Increase in Divorce Rates Due to COVID-19. How Can We Pull Together?

A client of mine, challenged with her marriage right now, said to me a couple of days ago, that when the Coronavirus threat is over, there will be an increase of divorces. Her comment was based on an article from “the New Yorker”. The newspaper reports, “In Xi’an, the capital of Shaanxi Province, more than ten million people were placed under lockdown. When restrictions were eased, earlier this month, the city’s divorce rate spiked.” Psychologist and attorneys speak up and predict that the divorce rate will also rise in the rest of the world due to this stressful situation COVID-19 has brought us.

Image by Sally-Kay from Pixabay

As a relationship coach, I want to challenge that statement. Undoubtedly, like any crisis, this challenging time also brings issues to the surface that we can easier ignore at other times. But instead of resigning ourselves to the fate of getting a divorce, we have the choice to examine how we can use this time period to improve our relationships and especially our partnerships or marriages. Naturally, we are going through a period of adjustment as our work situation changes and most of our favourite free-time activities are cancelled. We need to be creative to meet our needs while staying at home. The issues in a relationship might resurface right now and force us to notice and address them. But we also now have more time together to do our couples work, due to the lack of outside distractions and activities.

The strength of our relationships depends on if we can successfully hold each other in the fear we feel. There are fewer outside influences to argue about right now, but a new kind of anxiety has come up. One upset client of mine shared that while she is home with the children, her husband still goes out to have a cup of coffee with clients. She is afraid to question this and “restrict” him, meanwhile she lives in unnecessary anxiety. Their situation requires agreements on what precautions to take and how contacts can be shifted temporarily to virtual contacts.

Another couple told me that they are arguing about how to disinfect the surfaces, wash the food, and how often and thoroughly to wash their hands. Our fear brings up our vulnerable parts and our protective parts. Our fearful parts are triggered more than ever right now and our protectors (protective parts) can look like a “Scolding Parent” or an “Attacker”, accusing our spouse of not caring enough to take more precautions. If you want to read more about our protective parts in our relationships, please got to my article “You Are My Valued Tor-Mentor”.

Operating from our protective parts engages us in conflicts with each other. How can we instead have empathy and compassion with our partner’s fears and show the willingness to negotiate acceptable compromises to reassure each other?

Being home together also requires boundaries and the balance between alone time and time together. It is now, more than ever, important to communicate well. One of the things that seems to work well for my family, is to create a routine and structure, even if it is an artificial one. Have a set time to get up and to go to bed, a time to eat, a time to work if you have work right now, a time to do yoga, or go for a walk and so on.

Image by Mabel Amber from Pixabay 

As human beings, we need to feel productive and useful. Some of my clients have told me that they are doing some de-cluttering and extra cleaning right now. Or they are engaged in creative activities that they have not had time for in a long while.

Part of establishing a daily routine is to determine how much time we are going to spend listening to the news or reading information on social networks. It is possible that you and your spouse, or family members you live with, are affected differently by the news and announcements. It requires figuring out what your individual needs are and respecting the differences. If you can go to different rooms or use headphones if you need to separate, do so regularly.

If you have small children, the routine and giving each other breaks from entertaining the children is even more important. Clear communication on when and how each of you is going to work and when you are spending time separately with the kids or as a family is imperative. Children need a structure even more than we do as adults. Decide what your daily routine is going to be and stick to it, so your kids have some predictability.

And don’t forget to enjoy this forced upon slowing down that is happening right now. Cherish each moment with each other. There is a lot of cooking, baking and playing games going on in our house. I don’t think I have played as much Cribbage in years as I have played during the last two weeks! My niece and her partner in Germany sent me photos of doing puzzles together while waiting for their test results. I’ve been hearing a lot of “finally we have time together” comments from extended family members and clients.

Puzzles, Cribbage, being together without rush… Without wanting to downplay COVID-19 being a real threat, it almost sounds a bit like a trip to the cottage in the summer, doesn’t it? I can’t help but wonder what we can learn and gain from this experience. When you contemplate the short-term and long-term benefits and advantages of what is unfolding right now, a lot of promising developments stand out.

Whole neighbourhoods are pulling together, offering each other help with the supplies individual families have—yes, the much laughed about toilet paper, for one. We are reaching out and phoning or texting family and friends we might not have talked to in a long time. It brings out kindness, compassion and taking care of each other. Despite or because of the fear we all feel, we continue to come together like never before.

What is happening right now is a general refocus on what is important: partnerships, family and relationships with others. The situation we find ourselves in due to COVID-19 is unprecedented, not only on an economic and societal level, but also for our family relationships. Self-isolation and extended time together are sometimes welcome and harmonious, other times they bring great challenges. But that is a good thing! When problems come to our attention, we can do something about them. The couple can work on it alone, or they can reach out to a coach or therapist.

Image by Gracini Studios from Pixabay 

Most of us coaches and counsellors are working remotely right now. A session through Zoom or Skype is as beneficial as a session in person. If the technology aspect makes you nervous, I understand, and I promise, that I will walk you through the steps to connect virtually.

As many of you are faced with uncertainty right now, I am offering an online session discount:

from April 1 to April 14

online sessions

for individuals and couples

20% off

For a start reach out for a free phone consultation.

Angelika

905-286-9466

greendoorrelaxation@yahoo.ca

How to Get Through the Holidays When We Are Grieving a Loss

It has been imprinted on our psyche from an early age that holidays are the time to spend with our family and loved ones. In an ideal world with complete happy and well-functioning families, that is a wonderful thing. However, what if we are still grieving the loss of a family member who has passed, or we live in a split-up family, or we cannot seem to make the dream of a family come true due to fertility issues or not finding the right partner, or we are experiencing another loss, like the loss of our health, our job, our pet, our home and so on? There are so many situations in which the holidays can deepen our sadness and magnify our pain.

