Holistic Divorce Counseling

Holistic Divorce Counseling Nicole S. Urdang, M.S., NCC, DHM, LMHC. Free support, resources, and comfort for all life's issues and transitions.

Adult Children’s Revelations After Divorce September 23, 2015


Oh! What a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive.

Sir Walter Scott



As time moves on from your divorce you can be sure of one thing: There will always be new revelations from your children. At times, they will rock your world and make you question your own memories. Whatever they are, it is important to understand the truth will make you free (if it doesn’t kill you first). Eventually, that new knowledge, however shocking, will help you let go of a past you may have been romanticizing and allow you to more fully release any lingering attachment you felt for someone who was clearly not the person you thought you married.


The worst revelations are of abuse to your children and they will require deep work on everyone’s part. Learning of infidelity, especially if it went on for a long time, is also painful and the collateral damage can have long-lasting effects on your children’s views of marriage and ability to trust. Finding out your ex may have been undermining you for decades, or asking your children to lie to you can feel devastating. Since none of these past behaviors can be undone, the only good option is working to create the best relationship you can have with your adult child.


If your child was seduced into keeping secrets and lying to you, the history of those behaviors will always be there. The messages can quiet down, they can even be eclipsed with years of new thoughts and positive interactions, but they can never be erased. As a result, they will effect your relationship in inexplicable ways. Accepting that, and assuming everything happens for your highest good, is your path to peace.


To complicate matters even more, when children have been manipulated by a parent to keep secrets they usually feel guilty and ashamed. This guilt typically creates resentment for the wronged spouse because, on some level, the adult child knows they colluded with the other parent. When they interact with the parent they lied to their guilt creates cognitive dissonance and all they really want is to get away as fast as possible. These mixed feelings are often felt as resentment. (See chapter on Guilt.) So, now, you not only have to bear the brunt of the toxic behavior you knew nothing about, but your adult child’s possible guilt, shame, and convoluted resentment towards you. Add that to your parental feelings of protection for your child, no matter how old they are, and you get a very complicated situation.


As if that weren’t enough, they are dealing with anger at the toxic parent for manipulating, bullying, cajoling, bribing, and intimidating them. This anger can easily morph into depression, or anger directed within. It can also appear as anxiety related to dealing with either parent over the potential fall-out of choosing to keep secrets or reveal them.


If you felt abandoned or neglected as a child these revelations may feel like a re-wounding, and trigger old issues. If you learned of new betrayals by your former partner this knowledge can easily catalyze bodily reactions that make you feel unsafe. Unsafe physically, emotionally, or with the adult child who shared the information. It is hard to trust after being betrayed. (See chapter on Trust.)


What can you do to heal your inner wounds and your relationship with your child? First, remember, they were young, impressionable, and wanted their other parent’s attention and affection. Both of which may have been given by making your child feel special through sharing secrets, buying things, acting as a best friend, denigrating the other parent’s values, and all sorts of other unsavory behaviors. But, your child did not start this dynamic.


If the lies, bad-mouthing, and deception have continued into your children’s adulthood your path is even more complicated as expectations of adults are usually quite different from those for children. The good news is all of it can be worked with skillfully, lovingly, and patiently.


Here are some suggestions to help you heal from an adult child’s new revelations:


  1. Take plenty of time to let everything sink in. Do your best to react slowly. Talk with a friend, therapist, clergy member, or relative to work through the myriad effects of this new information.


2. Explore these revelation’s effects in your body. How do they feel physically? Where    do you feel them? Patiently work to find words to describe what you feel in your body as this will take the focus off your thoughts, and help re-ground you.


3. What are you feeling towards your child? Reach deeply to find all your feelings, not just the ones that show up immediately. Whatever they are, they will change with time.


4. When the time is right, talk with your adult child about your reactions to this new information and listen to how they feel.


