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Unresolved Emotional Trauma has Long-Term Impacts for you, your children and Society.


It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see the uptick in mass shootings in schools, public venues or in the workplace.  In addition to violence on others, according to the 2021 USA General Statistics, Suicide rates are up by 3.4% from 2020-2021.  Suicide is the 3rd leading cause of death in ages 15-24 year olds.  There seems to be a lot of blame on guns, gangs, bullying, drugs, mental illness, or poor upbringing.   While there are legitimate explanations of why this type of violent outcry exists, much of the list I mentioned can actually be symptoms to a greater problem.  If you do some digging, Emotional Trauma coupled with not being allowed to grieve the loss from that trauma.   By allowing and supporting a person to grieve a loss, will help in developing coping mechanisms and working through much of the their loss by grieving.   Without the Grieving Process and the teaching of coping mechanisms, will set all human beings up for potential failure as grief impacts emotional stability and impedes a person to live productive, proactive lives.  From not making an athletic team, getting fired from a job, someone close to you dies, parents get divorced, an absent parent or natural disaster all have a root basis in creating emotional trauma. It goes without saying, everyone will experience at least one or more types of emotional trauma in their lifetime.  Unfortunately, the ability to grieve is not as simple as you may think. Each emotional trauma is personal which makes it hard to determine the level of emotional pain a person will feel when they experience an emotional trauma. The plain and simple fact is you cannot ignore nor dismiss grief and the process to work through grief.  Our society, especially in America, feels grieving is a form of weakness, should be suppressed or treated with a pill.  Fortunately or unfortunately, grieving is needed for a person to be emotionally healthy and in turn, be physically and psychologically healthy both as children and adults.  Most people, especially children and teens, lack the experience and tools to properly grieve and cope when things in their world go wrong.  Many parents think because their children are playing, laughing, or acting like nothing is wrong, they are not impacted by their loss. I am telling you; they are impacted.  Even the most amiable divorce will have a negative impact on your children if they are not allowed to grieve. If they are not allowed to grieve, they will become emotionally unbalanced and risk additional harm to themselves, their choices, and others they encounter.

It is not just personal choices, The workplace is also impacted by Emotional Trauma. Grief impacts a person’s ability to properly function at work.  According to Training, Grief is costing businesses nearly 75 billion dollars annually due to lost productivity, lost wages, errors, poor performance and paid time off.  According to some estimates, that cost can grow to 100 billion dollars.  Even if the employee seems to be moving forward in their job, if the employee has children, will create an additional impact on the company’s bottom line because the employee’s family is also grieving. Poor job performance could lead to layoffs or termination which then adds to the already stressed and traumatized employee and family, making an already difficult situation much worse.  By having proactive programs in place to help employees cope, ultimately helps the employee, their family and the company’s bottom line.

Emotional Trauma on children has a greater impact, especially in the long term.  When a person cannot find a way to work through their emotional trauma, they tend to find ways to distract themselves from that emotional pain.  Alcohol and other drug addictions are the most common.  If you watch many of these reality television series like Intervention and Hoarders, the back story of the person featured in an episode is rooted in past, unresolved emotional trauma.  Often, the featured person experienced their emotional trauma at a younger age. If unresolved emotional trauma goes unchecked, could make it nearly impossible for someone to recover from their addictive behaviors.   In 1936, Jean Piaget's Theory of Cognitive Development lists Four Concepts of Adaption. Being able to adapt to new information about the world is a critical part of cognitive development and emotional stability.

Simply put, according to Piaget, as human beings, we need balance in our lives.  To have that balance, we rely on our past experiences to adapt or assimilate to a new experience we encounter (especially a negative experience).  When people cannot adapt or assimilate, we turn to other, possible harmful, behaviors to find that balance.  Often those negative behaviors have a long-term, unhealthy impact on themselves, others and ultimately society.  There are other theories out there that support the need to be emotionally healthy to make proper and proactive choices.  A simple example is things we do out of anger.  Punch a wall, throw something and it breaks or gets into a physical fight.  When you are no longer angry and look at your actions caused by your anger, there is deep regret for those choices.  Imagine never getting to that point and always being angry.  Emotional Trauma can be like that.  A person continues to make negative choices because one cannot work through the emotional pain usually because they don’t know how or that person may have experienced multiple losses. A lack of emotional stability has long term negative impact on our children and society. 

