being met (i.e.: who will braid my hair when I am at Dad’s? or who will feed me my pancakes in the mornings at Moms?)  During this time your preschooler may show signs of regression (toilet training accidents, wanting older soothing toys like blanket, baby talk), anxiety at bedtime, fear of abandonment, will seek out physical touch from parent, and have more tantrums.  You can offer comfort to this age child by providing physical comfort like cuddling, hugging, or holding hands.  When regression occurs, be patient and non shaming.  The child will most likely return to age appropriate behavior after s/he figures out their new routine.  These children will adapt better through frequent visits with the other parent.  These visits need  to be as routine and expected as possible.

Ages 5-8- Early school aged children are developing peer relationships and making progress on their moral development.  These children may feel responsible for their parents’ divorce.  They will very likely have fantasies of parental reunification long after the divorce is final and even after a parental remarriage.  These children have a fear of abandonment and a longing for the absent parent.  You may see your child show overt signs of grief such as sadness or anger.  They may feel rejected by the parent who left the home.  You may see changes in eating and sleeping patterns or behavioral problems.  This age child has loyalty conflicts as seen by taking sides, struggles with transfer during visits, and getting used to being back home after visits.  If this child is the oldest of your children, s/he may try to take on the role of the departing parent.  You can help  this child by providing opportunities to express his/her feelings and  reassurance that s/he is not responsible for the break up.  Give this child permission to love both parents.    You cannot accomplish this when you call the other parent names or blame the other parent.  Read books about divorce and feelings with your child.  Enroll the child in extra curricular activities to focus energy in a healthy way and detach from parental problems.  This child benefits from spending time with each parent.

Ages 9-12- This child has developed an increased awareness of self.  At this age, your child is trying to fit in with other peers.  These children tend to show anger about the separation.  They are likely to take sides and place blame on a parent who caused the separation.  They tend to think in black and white and think one parent is all good or all bad.  They also may feel responsible for the separation.  You may see your child show intense anger, have physical complains such as head aches or stomach aches.  They may become overactive or perfectionistic to avoid thinking about the separation.  They may feel ashamed about the divorce, or feel different from  their peers.  You can help these children by providing many opportunities to express their feelings.  Spend time reassuring them that they are not responsible for the divorce, give them permission to love both parents, allow them to become familiar with spirituality, and provide a neutral adult who they can talk to who is not related to either parent. Watch movies about divorce and talk about it with your preteen.  I like ” Taking the Duh out of Divorce”   by Trevor Romain.

Ages 13-18- At this age, your child is establishing his or her identity and sense of self in relation to rules and regulations.  Teens may feel embarrassed by a family break up.  They may idolize one parent or completely de-idealize a parent they had once looked up to.  The later aged teen places peer needs ahead of family and may not want to visit the non resident parent.  You may see your teen withdraw from family, have difficulty concentrating, engage in high risk behaviors, or worry about their own ability to have successful future relationships.  To help your teen, be consistent with limits balanced with with more freedom and choices.  Let them have input about their visitation but do not burden them by having the responsibility to decide custody and or schedule.  At all ages, communication with the co-parent is key.  You may be tempted to disconnect from your former spouse and allow important parental communication to occur through your teen.  Resist this temptation because it often leads to child manipulation.  Teens need to trust that even though their parents are divorces, parents are still in charge.

The most successful divorces occur when both parents can co-parent well.  This is the case for all ages of children.  If you are having difficulty co -parenting or if your child is experiencing distress over your divorce, please call one of the therapists here at Imagine Hope Counseling Group. Please check back all week as we continue to talk about supporting your child through your divorce.

Adapted from Liana Lowenstein’s Creative Interventions for Children of Divorce

Written by Alexa Griffith, LMHC, LCAC, NCC, RPT

Alexa Griffith, LMHC, LCAC, NCC, RPT is a licensed therapist and Registered Play Therapist at Imagine Hope Counseling Group. Alexa enjoys doing marriage counseling, individual counseling, couples and relationship counseling. Alexa also does play therapyfamily counseling, child counseling, and adolescent counseling. Imagine Hope serves the Indianapolis area, including the surrounding areas of Carmel, Fishers, Noblesville, Zionsville, and Westfield

 

 

I am a child of divorce. It amazes me the memories I have of the details of being told, the exact words used, where I was, and what I did after I was told. This moment changed my life forever.

Because divorce has such a major impact on kids, we will be focusing this week on how to tell them, how kids experience divorce at different developmental stages, and various tips for parents to attempt to do the least amount of damage on a child who’s life is being turned upside down.

Things to remember BEFORE you tell your child:

  • Both parents should tell a child together. Both should talk equally. Plan this talk together before hand so you know who is saying what.
  • Don’t “blame” each other. Keep the adult info to yourselves. Don’t over explain the reasons.
  • Be in a mindset of love and not anger. You need to be the adult in the room for your child.
  • Tell your child in a private place, preferably at home where it feel comfortable and safe. Be face to face- not in the car.
  • Tell them at least 1-2 weeks before one person moves out. Do not move out right away.
  • Pick the day carefully based on your child. Some kids need routine and schedule to feel that somethings will not change, so telling them on a Thursday evening with them still going to school the next day would be good. Other kids need an extended time to let it sink in before they re-engage in their lives, so a Friday evening would be better.
  • Always let your child’s teachers know what is going on right away, if not before. It would be good to set up a plan with the teacher and school counselor for when your child is struggling at school and review it with your child.
  • Pick the time of day carefully. Don’t do it just before your child has something to do. Make sure they will have a few unplanned hours before an activity and bedtime. You want them to have an option to reach out to loved ones and friends if needed.
  • Studies say that you only have 60 seconds to tell your child the important points before they shut down and their mind starts to wonder. Use you time wisely. Don’t ramble.
  • Tell them what will change for them (moving houses, schools, who is moving out and when, etc)
  • Give them a ideal schedule of what visitation will look like (maybe a calendar made out for them)
  • Reassure them that this divorce is between the parents- not the kids. It had nothing to do with them.
  • Reassure them of your love for them and that it will not change even when you don’t see them daily.
  • Give your child a chance to talk about how they feel, ask questions, etc. Don’t try to defend yourself or rescue your child from the painful feelings. It is appropriate for them to have negative feelings. Just empathize and support them.

Please take careful time to consider this life altering conversation for your children. Doing these things can help your child adjust better through the divorce.

Excellent Resource: Helping Your Kids Cope With Divorce The Sandcastles Way by Gary Neuman- there is an entire chapter about telling your kids along with vital info for all parents to know!

Check back tomorrow as we cover different developmental stages and how kids experience divorce. Thanks for reading!

Written by Teri Claassen MSW, LCSW, LCAC

Teri Claassen MSW, LCSW, LCAC is a licensed therapist at Imagine Hope Counseling Group. Teri enjoys doing marriage counseling, individual counseling, couples and relationship counseling. Teri also does family counseling, child counseling, and adolescent counseling. Imagine Hope serves the Indianapolis area, including the surrounding areas of Carmel, Fishers, Noblesville, Zionsville, and Westfield.

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