An Ugly Divorce with Kids – An open letter by therapist Meghan Crough An Ugly Divorce with Kids – An open letter by therapist Meghan Crough
Meghan Crough is a parent, adjunct professor and Marriage and Family Therapist in private practice in Rochester, NY, specializing in healing around Self and... An Ugly Divorce with Kids – An open letter by therapist Meghan Crough

Meghan Crough is a parent, adjunct professor and Marriage and Family Therapist in private practice in Rochester, NY, specializing in healing around Self and In Our Relationships.


Dear Parents Dealing with Divorce,

What a tough time this must be for you, your children, your friends and family. It sounds like you’re at the Survival part of things—probably trying to remember to put clean socks on each day is an accomplishment. And it is. Crisis, like the type you are going through, is like a sharp knife that we didn’t see headed for our solar plexus and at the same time it lands like a sledgehammer…we feel knocked sideways like a bell that has been RUNG. And often the reverberations continue awhile—

I am so sorry for your suffering……………….and…here is where it has the potential to get interesting.

Yes, the Suffering part SUCKS. We each tend to get caught in the whirlpool-like swirl of the drama of our own lives. Because our drama is TRUE! It is HAPPENING right now(!), and it is taking EVERYTHING WE’VE GOT to get through each day. I know. …And, that is how it just is in the beginning. So be caught in the swirl, tell your story, allow yourself to be hugged and cried about and hurt and sad and depressed and exhausted and angry and confused. ALLOW it because it’s all true and it’s all energy that needs to keep moving through you—just don’t encourage any of these feelings to set up residence in your heart. Let them all know you appreciate their input, but they have temporary Visas and their residence is not permanent!

Take your time. And find new ways of being kind to yourself.

And when you catch your breath, be honest with yourself—even if just to yourself (though the healing is multiplied exponentially when you share this level of self-honesty with someone who can really hear you). Begin to tell yourself the REAL story—the Whole story. The parts where you remember that there have been moments of disconnection and difficulty where you and your partner hung back, didn’t listen, turned away, mislead, swept things under the rug or were simply not present for one another in your life together.

The reason it is essential to have this level of honesty with yourself first is because in order to do the two most important things in your life right now, you need the coherence that only REAL/brutal(?) honesty will provide. It is the doorway into everything you want, going forward—


The 1st Most Important Thing is Self Care.

  • You want the clarity to know what went wrong and how to handle things from here.
  • You want the words to speak to your children and your friends and family and you want to be proud of yourself for the words you choose.
  • You want to know at the end of each day that you did something LIFE-CHANGING and IMPORTANT that day by showing up and BEING YOU even though your heart is terribly bruised and part of you is pretty sure your life is in shambles.
  • You want to sleep.
  • You want to sleep with peace in your heart.
  • You want to begin to even imagine a future where you don’t feel like you feel now.
  • You want to feel like you want to actually be here, in Earth School.
  • You want your child(ren) to look at you with clear eyes and with trust and to feel connected with them.
  • You want to know you took a shitty situation and you rose to the occasion—not minimally, but with a streak of courage you didn’t know you possessed until now.
  • You want to read about women and men who love themselves and who claim their magnificence and you want to feel the chord of resonance that reminds you that you have your magnificent side too.
  • You want to smile again and mean it.
  • You want to laugh again and mean it.
  • You want to stop focusing on the mountain of blame and shame that seems to surround you.

You are the only one who can make the choices, moment by moment, toward your Healing, or away from it.


The 2nd Most Important Thing is to show up for your child in authentic ways.

And here is where your child(ren) come(s) in to the picture. They know that all hell has broken loose, even if you’re not sure what exactly they “know.” They have been intuiting your every move since their very beginnings. They know when you’re upset and they absolutely know when you’re heartbroken. Their nervous systems are intimately connected with yours, and their knowing is beyond words. …And that is why you need to be very honest and clear with them about what is going on. Help them put words and understanding to the hurricane of emotions they are feeling, and feeling from you.

They don’t need to know the details or depth of how hurt you are—they already know anyway, but they don’t need to hear their parents use them as a sounding board for any blame and shame. Most parents, in crisis, make impulsive and destructive choices they often spend the rest of their lives regretting. If you can avoid this pitfall you’ll be miles ahead.