According to the Minnesota Psychological Association, in an article posted on their website by Jerrod Brown, published on August 4th, (Father-Absent Homes: Implications for Criminal Justice and Mental Health Professionals ( have implications that emotional trauma from an absent parent, in this case, absent fathers, impact children from the perspective of various adverse outcomes rooted in emotional trauma.  According to the posted articles, the adverse outcomes are Perceived Abandonment, Attachment Issues, Child Abuse, Childhood Obesity, Criminal Justice Involvement, Gang Involvement, Mental Health Issues, Poor School Performance, Poverty/Homelessness, and Substance Abuse.  These adverse outcomes not only impact the individual, but also society.  For example, the article states; “Coming from a fatherless home, can contribute to a child having more emotional problems, such as anxiety and depression.” It continues, “Fatherless children may start to think they are worthless than children (their peers) that have fathers…this may lead to an increased risk of suicide and/or self-injurious behaviors.”  Unfortunately, absentee parents will not stop.  Even if we reduce divorce, and increase active parenthood from one or two households, children will continue to lose one or both parents through illness, accident, natural disaster, and bad choices.  What we can do is recognize the Emotional Trauma is real and will not go away without consistent support to allow children to grieve, develop coping mechanisms and integrate their emotional trauma into coping mechanisms that will help children be more resilient, improve self-esteem and be more proactive as teens, young adults, and adults.  In turn, those coping mechanisms are passed on to their children or others they encounter.  This not only makes the healthy child a healthy adult but expands into a healthier and safer society. 

We are seeing what happens when denying the grieving process and not developing coping mechanisms continue to add to our already violet history to become even more violent.  There are plenty of examples of mental health issues that are not related to some of the very public acts of violence; however, there are just as many that have experienced an emotional trauma that has never been resolved.  Depending on the severity of the emotional trauma, when left unresolved, manifests itself into destructive behaviors.  Often, emotional trauma is either swept under the carpet or treated with medication.  Treating symptoms rather than the cause is simply kicking the can down the road.  As the years pass, that unresolved emotional trauma turns that “can” into an emotional bolder that cannot be kicked because it is entangled in layers that become hardened by other negative encounters tarnishing everything someone experiences.  It is like a pen’s ink leaking into one’s pocket or purse.  It covers everything and is difficult to clean. 

In the aftermath and continuation of COVID-19, the grief process is just as important now. Yet many still find it a form of weakness, blame and vulnerability.  Grieving is time consuming but doesn’t stop you from moving forward; however, choosing not to grieve can stop you from moving forward.  Grieving is a natural part of loss, especially when that loss is close to the heart.  Despite all the brain research, books and experts telling us that grief is a natural process, and we must work through our grief, most still want a quick fix via a pill or simple denial and suppression.  Today’s society often does not allow for proper grieving.  Keep in mind, a loss under the best of circumstances, it is still the loss of a way of life, a known security, support system and change, which all human beings tend to resist.  We are all creatures of habit and tend to resist or deny change.

Often if a grandparent, older aunt, or uncle passes away, parents seem to be more tolerant of the grieving process for themselves and their children as a natural progression of life and tend to be more supportive and patient for grieving. However, if the trauma is due to a more direct loss such as a divorce, telling their children they are adopted or their spouse has died, parents tend to feel that their children’s grief is a negative reflection on them as parents for their child’s pain and heartache.  Often parents will deny their child’s pain if they see them laughing, playing, and carrying on like nothing is wrong and/or choose to pre-occupy them with distractions, gifts, activities and refusal to admit their children’s heart is hurting and broken, an “out of sight, out of mind” mentality.  There is nothing wrong with distractions, gifts, and activities, but not as a permanent substitute for the avoidance of grief. To pretend nothing is wrong, dismiss their pain or tell yourself or your children “that’s life and move on” does not help work through their grief any faster.  If anything, it will take longer because there is a lack of ability to work through their grief process, especially in children.  Children are afraid they may hurt their parents further if they tell them how they feel.  You would never deny your children their medication to keep them healthy, why deny them the ability to grieve?  To allow grieving keeps you and your children emotionally healthy, and in turn become healthy physically and mentally.

