Some men I know have spent over a decade rotting, allowing their finances, careers, relationships and health to steadily disintegrate because of interminable conflict over child access. This cocktail of grief and traumatic stress lays waste to everything good in your life if you let it.
If everything you've tried so far hasn't worked, how long are you going to keep doing it? Are you prepared to try another way? Imagine how you would feel if, from this moment, you knew you had done everything right for your child.
The Ceasefire Method supports you to:
The 12-week course consists of:
I created it after being in the situation you are in. The connections you will form with the men in your small group will support you through what has been for me and other group members the darkest time in our lives. If you can't see a way through or even a reason to keep living, I get it, and you are welcome here.
Dan hasn't seen his daughters for 5 years. He's an advocate for fathers who are fighting to stay in their children's lives, He shares his experience of the 12-week Ceasefire Method.
Andrew hasn't seen his son and daughter for three-and-a-half years. He shares his harrowing tale and explains what changed after he signed up to the Ceasefire Method.
Neill hasn't seen his 17-year-old daughter since she was three months old and faced more heartache with his next family of two children. He shares his story and his experience of the 12-week Ceasefire Method.
*Outcomes depend on your commitment to the work. I am committed to providing the best environment possible to support you through the process. If you don't feel ready for this programme yet feel free to contact me to explore how you can build up to it.
Why is getting a fair deal on child access almost impossible for dads? Calvin Bell, the UK's foremost expert risk assessor of parents where violence or abuse within the family is a concern, explains.
David Eggins is a veteran therapist working with parents who are fighting to see their children. He describes family law as an industry that is sick to its core, driven by a radical feminist agenda.
Living With The Trauma Of Losing Child Access, at the sixth International Conference on Men's Issues (2020), originally planned for Sydney, Australia, but turned into a virtual conference due to Covid-19.
Why We Only Notice Bad Things About Fathers And Ignore Their Service, with Martin Seager, co-founder of the Male Psychology Section of The British Psychological Society.
"Before I thought my priority was the kids, but I've realised I need to be here so I can help them. I was suicidal. I haven't seen my youngest child for 10 months. One day I am going to see that child. I want to be positive and focus more on myself to make sure that happens."
"I wish I invested in this right at the beginning, every penny spent on myself to improve me as a father."
"The experience of the Ceasefire course will stay with me for the rest of my life. It really helped me to gain insight into not only the situation with my ex partner and children, but more broadly in all areas of my life. The empathy and understanding of both myself and others increased ten fold, and I am so pleased I took the plunge and engaged in this amazing programme."
"I've enjoyed the grounding exercises and the feeling of belonging in a small, tight group where we all understand and respect each other. Life often feels overwhelming, there is fear and a lot of stress, so the group became safe place for me in the week."
"I really appreciated being in a place where I could talk about these very tough issues with other dads in similar situations and where there was room to talk about feelings and strategies and not just one or the other. That you are in a similar situation as facilitator was very useful too as you could relate to all of us and us to you too."
"We narrowed down the problem to two things: look after number one and find a way of doing it that works for me; and work on accepting what is hard and makes me unhappy, finding a way of living with sadness, grief and loss."
"I joined the course because I felt rather alone, struggling with being separated and not seeing much of my kids. I wasn't sure if my case was bad enough to belong in the group. But the day after I decided to join my wife changed the locks on the house, mentioned the police for the first but not the last time, and my world fell apart. The individual counselling and group work formed a safe container for the worst weeks of my life. I realised I was not alone, and that there are some things I can do to at least influence the outcome of the rollercoaster ride I had been forced onto. I wish I could say that my whole external situation improved. In fact it did change, but significantly for the worse as my separated wife became more and more hostile the more reasonable I was being. But I changed on the inside. I realised I had not been caring for myself or enjoying myself. I understood that I was not somehow defective or a total failure. And I started to live a little. I thought for the first time about what I actually wanted to do for fun and just did it. This was utterly liberating and exhilarating. The men I met have become lifelong friends. And I actually wish I had met Zac and learnt his wisdom even earlier on in the process of the implosion of my marriage. You might think you are doing quite well but if you are at all worried about conflict with your separated partner, or are feeling unsure of how to navigate the minefield of untangling a family then this is the course for you."
"I love it when Zac explains the theory and biological reasons why we behave in a certain way, which helps me understand why I do the same thing over and over again. I find these incredibly fascinating and helpful. I think all separated dads need a support group. While the FNF [Families Need Fathers] groups are good for actionable advice (but no emotions), I feel there needs to be an emotional support group for separated dads. We are never given the opportunity to be vulnerable and show or even explore emotions – so this gives us the safe platform to do so."
