Alejandra Gutierrez, LCSW

Shared Custody, a Silent Grieving.

Every single study shows that having both parents in a child’s life is the healthiest option. With shared custody children should find a way to know and love both parents to be healthy and experience healthy relationships in the future. Of course, that’s not always possible and an absent parent leaves an undeniable wound. A wound that can be healed through positive and loving relationships with others. It’s an attachment wound. 

This one is for the co-parents. Specifically, moms who are sharing parenting time with a previous partner. There are many cases when a mom could potentially achieve full custody if she put in the effort. Part of it is the historical ideas about the importance of mothers and there are other aspects as well such as income, level of education, and stability. 

There is gut-wrenching grief for mothers who make the brave choice to have shared custody with an ex. The biological aspect of motherhood, the attachment that begins throughout pregnancy and continues into the early years of life is like no other bond. It is not to diminish the role of the father but rather to stand apart as necessary and astonishing. In nature, we see the fierce protectiveness of mothers in response to any perceived threat to their children. 

For half the week it feels like your heart has left your body. It is somewhere else entirely. Beating and you can’t see it. You can’t feel it and you aren’t there to protect it. The sense of powerlessness and grief is never-ending. Every week you say goodbye to your children and parents were never intended to see their children for part of the week. It is a pain point for everyone. Many families thrive in the midst of this dynamic. Children grow resilient and capable of experiencing love and family in its many shapes and forms. 

As a therapist, I firmly believe that any difficult feelings must be acknowledged before the healing process can begin. I can imagine many of you reading this getting defensive or finding examples of people who are doing just fine. Children who are thriving. This isn’t about that or them. 

The truth is many co-parents are silently struggling within shared custody. Even if they enjoy the time off. You know it creates time for self-care and identity outside of parenthood. It even leaves room for you to fall in love with someone new. This is anongoing pain. A bittersweet sacrifice that you make because you love your child more than you love yourself. 

You should be so proud of what you’ve accomplished. If you’re in the middle of trying to figure this out you deserve so much gratitude for the hard choices you are making for your child. Let yourself grieve. Let yourself cry and experience these feelings. This is the way to recovery. 

You will find a way to redefine and reshape and expand your understanding of family. These changes won’t go on forever and you will find a rhythm. It isn’t how you thought things would go but so much beauty can come from this. But you have to fight for it. And one of the most important aspects of fighting is remaining open and sensitive to all the layers of mourning necessary to make it through. If you feel it’s time to seek support coping see what services are able for those facing shared custody. If you’re looking for free resources on finding wellness and healing within this dynamic take advantage of our free Modern Family Wellness Checklist.