Brain research has proven that if you are not healthy emotionally, you are not going to be healthy physically nor mentally.  As mentioned, children lack the experience and tools to work through what they are feeling.  Even if they know others who have gone through similar circumstances, like adults, no one feels their pain like they do, because their pain is unique and personal to them.

Think about the pain you felt when you lost someone close to you or even when your divorce was final, or spouse died.  You’re an adult with life experiences; yet your pain made you feel helpless, vulnerable or like a child all over again.  If you, the parent, have those feelings, imagine how your children, who have little, or no, life experiences must feel?  Regardless of why the loss occurred, the blame and guilt can consume you to the point of long-term denial for yourself, your children, nor can you simply feel that a few months of grieving or short-term support system is all you need.  The deeper the loss, the longer it will take to grieve.  Since the grief is personal, seldom can a time limit be placed on it.  Some say grief is a lifelong journey.  If you don’t learn anything on the journey, the outcome is filled with animosity, anger, and self-loathing.  In the long term, the end of that journey is never good. 

It is never easy to ask your children how they feel about their parents no longer being together.  Even if you did ask them and they said they’re fine or simply shrugged their shoulders, doesn’t mean they are okay with it.  Often, the reality of the loss sets in six months or a year after the emotional trauma takes place.  This usually coincides with family and friends that stop coming around on a regular basis to give support or help you and the family, or a move to a new home or state.   As your child gets older, their perspective changes and again may need to grieve from another perspective.  The difference is they already have grieved and developed coping mechanisms.  The next round of grieving may take less time to work through. If you do not grieve, the next emotional trauma may compound on the previous loss.  Perhaps making it seem more hopeless. 

At the end of the day, to grieve (adult or child) takes time.  How much time it takes to grieve is truly unknown.  Simply understand you cannot put a time limit on it.  Part of raising your children is teaching them to cope with life’s bumps in the roads.  Those bumps may be caused by us, the parents, and we must be prepared to help our children cope with that also.  Choosing to do nothing and denying the pain will simply cause greater issues and perhaps greater heart ache for you and your children.  I know if a speeding bus was coming toward your children, you would do anything in your power to prevent your children from being hit by that bus.  The unresolved grief is a speeding bus.    

To help you and your children start the grieving process in a healthy manner, consider some basic steps:

  • When talking to your children, all technology is off or put away.  No distractions.

  • Acknowledge the loss and validate their feelings (often that starts with sharing your feelings).

  • Crying is ok and healthy.

  • Make time to discuss “their world” and the impact the loss is making on them.

    • Don’t set a time limit, facilitate the discussion, don’t run it. Guide it.  

    • If it must stop, try to end it on an upbeat note and a promise to continue.

    •  Reassure them you will be there to help them every step of the way.

  • Understand, your children’s time to talk may not be convenient.

    • They may very well wake you at night to talk. 

    • They may do very little talking…but they are listening and watching.

  • Consider counseling or a peer support group for your children. 

  • Parent your children consistently with appropriate boundaries. 

    • Parenting out of guilt tends to have negative long-term effects on your children.

  • Feelings are neither good nor bad, they just “are.” 

    • It is how the feelings are expressed that should be monitored.

    • Never dismiss their feelings even if they are angry at you. 

      • They need to verbally express themselves and may not know how.

      • Listen more than give reason or excuse.  Be empathetic. 

      • Pity and sympathy usually don’t work…especially with adolescents.  

      • Conversations with younger children may be limited, and you may need to ask them to draw what they are thinking and feeling while explaining it to you as best they can.

  • Tell them each night you love them and reassure them you are in this together. 