"I've managed to understand how to open up in these sessions. It's not just me alone, it's with others experiencing similar feelings. It really helped me to understand myself. Thank you Zac, I needed these sessions to understand."
Move out of your trauma responses
Via grounding techniques to calm your nervous system you will begin to take the space needed to come to terms with your situation and make decisions that serve the long term interests of your child. This will be difficult because there are powerful emotions like grief, anger, rage, disgust, shock, guilt, anxiety, depression and sadness to work through. One of the scariest aspects of this predicament is that natural trauma responses to losing your attachment bond with your child, such as panic and fear, and the understandable behaviours that arise from them, may be used against you as evidence of domestic abuse or being unfit to parent. It takes a lot of work to govern your own emotional state when someone has that power over you. Taking the power back is a discipline that you are now going to learn.
Stop making decisions from a place of fear and panic
This is a scary place to be. What you need is a framework to understand it, a sense that you're not alone, that you're understood and not judged, and space to begin processing these uncomfortable emotions. You can't remain hyper-vigilant forever, you'll crash and burn, so this is about softening a little. It takes courage to stop prioritising the fight (which is a strategy that cannot work long term anyway). At some point you're going to trust that this does not mean you are failing your child.
Start processing the backlog of emotions
The Ceasefire Method is my best attempt at structuring this work. It's a 12-week programme that involves a 50-minute one-to-one online therapy session with me and a two-hour online group session facilitated by me each week, with homework. The aim is to finish the course with:
Forgive yourself. Forgive your ex even though she's not ready to stop fighting
To transform the conflict dynamic you don't need your ex-partner to agree or even understand. Once you stop fighting, she won't be able to continue fighting on her own.
By high ground I don't just mean the moral high ground. I mean a place from which you can't be overrun. High ground is safe. You can rest here and see what's coming.
You can only change what you can control
Children always suffer when their parents can't find a way out of conflict. You can reset the relationship, even if communication has broken down. If you want to avoid the family court system (which is expensive, stressful, lengthy and often counterproductive) or you are panicking because access to your child has been blocked (and it is likely that allegations of domestic abuse are being made against you), the Ceasefire Method offers a way to de-escalate the conflict by understanding the dynamics that are fuelling it and change the ones you have control over.
Conflict sows mistrust and isn't a long term solution for you and your child. That said, there are short term exceptions, and by the end of the course you may feel that court is the right option for you. Or you may already be in the court process and want to make a phased withdrawal. But this time your decision will be made through sober and compassionate deliberation, rather than a blind survival response.
Your road map out of hell
Many fathers, including myself, have made costly decisions from a place of panic, fear or anger. When you are locked in the fight, with no clear strategy or exit plan, it's hard to think straight. Fathers lose their jobs because they can't function at work. They fall into debt as they try to fight through the family courts against the odds, with dwindling energy, ability to focus, and the onset of physical and mental health problems arising from chronic stress. You may feel trapped, isolated, judged and unable to express what you're feeling, but be wary of changing tack for fear of letting your child down. You may feel terrified of what's coming in the next court hearing or email.
Return on investment
The Ceasefire Method is designed to give you return on investment in terms of money, time, stress and heartache. It does this by holding you in a structured and empathic space with a professional psychotherapist (me) for 12 weeks so you can sense check your decisions during what is probably the most confusing high-stakes situation of your life.
You will be given reflective exercises to do in your own time, designed to help you get the most out of each group session, and in your individual sessions with me we will dive deeper. This process will give you clarity on whether, strategically, you are doing the right thing.
This is gritty
Not for the faint-hearted. It's a serious commitment to personal development work that will stretch you beyond what you thought was possible. It won't seem fair. But you knew that already – what else was going to work in this situation? I've borrowed some military terminology from the author, broadcaster and former Navy SEAL Jocko Willink. (In case you were thinking about giving up, you might find his podcast inspiring.)
You have been traumatised. Fighting is a trauma response
Traumatic stress arising from a disruption to parent-child attachment can cause serious illness, and many men have been driven to either kill themselves or give up on their children because the emotional strain of endless conflict makes it too difficult to function in daily life. The family court system (in the UK) is adversarial and tends to create a more protracted conflict which polarises and poisons the co-parenting relationship, creating long term barriers to your child's wellbeing. Children absorb the emotional energy of their parents, even if they can't express or understand it.
Take extreme ownership
The immense challenge in this situation is to be able to support yourself enough (emotionally, physically and practically) to be able to make good decisions in the best interests of your child. Even when it feels like the other party is doing everything in their power to prevent that from happening. It might even feel like they are doing their best to destroy you. Difficult as this is, you have a choice in each moment about how you respond. You have ultimate sovereignty over yourself. Let's call that in. You have no idea how strong you are.