Father’s Day can be tough for divorced dads
I know the landmines are there, but awareness alone won’t prevent the darkness of depression from creeping in
By John G. Weaver
I dread Father’s Day. This is the one day designed to bring back my memories of special family moments. I have visions of wading through 3 feet of snow with a 5-year-old son on my shoulders searching for the Christmas tree we flagged before the Montana winter set in. I reminisce about trick-or-treating and of birthday parties. I miss the fishing trips, the school plays and the weekend-long soccer tournaments. One of my most powerful memories is of a cross-country trip from hell in a borrowed, semi-functioning RV. I get tears in my eyes when I think of the priceless stories this trip created.
While these memories are special to me, as a divorced dad they can quickly turn into emotional landmines. Stepping on one unleashes a flood of emotions and I can’t stop the loop of endless reruns in my mind. I stew and ruminate over them. I begin to question myself and the decisions I’ve made. I feel hollow and alone and begin to blame myself for allowing my family to fall apart. The dark cloud of depression moves in and sucks me into its cold, foggy emptiness. Maybe you have experienced a similar spiral into depression, too.
I know the landmines are there, but awareness alone won’t prevent the darkness of depression from creeping in. Through years of personal work, counseling and study, I have found that by engaging in specific, positive activities I can avoid the more destructive habits I once turned to during periods of depression.
Here are a few suggestions:
Take a walk
When I first notice the walls of depression beginning to close in around me, I force myself to go outside and take a brisk walk or hike. This is the last thing I want to do, but I know that getting outside and into nature will help moderate my feelings of sorrow and loss. When you step on an emotional landmine, try getting out and into nature. She is waiting for you.
Read a book
I enjoy reading about the functions of the brain, about psychology, and about people who have turned their lives around despite incredible odds. I find encouragement in other people’s stories. Challenge your perspectives by finding new subjects of interest. Reading is an excellent way to discover new topics that stimulate your imagination and encourage personal growth.
Keep a journal
I started journaling several years ago. Putting a voice to my feelings through writing helps me identify the source of my painful feelings. I have been working on a book for over four years. I may never finish this project and if I do, it may never be published. That doesn’t matter. The process of writing my memoir has done more to promote personal healing than all the therapists I have seen combined. When you begin to feel down, try writing a few sentences about what you are experiencing. It’s not about how good the writing is. You are the only audience for your work. This is for you. Take a minute to write in a journal and see what may be revealed about how you are feeling.
Talk to someone
The most powerful step is to talk to someone you trust about your feelings. This is difficult for a lot of men as we have been conditioned to believe that talking about our feelings is being vulnerable and being vulnerable is being weak. This is a lie. We need confidants. We need a trusted person who will listen attentively without judgment as we become honest and raw. Again, our feelings require a voice if we are to hear them clearly ourselves. Healing requires that we release our feelings from the confinement of our personal prisons. Sharing our feelings with a trusted person is a big step toward opening the gates of our prisons. The thought of sharing our deepest sorrows, our most hurtful moments, is frightening, but the greater risk to our well-being is in keeping these feelings imprisoned in the depths of our souls.
Divorce can leave fathers with an emotional sea to navigate, especially around Father’s Day. We cannot go back in time and we cannot change history, but we can continue to work on ourselves, and we can begin to take charge of our emotions. We can learn to manage the feelings of emptiness so we can appreciate the memories we have. I wish the very best for you. Happy Father’s Day.
About the author
John is a certified professional coach, an author and mentor. He helps people recognize, understand and navigate the landmines that often surface when navigating major life transitions. You can contact John via Facebook Messenger or through his website at www.jswcoach.com.