No one ever said parenting is easy.  Adding an emotional trauma such as a divorce, death, pandemic, deployment, incarceration, or deportation, makes parenting more difficult.  Anything worth doing is often difficult and, regardless of how hard parenting is or becomes, your children are counting on you!  When tackling grief, try to break it down into chunks.  Sometimes looking at grief long-term can be overwhelming.  Chunking the process may not make it easier, but it will make it more manageable.  Not only are your children depending on you so is society.  We can make society better, one healthy child at a time.  Being able to grieve will make for healthier children, healthier adults, healthier choices, and a healthier society with a reduction in crime, homelessness and addiction. 

Quality vs Quantity Time

When you first become a single dad, you and your family are going to have a drastic physical and emotional change.  Regardless of the type of loss, a dynamic change is going to take place.  Family traditions, vacations, education, friends and holidays will all change at some level.  While some aspects of your family traditions and routine may stay the same, while others will have some modifications; however, an attempt to return it to what was considered “normal” is no longer an option.  This also means the time spent with your children will also change.  As a single dad, it is important to re-discover of yourself, your children, lifestyle, friends, and family.  Finding the middle ground is a great way to help create your new normal for you and your children as you work through your loss.    Spending time with your children is always important but sometimes it is not practical or difficult to do because the pain of your loss looms above you like a dark cloud. Below are some ideas to make your time with your children more quality than quantity.



Regardless of who asked for the divorce, it goes without saying you must keep an active role in your children’s lives.  Unfortunately, to see your children with the same frequency as you did when you were married is often unrealistic.  An attempt to do so, depending on the circumstances, will add more stress.  Many states, such as Illinois, base child the amount of child support paid on the frequency with your children, not necessarily your income.  Alimony and Maintenance are slowly becoming a thing of the past.  With that being said, many dads who do not have “residency” with their children are trying harder to see their kids as often as they did when they were married not only to see their children but also to minimize your child support payments.  Either/or is a potential set up for failure.  This issue is really not about you, but about your children.  Seeing your children 50/50 is often not fair to your children.  It is more important to create more quality time rather than quantity time. 

  • It is important to understand that your children did not divorce either parent.  Your children are not assets to divide, yet arguments regarding visitation, residency and holidays often take up much of your time in court.  Your children must have a home that is considered the hub or a “home base”.   The expectation of your kids to spend half the week with you and the other half of the week with your ex, in most cases, is not fair to your kids.  Ultimately, a 50/50 split of residency often has your children living out of back packs, difficulty maintaining friendships, added stress to determine whose house they are staying at when planning their week and making sure they pack everything they need. In a sense, they become nomads. Many courts tend to favor the mom as established residency, that doesn’t mean you are losing out.  50/50 split of visitation/residency often slows the healing process, causes resentment, and makes for emotionally and mentally exhausted children.


  • You must support your children as they work through the new family dynamic.  Even with the most amiable divorce, to your kids, what they observed prior to the divorce is “normal” to them.  You may have some tough questions to answer, you must answer their questions in an age appropriate manner.  This is not an opportunity to assign blame. I understand that is not how you want to spend your time with your children; however, it is part of the healing process for both of you and redefining your relationship with your children.


  • Communication between you and your ex must stay between you and your ex.  Spending time with your children should not be wasted on them becoming message boards.  Issues regarding visitation, child support, what your ex may or may not be doing stays between the adults.  You may have an ex-spouse but your children do not have an ex-parent.  They love you both equally.  You want to foster honest, unfiltered communication without the fear of reprisal from either parent. You would have done that if you were still married. 


  • Always take the higher ground if you find out that your ex is talking bad about you or telling your children things that are an exaggeration or simply not true.  You want to make your time with your kids positive and appropriate. 


  • When your children are visiting you, you do not have to fill the weekend with activities and buying them stuff.  Remember this is not a competition of who they love more or whose house is more fun.  I get it, you don’t see your children as often and you want their time with you to be positive and fun. Parenting isn’t always about fun and games…there will be times that your time with your children will be unpleasant or down right bad.  Remember they love you unconditionally.  You can always salvage a bad day.