5. What are your thoughts? Can you do some journaling? Try writing a List of 100. This is done by setting a timer for 20 minutes, pre-numbering a page with 100 lines, and writing as fast as you possibly can about your topic. No censorship. That means you write down everything that comes up, even if it is the exact same thing you just wrote on the previous 10 lines. Topics might be: 100 reasons I don’t trust my adult child.  100 things this revelation taught me. 100 reasons I am glad to be divorced from this person. Once completed you can easily group your responses into percentages, see which thoughts and feelings come up most frequently, and work with those first.


6. Does this experience trigger others from the past? If so, what are they and what emotions do they bring up? I am partial to Internal Family Systems therapy as it is a gentle, yet very deep, way of working with difficult issues.


7. Look for the benefits as well as the collateral damage. No matter how earth shattering the news there are always hidden benefits.


8. Emotional pain is almost always soothed with a combination of time and kindness. You can calm your body-mind with yoga, massage, exercise, good food, journaling, talking it out, music, sleep, nature, Bach’s Rescue Remedy, aromatherapy (lavender, citrus, balsam fir needle, cedar, or any essential oils you like), tea (hot drinks without much caffeine have been shown to calm the sympathetic nervous system), an epsom salt and lavender bath, and anything else that reliably works for you.


9. If you like talking to yourself as a way to work through things you might be interested in some new research that shows how using your name, or talking to yourself in the third person (using “you” instead of “I”) can be very beneficial. It’s explained here: http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052702304831304579543772121720600.


At the end of the day, it all comes down to your truth. Your truth when you lived it in the past doesn’t change because of some new information. It may change your opinion of your ex, but it doesn’t change what you felt at the time. Whatever new information has come to light says nothing about you and everything about him or her. You may think it says things about your children, but they were impressionable and needy. Even if the deception continued through their adulthood it is still not about you. They were indoctrinated, felt special, safe, and avoided conflicts with the manipulating parent, all if which created intense cognitive dissonance. Compassion for them and yourself is the best medicine.


Copyright Nicole S. Urdang 


Sitting With Discomfort September 1, 2011

Filed under: SITTING WITH DISCOMFORT — chocophile @ 2:37 pm
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I have a confession to make: I don’t believe you can feel happy 24/7, any more than you can feel anything every minute for your entire life. We are designed to feel a broad spectrum of emotions because, so far, they have kept us safe and helped perpetuate the human race.

We all know how something that feels bad can actually redound to your highest good in the future. But, being the hedonists we are designed to be, we naturally avoid pain and seek pleasure. What if sitting with discomfort helped us make peace with it, increased our frustration tolerance and our ability to accept life as it is? As Albert Ellis used to say, it’s a choice between short-term hedonism and long-term hedonism. If we forego the pleasure of the moment we can reap greater benefits in the future. In today’s society, delaying gratification is not popular; however, when we learn to sit with what we don’t like we actually build emotional muscle and can handle the next challenge with greater ease.

When we feel anxious, for example, our first inclination is for relief, which usually consists of avoidance. We can distract ourselves with TV, video games, pornography, food, alcohol, drugs (including prescription psychotropics), gambling, etc. and create new problems; or, we can do the last thing we instinctively gravitate towards: sit with the feeling. Yes, just allow it. Breathe into it. Can you feel the discomfort physically? If so, notice its characteristics. Is your breathing shallow? Is your back tense? Do you feel a headache coming on? Is your jaw clenched Are your shoulders hunched up? Is your abdomen tight? Breathe into whatever you notice.

Give yourself permission to feel your feelings. With practice, it will help you accept yourself and your reality. By resting in awareness you stop fighting what is true for you now and open to the possibility that it is all OK. You can handle what you don’t like.

Many incredibly intelligent and insightful souls, like the Buddha, Ram Dass, and Tolle have encouraged us to be here now. That means being with whatever comes up. Your job isn’t to like everything, but to be aware and open. Luckily, this becomes easier when you remind yourself everything passes, the pleasant and the unpleasant.

It is crucial to understand that the goal here is not necessarily to figure out why you are feeling what you’re feeling, but to stay with the discomfort. You may even want to cultivate some curiosity about what you are feeling.