The loss of a family member—whether loved or not so loved—or the break of the original family unit, tends to bring out in families what already existed under the surface but could be ignored until the loss occurred. Those relationships which were struggling prior to the loss now become obvious. Missing bonds, hurt feelings, dysfunctional family patterns are suddenly right out in the open. The loss of one family member or the split of the family into two separate units naturally changes the dynamics between everybody. Coupled with the grief everybody is feeling and expressing differently, the issues which were already part of this family’s interactions are multiplied. Suddenly, family members are triggering each other into emotional responses, and the ideal of the harmonious peaceful holiday time seems to go up in smoke.

  • There is the young woman who has been trying to conceive for eight years now and who is supposed to spend the holidays with her in-laws and with not just one, but two pregnant and much younger sister-in-law’s. The soon to be grandparents, who do not know about her struggles, are ecstatic. Her own pain is equally big and seems unbearable, but worse is her Inner Critic that tells her not to be so selfish and that she should be happy for her sister-in-law’s.
  • There is the son, who always felt that he couldn’t measure up to his brother and compete for the love of his mother. After the death of his father, he feels even more isolated, has a fallout with his mom, and chooses not to spend Christmas with his family.
  • There is the widower whose wife used to be his best friend, his lover, his one and all and who is still trying to come to terms with her dying from an aggressive form of cancer within only a few months. He has no children to help him through this first Christmas alone and will need a friend to reach out to him.
  • There is the daughter, who felt she had to side with her mother against her father in a divorce and did not get another opportunity to have a relationship with him as she was growing up. She learns the limiting belief that men can’t be trusted and that close relationships with men are unavailable to her. She chooses to get back into an unfulfilling relationship just before Christmas when it is the hardest to be alone.
  • There is the granddaughter, who was very close to her grandmother and experiences her being replaced by her grandfather’s new girlfriend soon after. She feels deep sadness and starts to wonder about men and their loyalties. When she invites her grandfather for Christmas Eve as it is their family tradition, he refuses and spends the evening with his new girlfriend; her beliefs are confirmed.
  • There is the widow, who forces herself to do everything as usual to be strong for the kids and she shoulders not just her former workload but also the one of her deceased husband. By the time Christmas Eve arrives, she is taken to the hospital with a lung infection she has ignored.

These are all real people I am referring to and I could go on but I would rather share some strategies of how to get through the holidays when there is a recent or unprocessed loss, whether that is the loss of a person, or a relationship, or a dream.

The first decision to make is, do you even want to go through the regular Christmas routine? You can change the routine to something more normal like ordering in food and watching a movie together. Anything that feels too overwhelming, you are allowed to skip. The big holiday decorations, the festive meal, sending holiday cards, buying gifts for people beyond your immediate family, spending time with family members that trigger your sense of loss… Whatever it might be that makes you feel like you are simply going through the motions, give yourself permission to drop. There is no right or wrong way to do the holidays. In fact, loss has a way of encouraging us to evaluate what parts of the holidays feed our soul and which parts don’t. It is even okay to cancel the holidays altogether and to go away. Often a change of scenery is exactly what you might need.

If you want to spend the holidays in your traditional way with your family, be gentle with yourself and compassionate with others. We all grieve in a different way. What might look like anger or even destruction can hide a lot of pain, what might seem like indifference might be an equally strong protection from feeling the loss. We are literally not ourselves when we are grieving. The first time to make major decisions is right after a big loss when our emotions are flying high.

Nobody asks to experience a loss, or as a client of mine phrased it: “The splitting up of my family was never what I wanted, never what I imagined, never what I dreamed of.” Yet, at the other side of the grief we realize that we are not alone. Everybody experiences losses at some point in their life. We can always reach out to the Greater Power and asked to be carried through a time like the holidays. Remember that we are all connected.

Allow others to help. There is no shame in needing help, on the contrary. Accept their practical help at this time of the year, and share with them what is going on for you internally. Let them know they are not expected to fix anything, but that it helps to simply vocalize your thoughts and feelings. Isn’t that what the holidays are all about? Love and support?

Remember that crying is okay. You do not need to be strong for others. Acknowledging your own sadness and grief can help others to do the same. Make sure you talk to kids as their grief can be overlooked or forgotten. Explain to them what is happening and why you feel the way you feel. Often children have a healthier attitude towards death than we do as adults, but they still need to process the loss of a loved one who passed or the loss of their family which broke apart.

If you are getting together with your family and you want to remember the family member you have just lost, communicate beforehand how you would like to do that. Allow everybody to partake or also to not partake, keeping in mind that we all grieve differently. If it feels right, you could light a candle or share memories or photos of your family member. Consider what this person’s legacy is and how you as a family want to continue living this legacy. Were they perhaps a charitable person or known for helping others? Were they musical or loved telling jokes? Did they like arts and crafts? Where they a good listener? etc. You might then decide to donate something to charity in their name, bring in the music or jokes, make a holiday ornament in their memory, adopt your loved ones listening stance and so on.

And last but not least, if you have been putting off getting professional help and for example seeing a coach or counsellor, now might be the right time. The holidays are tough to get through. Reach out to get the support you need.

Contact Angelika for grief work or fertility work 

905-286-9466

greendoorrelaxation@yahoo.ca

If you want to read more about how grief accumulates you can read the article “Recovering from Our Losses”.

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