  • Fast Food, Restaurants and other activities are great treats, but should never be considered the norm.  Meals at the dinner table without technology (Dad too), is a perfect time to engage with your kids about everything, from school, their activities, friends and yes, working through the grieving process.  You share with them, they will share with you (yes that takes time).  When you are out to dinner or ordering fast food on a regular basis, often limits that kind of quality time. 


  • Parent as you would have parented when you were married.  Your children need boundaries, rules and expectations just as they did before you divorced.  This includes chores.


  • Make time to ask your kids how they feel about the new change.  Yes, I know they will not like it, it is not how you want to spend your time together, but often kids don’t express what they are feeling for fear of making you angry or upset.  Sometimes, they may not know how to express themselves.  Often these discussions start by telling them how you feel and what is going on in your life. Each child, like you, processes the loss differently and the perceptions are based on life’s experiences.  Don’t be surprised if one or all of your children take a measure or full blame for your divorce.  Things like not keep their room clean, not getting better grades are all reasons, yes unrealistic, nevertheless their perception.  You cannot dismiss it.  That is why the healing process needs to be included in your time together.  Sometimes this happens at the dinner table, before bed time or even in the middle of the night.  You need to be ready regardless.  Remember, this is not about you.


  • Don’t be afraid to seek help such as a counselor or peer support group to help you and your kids work through the grief process.  Just because there is a smile on their faces, doesn’t mean they are not hurting.  NO FAMILY, REGARDLESS OF INCOME OR MEANS, CAN AVOID THE GRIEVING PROCESS. 


  • If you are dating someone new, don’t sacrifice time with your kids for the new relationship and no “sleep overs”.  Use the time to introduce the new relationship once you feel it may become more serious. Depending on the time lapsed when you got divorced, and you may be ready for a new relationship, your kids may not. That doesn’t mean you don’t date, it simply means, for now, keep the new relationship separate from the time with your children.


  • Make every attempt to attend school conferences, open houses and extra-curricular activities. This too is quality time with your children because that is part of your visitation and quite frankly your responsibility as a parent to support your children in their activities.  Even though your divorce agreement may state you do not have to bring your kids to their events on your visitation day, I strongly urge not to do that.  Your children’s routine has already been disrupted, denying them participation because it is “your weekend” is not fair to your children.  Now if your ex seems to be signing them up for increased activities, first talk to your ex; if that does not work, call your attorney.  If your unable to get a school or extra-curricular schedule, go online.  All schools now post it.  Do not depend on your kids nor your ex to provide you with one. This includes notifications, copies of report cards, IEP reviews etc.  Unless your divorce agreement states differently, you have a right to have this information and to participate.


  • Texting, calling, emailing etc. is also a necessity to quality time.  Even if they don’t respond, that’s ok, remember you are the parent, they are your children (no matter how old they get).  You must always keep that communication door open.


  • Surprise them at school and take them out for lunch from time to time.  One on one time with each of your kids gives you time to focus only on that child and their needs, concerns, and fears.


  • Holidays, if you celebrate them, can be frustrating and depressing.  Usually the visitation for the holidays is worked out by the courts.  If that is the case, what looks good on paper, may not always work in practice.  It is important to keep your game face on for the sake of the holiday.  Re-assess the visitation schedule for the holidays, if possible to discuss with your ex to make needed adjustments.  Regardless, you may spend a portion or the whole holiday alone.  Find something to do.  Visit other family members, volunteer at a shelter.  Even if that means simply going to see a movie.  That first holiday will be the worst.  Make sure you at least talk to your children and tell them you miss them, but how excited you are to be with them soon.  With my son, I made him a promise that I would leave the Christmas tree up until we celebrated Christmas together.  Since I always left my tree up until the 1st or 2nd week in January, it usually was not a problem… but I assured him our “Christmas” will happen.   

At the end of the day, you love your children and they love you. As much as you want to see them as much as you did before, you must first think what is in their best interest. Quality time vs Quantity time can be a good thing even though that may not be what you want. 



Like a divorce, no matter what you have been through in your life, nothing prepares you for the death of your spouse.  Often, you want to crawl in that casket with them and close it.  You might as well have someone hit you in the head with a hammer as it would be less painful. Usually, auto-pilot kicks in as you make all the arrangements for their funeral.  You need to include your children in making those arrangements.  Yes, age appropriate.  Ask them what they would like to do, or how they should honor their mom.  