Granted, mindfulness practice is counter-intuitive, but when you are fully in the moment you can actually relax into what is. Resisting your feelings often increases them and their power. No harm will come to you if you embrace your feelings, though it may be uncomfortable. In time, you will notice a feeling or sensation and, rather than avoid it, you will label and accept it. Another great benefit of this practice is that by gently and lovingly accepting where you are you become more compassionate with yourself and others.

Impermanence is the name of the game. Nothing lasts, good or bad. You may not care to remind yourself of that in the middle of an ice cream sundae (though it might make you more appreciative and increase your enjoyment), but it is helpful to remember when times are tough.

Once you allow yourself to be with what is true for you now, remember the quote: “Pain is inevitable but suffering is optional.” By resisting the urge to rate your feelings, or yourself as bad for having them, you will begin to know the peace that comes from acceptance, and your discomfort won’t morph into suffering.

Here are some exercises to help you on your path to emotional freedom:

Consciously stop yourself a few times a day to do an internal check.

What am I feeling now?

Can I allow this feeling, whether physical, emotional or spiritual, without trying to repress it, or distract myself from it?

Stay with whatever comes up, especially if you don’t like it.

Try to label what you are experiencing. For example: tightness in my throat, muscle spasms in my low back, tension in my jaw, etc.

Name your emotions as if you were simply observing them, like: anxiety, sadness, anger, resentment, grief, etc.

Breathe into any area of discomfort, and keep drawing your breath there until you feel it relax.

Immerse yourself in Buddhist thought by reading books by Pema Chodron, and listening to podcasts on iTunes like: A Quiet Mind, The I.D. Project, or interviews on Sounds True.

Copyright Nicole S. Urdang


Loneliness: Widening Your Social Circle November 26, 2008


Transformation has many components, not the least of which is revamping your social network.  If you are ending a relationship, you are losing one of your major life supports. As if this weren’t hard enough, other friendships, even long-lasting ones, may dissolve.  What’s a solo to do? Connect, of course!


Luckily, there are seven billion people in the world, so the numbers are in your favor.  With one third of all American adults living alone, hundreds of thousands are looking to make friends, platonic or romantic. Dating sites abound, including free ones, like plentyoffish.com.  (If you go this route, please be sensible about meeting people in public, well-lit places. Don’t give out your phone number or any other personal information; and, you might want to google your new acquaintance’s name.)


There are two prerequisites to successfully expanding your social circle: open-heartedness and paying attention.  Every time you are out in the world, whether it’s the grocery store, the library, or a coffee house, focus on positive thoughts (see Affirmations) and smile.  There’s nothing more appealing than good karma. If you exude it people will be drawn to you. Hiding your light under a bushel is a sure-fire way to feel separate and alone.  Practicing openness (see Open Your Heart ) and smiling have the added benefit of increasing your joy, whether you meet your soul mate, or not.  Paying attention means if someone smiles back you notice and add an extra second of eye contact.  There are so many opportunities to connect, but you have to be aware of your effect on others. Then, smile a little more.


Notice how people react to your new habit.  You may not want to grin ear to ear, as that’s more than most people can assimilate without thinking you’re two shrimp short of a stir-fry, but you can practice a gentle, content smile.  Of course, if you’re feeling miserable don’t paste an artificial smile on your face, as that sends a very confusing and dissonant message. But, if you are in a neutral or positive state of mind, just let yourself have fun with this, and watch what happens.  It’s chaos theory: one thing changes and there’s a ripple effect across the universe.


No beauty potion, diet, or plastic surgery is as potent as the combination of authenticity, openness, and a genuine smile.  It’s free, easy, and even changes your brain chemistry.  Yes, when you smile, certain facial muscles get activated and they send a message to your brain to create more joy.


All the above notwithstanding, the most important relationship you will ever have is with yourself.  Period. So, treat your sweet self with as much loving kindness, gentleness, and patience you can muster.  It will not only redound to your benefit a thousand times over, but it will make you a people magnet.


Click on the following symbol to see a poetic and inspirational video on how to be alone:



Text Copyright Nicole S. Urdang


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