Surviving the pain of family break-up

A guideline for surviving the pain of family break-up tells us how “indescribable” the pain can be. Last ditch survival guidelines are a clarion call for better earlier support for separating families.

The guidelines are for the troubled adults. But everyone’s concern focuses on the children in the middle. Children depend on the struggling adults. They don’t have easy access to helplines or guidance. When children do speak out, we get to know of their stress, pain and the lasting harms too. The minimum children need is for their adults to survive.

In her weekly blog, Jane Jackson published the Bristol Grandparents Support Group‘s guidelines for surviving when family separation has gone badly. Finding you are powerless to do anything else, it’s important at least to survive. There are also guidelines for staff when callers talk about suicide, a final solution.

Read the full guidelines for surviving here including many linked resources as well. Here’s a summary:

  • Keep telling yourself that you will feel better, feelings are only temporary.
  • Make yourself seek the outside – go for that walk, listen to the birds, live in the moment.
  • Be kind to yourself – as you would with your best friend, stop the blame game.
  • Learn a new skill, meet new people – to encourage us to be the best we can be.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help, or for counselling.
The ‘I Will Survive Plan’
  1. Find someone you trust and ask them to be your “I will survive” partner.
  2. Notice your thought habits. Practice being kind to yourself.
  3. Have a really good look at how things are for you, what’s changed, what you have lost, and the positive outcomes.
  4. Be mindful – practice staying in the present moment, find ways to calm your busy mind to give yourself a break from its chatter.
  5. Encourage positive thoughts in any way you can.
  6. Look for positive things outside yourself and let them in!
  7. Work towards peace of mind.
Preventing indescribable pain

Helping those who are surviving the pain of family separation is important work. When suicide is the alternative, help to survive is urgent.

Life-saving “last ditch” voluntary work with indescribable suffering is a clarion call for change. The world worked fast to prevent and cure a pandemic. In contrast, we accept the suffering and death from family separation as just one of those things. Painful family separation happens everywhere all the time; it’s endemic.

The world could change as fast for separating famiilies as it did for COVID. A fit-for-purpose health-based system would displace the dominant adversarial legal one:

  • The priority is to develop and promote accessible support and intervention as standard for separating families and their children.
  • Complex situations like family separation need effective earlier teamed-up qualified health-based child-focused services.
  • Courageous volunteers should not be needed to do this kind of essential work.
  • That they are needed at all reflects a decades-long failure to change the present system.
  • Despite the many who encourage families away from family law, that remains a first port of call rather than the last resort.

We can make hundreds of frontline helpers redundant. The need for last ditch help for those surviving the pain of family break-up can be a thing of the past. Thinking of the children’s pain and future makes the changes urgent.

Photo by Luana Azevedo on Unsplash