Today's post is written by Registered Holistic Nutritionist, Personal Trainer, and mother-of-two, Lori Nasso. I hope you will appreciate her powerful insights about how to navigate through a separation as a parent.
“Until death do us part” is one of the vows that we take at the altar. As part of my “journey” navigating through separation, I’ve had not one, but two priests educate me about the meaning of that vow. It was explained to me that “death” is not just physical—something I unfortunately understand on a much deeper level now.
Apparently, my story of separation is a repetitive one in the judicial system. It is one where egos prevail and thousands of dollars are wasted. One characterized by entitlement and people being misguided by a toxic environment. Three years later, the custody battle continues.
It is my intension to help those of you who might be in a similar position of having to withstand meetings with lawyers, watching money go down the drain, having tough conversations with your children, and continually defending yourself. Our task in this situation is a difficult one: we not only need to rise above, but continue on our paths for the sake of providing our children with consistent, stable lives. How do we accomplish this? What are some tools we can use? Who are some of our best guides? Continue reading for my advice.
1. Take care of your mind, body, and spirit.
I’ve worked as a flight attendant for the past 25 years. As part of our safety briefing to parents with infants, parents are advised to put on their own oxygen masks on first . The ideology behind this is if parents can breathe, they will be able to think clearly. When we think clearly, we are more equipped to assist our dependents. This is one the reasons why self-care is especially important, whether you’re a parent or not. I personally enjoy adapting a holistic approach to self-care that encompasses the mind, body and spirit.
For your mind, I highly recommend reading. Louise Hay is a wonderful author. I recently joined a book club through U of T’s alumni association that not only allows me to learn about history and politics, but the ability to engage virtually with like-minded individuals.
If reading is not something you can commit to or enjoy, why not try doing a crossword puzzle or Sudoku? The more you do them, the better you will get. In the meantime, your mind will benefit from the exercise and healthy distraction.
For your body, exercise daily. Some sort of routine is ideal. You could start with morning stretches, yoga or pilates or do something physical after dinner. A bonus here is that you can easily involve your child(ren) in these activities. Playing catch, soccer, or basketball with them are all great options, though the possibilities are endless. Remember that exercise not only changes your body, it changes your mind, attitude and mood.
The fuel we put into our bodies is important too, especially if your separation is one that is not amicable. Cars cannot run without gasoline and our bodies do not function optimally unless they’re nourished well. Look for foods that help with stress reduction such as those with high vitamin B and C content*. Keep your blood sugar levels stable with fiber rich foods. Get educated about probiotics and how they could help support your digestive system. Drink (no, not cocktails loaded with alcohol and sugar, I mean water). Remember to stay well hydrated if exercising outdoors in the warmer weather.
I left “spirit” for last, not because it matters least, but because it has been the most impactful part of my journey. During the separation process, your spouse may try to take things from you. For my third court appearance, I prepared myself by collecting as many letters as I could from school officials, neighbours, and friends to “prove” my presence in the lives of my children. It was not a requirement, but it was like a safety blanket for myself. When that day was over, one of the neighbours reminded me that no one can “take” my children from me, nor could they ever take away my education or beautiful spirit…
I’ve learned that taking care of your spirit can be something as simple as praying daily. As I have explained to my children, a prayer is just a conversation between you and Him. It is the perfect opportunity to give thanks and ask for guidance. This daily activity has changed my life perspective.
If praying is not something you are comfortable with or prepared to do, meditation (whether guided or not) is beneficial. I recently participated in a 21-day guided meditation in a virtual group setting led by one of my colleagues at Air Canada who is so spiritually grounded. Stay connected with similar people as much as you can during and after your separation.
Our 21-day meditation group also involved doing some type of journaling daily, with one of the exercises requiring us to write a letter to someone who hurt us. We were required to think and write about all the good things the person did for us, too. While navigating through separation, your inner spirit needs to be at peace. Holding on to anger and resentment is truly just wasted energy.
Another way to feed your spirit is through nature. Ground yourself by walking barefoot. Sit and listen to a babbling brook in the middle of a forest. Climb mountains and enjoy the scenery once you reach the top. Stop to smell the flowers. It’s the little things in life that you will truly come to appreciate if you don’t already.
(For more ideas on how to keep your mind, body, and spirit connected, check out this blog post.)
2. Do not react, respond.
In the three years that I’ve been on this journey, the letters I’ve received through counsel have been absolutely vicious. In an attempt to be awarded sole custody, opposing counsel presented a document well over two hundred pages at our third court appearance.
I remember getting letter after letter in the beginning stages. I remember all the tears I shed. I remember the sleepless nights. I remember the hurt, disbelief, frustration, and most of all, the fear. I was so afraid my children would be taken from me.