Your child(ren) need to look into your eyes and see You there. It’s okay to be hurt and hurting. But they need to see that you are still present, still in the game and that you’re intent on getting through this difficult time and making it to the other side.

They need to see/know that you have at least a sense that there is a map of this strange, new and scary place and that you’re going to lead them out of it and toward safety.

If you’re present and if you show them that you’re making good choices (remember the clean socks:)) then they will trust you. And your bond with them will become stronger and healthier than it was before—yes, before the Storm.

Crisis, my Chinese friends tell me, in Chinese, has two characters—one for ‘Danger,’ and one for ‘Opportunity.’ The danger in your situation arrived via sharp knife and sledgehammer. Now it is time to begin to see the opportunity.

Your words to your child(ren) simply need to originate in your most stable and coherent sense of what is happening now. It is okay to get flustered and to know that you’re in uncharted territory and that you’re pretty sure you’re failing at making sense to them. TRUST YOURSELF. You are the parent and you are the adult. She/He needs you to have the map. Or the beginning of the map. Or to hire a therapist who will let you borrow the map and make your own copy from her/his template.

You CAN do this. You are not alone. And you need to do this well because you have an attentive audience of a trusting confused child who is going to tell her/his own story someday about this awful thing that happened and the changes that came from it.

She/he will either tell the story of how her parent(s) showed her/him what the adults in your family do in crisis situations to help themselves and to emerge out of the fires of distress, more whole and profoundly stronger. Or she/he will tell the story of the thing that you did that broke the family up and that’s when you had such a hard time and that’s when she/he (daughter/son) learned to take care of themself/themselves.

My wish for you and your child(ren) is that your heart hears something in my words that ring TRUE and feel like a tug, a call toward the YOU of You. Your best Self.

I imagine a day in the future when you might be actually grateful that this situation all went down the way it did—because it IGNITED something in you that you got to know and you LOVED this part of you. …This is the kind of role model I wish all children had of their parents. You are in this together—make it the best story of survival and then THRIVING that you all can!


Wishing Peace,



Meghan Crough is a parent, adjunct professor and Marriage and Family Therapist in private practice in Rochester, NY, specializing in healing around Self and In Our Relationships.


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  • Jonathan

    January 23, 2017 #1 Author

    Thank you Meghan for your compassion and understanding. I’m currently going through a separation and soon to be divorced and your words resonate deeply. I have two amazing daughters who are still quite young and my primary focus is to become an even better father during this time of healing.

    It has been extremely difficult for me to sleep lately as I’m consumed by anxiety which has made it harder for me to be the best parent right now. I have low energy, depressing thoughts and struggle to get through each day. As you’ve mentioned above, finding clean socks has become a challenge. I try to put on a brave face when I’m with my girls but still don’t feel I can look them in the eyes without conveying this deep pain and grief and don’t want to burden them with any of this. I want to smile again and really mean it, and be truly happy again.

    I’m trying to let emotions come up and truly feel them and not judge or analyze but just be with it but it has been rough. I have been practicing meditation daily and working hard on self love and self care but the anxiety lately has been overwhelming. Some days are better than others but when it hits me the ‘pit of darkness’ seems to deep to emerge from. It is affecting my work and performance and I don’t want this to ruin my life.

    I’m doing the best I can, but need help.


    • admin

      January 23, 2017 #2 Author

      This article was written exactly for you! And people like you. You are not alone. Meghan provided this article to Hard Talks with Kids, but she does not receive these emails. To reach her directly please go to her website: She is a wealth of information about this exact situation! I wish you much luck and am SO glad you found this article. Hang in there and get the help you deserve!


  • Lynne Savitt

    January 23, 2017 #3 Author

    It’s great to read a wonderfully written article with concrete suggestions that bring tools to one of the hardest jobs a parent may face.

    Ms. Crough’s open hearted map to an enlightenlng journey will prove there is light at the end of even the most arduous tunnel.


  • Geri Lynne Jackson

    February 8, 2017 #4 Author

    Beautifully open-hearted and blisteringly truthful. Thank you Meghan Crough.


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