When someone is experiencing separation or divorce, regardless of whether they are the instigator, on the receiving end or both have agreed to separate, there are some key books that can be helpful for the clients I advise and guide following separation. These books often provide valuable advice, insights and mechanisms to help you or those you love, understand and cope with different stages of the separation and divorce process.
They fall into four main categories:
- Understanding the process
- Divorce with children
- Taking care of yourself; and
- Books to assist children
Understanding the process
I often speak with my clients about the concepts raised in On Death and Dying by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross because it is about the grief cycle and assists them to understand how they or their partner may react. For people who are contemplating separation or are about to communicate that they wish to separate or are in the early stages of a separation, the cycles of grieving a death are very similar to the four stages of divorce.
Our society has a framework that doesn’t necessarily allow people to grieve the loss of a relationship in the same kind of way.
Many people liken the end of a marriage to a death because there is mourning about the loss of a significant relationship. It’s the end of the joint vision and a dream that you had for your life. It is a loss of the expectations you had which is very similar to experiencing the loss of a loved one.
The grief cycle can help us to understand what goes on in divorce and where the other person might be ‘at’ in their own individual grief cycle. When you have a good grasp of where you are in the cycle and your former partner is in these phases, it can be insightful in understanding when (or when not to) take certain steps and how receptive the other person may be at that time.
Another book is It doesn’t have to be that way – how to divorce without destroying your family or bankrupting yourself by Laura Wasser. While it is an American-based book, there is a lot to take away from it. It is focused on divorce as it is in today’s world where is there a focus on divorcing more easily and efficiently and to maintain some degree of control of the process. The theme of the book is about approaching separation in a collaborative manner and how to have what Laura refers to as a ‘safer passage’ through what can be a very difficult time emotionally and financially.
Divorce With Children
A book for parents who are going through separation that I highly recommend reading is Separating Respectfully – how to separate without emotionally harming your children by Lynne Clark and Cheryl Smith. It’s a self-published book by two Queensland based family therapists and social workers who write family reports for the Court and work clinically to assist separating families. It contains their practical tips to protect your children from emotional harm when you are going through divorce and how to move forward. It gives helpful insights into emotional damage to children and the key message is, just because you separate, it doesn’t necessarily cause harm to your children. It’s how you deal with that and the ongoing conflict that might ensue that does the damage, rather than the separation itself.
Another two books I recommend are by the same author, The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce by Judith Wallerstein, Julia Lewis, Sandra Blakeslee and What About the Kids? Raising Your Children Before, During and After Divorce by Judith S Wallerstein, Sandra Blakeslee. The first book is based on a longitudinal study investigating the long-term effects of children of divorce, over 25 years. It is the observations of four or five children over that period of time and into their own relationships. The second book expands on that research and focuses on the needs of children from the divorce through to their adulthood. It includes scenarios and specific advice. This second book illuminates the concept that is not necessarily the divorce that has a detrimental effect, but it is what happens after the divorce that can have the most damage.
Taking Care of Yourself
Separation and divorce can be one of the hardest things to go through and taking care of yourself is key. Mindfulness is a great way to refocus and respond, rather than to react when you feel things are out of your control. Some books to assist with that include this one, Conscious Uncoupling – 5 Steps to Living Happily Even After by Katherine Woodward Thomas. While the idea of ‘conscious uncoupling’ can be considered a controversial one because of the celebrities who coined the term, this book is about healing after a separation and moving forward.
Another well-known book Daring Greatly – How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead by Brene Brown is worth reading. While it is not explicitly for people experiencing separation and divorce, it is about vulnerability, accepting imperfection and taking strength from adversity as a means to move forward and grow. This is a good read for someone who is in the phase of being accepting of their separation and looking to the future.
One book written for women is On your own two feet – Divorce by Helen Baker. As an Australian financial planner the author educates the reader about how to make informed decisions in relation to their current finances and into the future. The book includes some common mistakes that are made and how to avoid them.
The Complete Guide to Protecting Your Financial Security When Getting a Divorce by Alan Feigenbaum and Heather Linton is a comprehensive look at the financials during across the different stages of the separation and divorce journey. It is an insightful and practical read that includes a range of helpful resources.
Books to Assist Children
For parents who are looking to support their children during separation, these are my recommendations. Two Birthday Cakes by Danielle Jaku-Greenfield is a picture book written for children aged 4 to 8 years. It is about how children come to terms with shared parenting. The story focuses on two siblings and the practicalities of living between two homes.
For children aged between 8 and 13, I recommend It’s Not the End of the World by Judy Blume. This well-known author covers some of the realities of divorce in this fictional tale. The book is most well known for delving into how the characters are feeling, the issues they are facing and that their parents getting a divorce ‘is not the end of the world’.
If you are currently working with a client or know anyone going through a separation or divorce that you think may benefit, please share this recommended reading list with them. If you are the person considering separation or are going through separation already, I do hope you find these books helpful.
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