Son Needs Support…Should I Move?

Reader’s Question

I am from Cincinnati Ohio and so are my two boys, Steve and Chris. We moved to Michigan 14 years ago with my new husband. His three children were from Michigan so to see them we moved here.

My son Steve was murdered 10 years ago, and when my son Chris turned 18 he moved back to Cincinnati, Ohio. He has since married, divorced and has a two-year-old son. It’s a very bad and bitter divorce. My ex-daughter in law is using their son as a fighting tool, and it is ripping his heart out as well as mine. I’m so far away, 400 miles, and it tears me up every time he calls crying, literally. This has been going on for close to a year now and my question is: Am I doing the wrong thing as a parent and grandparent to stay here in Michigan (my husband does not want to move back at all)? I have a great paying job with the state, and my husband has a good job as well. But my son has lost a brother, an aunt and his grandmother and he feels very alone — and I as a mother want to comfort him and support him by being down there with him and my grandson. I know he is an adult, but he is my adult child, my youngest, and we have had such loss in our family. He feels so lost right now and alone. I am in constant contact with him through mail and phone.

Please some advice!! I am soooo emotional about all this……..Thank you.

Psychologist’s Reply

Your family is going through a very difficult time — in several ways. In the “right now”, your son is going through highly stressful personal events, especially when the child is used as a hostage. What your child goes through emotionally, no matter what their age, the parent also goes through. You are living the divorce, manipulations using the child, and your son’s depression.

Second, the family is having a difficult time determining the correct strategy to use in this turmoil. Your son will need some guidance on how to deal with his ex as clearly, if it’s been going on for a year, it’s going on for some purpose involving the ex. A good strategy is needed.

Lastly, you and your son are reliving all your personal losses at this time. A divorce is a loss. A change in custody is a loss. The brain recalls all our losses and makes us relive them all at once. You’ll find your conversations with your son will often contain references to your oldest child, just as your email contains several references. It’s called “Emotional Memory“.

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I’d recommend:

  • Stay in Michigan. At this time your son needs an anchor…and you’re it. If you try to relocate, you will destabilize yourself emotionally and socially. Then we’ll have two people struggling in the water. In Michigan you have extensive supports that can also be used to support your son. Pay for his airfare to Michigan or visit, but I can’t recommend relocating.
  • Encourage your son to enroll in counseling. If he’s crying frequently he may be depressed which is common in prolonged pre- and post-divorce situations. Keep in mind that you may also be depressed. I’ve got an article on depression on my website that may be helpful. Counselling Resource also has articles on the topic.
  • Maintain strong lines of communication with your son. Remind him that these post-divorce situations eventually stabilize as to maintain such an intensity of turmoil burns out everyone, including the ex. The family needs to ride out the storm.
  • Recognize that this situation, because it involves loss, will trigger feelings and memories related to your oldest son. It’s just the way the brain works. It also happens every Christmas. If it becomes a problem, you may need to seek counseling. If depression intensifies, you may need additional support from your family physician.
  • Instead of emotionally reacting to the ex’s manipulations and behavior, with your son practice rating her behaviors on a scale of 1 to 10. A guilt trip on the phone is a “2” while threatening to take the son and move to Peru to join a cult is a “10”. The idea is to depersonalize her behavior, a method which also gradually decreases these behaviors as your reaction becomes less.

This website offers a discussion group on Love and Stockholm Syndrome. You may be facing some of the issues reviewed in that discussion as the ex tries to restrict contact with the grandson. It might be worth reviewing.

Best wishes and see ya at the Ohio State – Michigan game.

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