I’ve had to remind myself time and time again to have faith. I no longer get upset when the accusatory letters are sent. I am fully confident in my lawyer’s skills and years of experience. I am confident in my abilities to care for my children on an emotional, spiritual, physical and financial level. I urge you to start your journey with this mindset. Understand that the letters may be a tactic to intimidate you among other reasons. Do not take them personally.
3. Be kind and compassionate.
I admit that when I first received advice to pray for my husband, I did not understand. As time has gone by, his fight for sole custody has not subsided, the letters have kept coming, and money continues to go out the door. Regardless, I wish no harm towards him.
During Father’s Day a few weekends ago, I invited my children to create a craft for their dad while in my care. They love him. I am at peace knowing that my children feel comfortable in my home to make something special for him.
While we can show compassion and kindness to the person we are separated from, it’s important to be mindful of how you think and speak about yourself. Is it how you would speak with your child(ren) or inner child? Navigating through separation can be difficult so remember that no one is perfect and there is no need to be. You will grow through the experience if you can remember to be kind and compassionate. When we’re able to do this, we're also modelling beautiful qualities for our child(ren) and teaching them how to act with grace, humility, and warmth even during the toughest of times.
4. Create boundaries and stay focused.
Know what you require to meet your emotional, mental, physical and spiritual needs. If this isn’t clear for you right now, I strongly suggest listening to your intuition. In the holistic world, our “gut” is also known as our second brain. Those butterflies and knots you feel….pay attention.
Being separated is the time to reclaim the power of making decisions that are best suited for you. This is not the time to overextend yourself for others. It is the time to stay focused. If your current circle adds more to your plate, communicate what it is you are capable of as you go through the process. Some people will understand, some will not. Be okay with this. If someone in your circle cannot be supportive of your needs as you are going through this difficult time, limit contact.
Support right now is important and may be in the form of a family member, friend, co-worker and/or professional therapist. I suggest you accept everyone who is willing to help you with open arms. This is not a time to close yourself off to others. Be okay with allowing people in your heart.
I am extremely blessed to have a very patient and loving mother, but I refrain from sharing everything with her because I see the pain in her eyes. I have long-time friends who are always willing to listen and give advice in areas that they can. My co-workers, including members of management, have been very supportive. I’ve even met people through social media who offer kind words and share their wisdom. Even with a good support system, I continue to speak with a therapist on a bi-weekly basis. The point is to stay focused on who and what really matters as you navigate.
5. Act with integrity.
Navigate with the intention of moving forward with integrity, no matter how many false accusations are thrown your way. Fighting fire with fire in any custody battle involving innocent children is a complete waste of money, time and precious energy. Think of integrity as choosing your thoughts and actions based on values rather than personal gain.
For the record, my children know nothing about the details of my marriage or how I've been impacted by this separation. It is not information I need to share with them at this time. I’m sharing it with you today with the hope of helping at least one person.
The Bottom Line
Navigating through separation isn’t always an easy task. It can get unpleasant, especially if children are involved. Having said that, it doesn’t mean it has to be all negative. You can definitely use tools to make the journey one where you grow and even flourish.
Remember to focus on your health from a holistic perspective. Take care of your mind, body and spirit daily. Begin your day by expressing gratitude, especially when things seem insurmountable. Trust me.
As difficult as it may seem, try to give yourself time when attempting to communicate with your estranged partner. The goal is to respond and not to react. Know the difference. Do not waste your energy.
Be kind and compassionate. Remember, when we love ourselves first, we are then able to treat others in that manner as well. Do so without the expectation of reciprocation.
And finally, stay true to who you are. Do not allow the actions of someone else to change you. Allow yourself to be guided only by those who are spiritually grounded. Keep moving forward. Don’t look back because you’re not going that way.
About Lori Nasso (B.A. Hons, RHN, PT):
I am a Registered Holistic Nutritionist and Certified Personal Trainer. I travel as often as I can, love to cook, bake and eat. Exercise, learning and music are my drugs. My children, friends, and nature keep me grounded. It has taken me almost half a century, but I am finally putting all my passions and life experiences together to answer my calling. I’ve met a lot of Earth angels along my journey and am forever
grateful. Now it’s my turn to pay it forward.
*Good sources of Vitamin B include whole grains (especially brown rice, barley, and millet), red meat, poultry, and fish, eggs and dairy products, legumes (like beans and lentils), seeds and nuts (particularly sunflower seeds and almonds), fruits (citrus fruits, avocados, bananas) and dark leafy greens (think broccoli and spinach). It also is a good idea to take a Vitamin B complex to help fill any gaps. Good sources of vitamin C include: papaya, bell peppers, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, strawberries, pineapple, oranges, kiwi, cantaloupe, and cauliflower.