When the funeral is over, friends and family, for the most part, return to their daily lives, you and your children are still going to be hurting.  You also are going to get A LOT of advice.  Take it all in stride as you re-discover your family.  The parenting process just fell solely on you.  An overwhelming burden on your shoulders.  What was once split between two parents is not on you.  This impacts the time you spend with your children.  Remember the quality of your time with your kids outweighs quantity time.  Don’t be afraid to use counseling, peer support and other tools to help you and your family work through the grieving process.  It is NOT a sign of weakness, it is a sign strength to know when it may be over your head. 

  • If it is at all possible, try and stay in the same home and keep the same routine.  Your life has already been turned upside down, to throw a move, job transfer, get rid of your spouse belongings too soon, compounds the pain of the loss.  I know it is easier said than done, if possible, you want to make these changes gradual. 


  • Include, age appropriate, your children as you clean out your loved one’s belongings.  Maybe giving them things that belonged to their mom to your kids is a way of keeping the memory alive.  Don’t be afraid to lay stuff out on the bed and ask them if they want any of the items or suggestions of who they should get them.  Avoid simply emptying the closet of their stuff and your kids come home from school to find it all gone. 



  • Avoid filling good conversation time with your kids with activities like going out to dinner all the time, working late, taking trips.  While a good diversion from time to time, it will not ease or eliminate the pain.   It is like building a bridge over rising flood waters…if you don’t stop the flood, eventually you will drown.  You need to listen to their pain, they need to hear yours.  A box of Kleenex, bowl of popcorn and an open mind are all great tools to help discuss each other’s pain. That pain is unique to them with some similarities and many differences.  Don’t be surprised if your children blame themselves, at least in part, for the loss. 


  • Plan visits to the cemetery. Maybe even pick up some fast food or pack a picnic basket and a blanket and have lunch at the cemetery.  It sounds a bit dark and morbid; however, the idea of being near their mom is often therapeutic.  Conversations of memories are healthy and healing. 


  • If you have no choice but to relocate, before you tell your children, make sure you have looked at all the options before telling your children and if possible, include them in choosing a new home or what area to live in.  Do all the leg work in terms of what you can afford, location of the new school etc.  If possible put the options on the table to help you choose. 


  • Increase, appropriately, your contact with them.  Send a text to tell them you love them, or what is for dinner.  Often the death of a parent will leave your children worried if you are going to die too and be left all alone.  That text or email assures them you are there!  Of course, don’t do this during their school day.  Most schools have rules about cell phone or personal email use during the school day.  If you hear there is a bad accident or fire in or around where you work or route you drive, especially with older kids, let them know you are ok. 


  • Maybe surprise them at school and take them for lunch for some one on one time.  Your kids need that one on one time with you.  It is also a great time to get an idea of how they are personally grieving. 


  • As you begin to date, while companionship is important, but understand, you may be ready to date, but your kids may not be ready for you to date.  Time your dates when your kids may not be home or perhaps visiting someone like grandparents or a sleep over.  Definitely no sleep overs for you with your children home.  Once you feel you are making strides in the relationship, discuss this new relationship with your kids…grooming them for the first meeting.  Remember grieving has no time limits and families do not grieve at the same pace.  Expect bumps in the road, expect them to respect your new relationship as an adult, but do not demand they respect them as a parent…at least not yet.


  • When a parent dies it rips apart the fabric of your family.  Your job is to help rebuild your family.  As your family grieves the loss, starts the healing process, don’t avoid it. 


Regardless if you became a single parent by a divorce or death of a spouse, it is important to remember you are still a family.  You need to work through your grief together.  Each family is different, each family member will grieve at their own pace.  Remember there is no time limit to grieving, find the balance between family time and “me time”.  Your kids are always priority!  “me time” may take a back seat from time to time.  Remember trust in yourself, your kids, the support of family and close friends.  Together you will rebuild a stronger, more healthy and happy family. 

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