You are grieving. In shock. Yo-yoing between anger and despair. Everything is black. But you have a choice. I know it feels like there's no way out, but you don't have to keep suffering like this. 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? Or are you open to another way? My way is simple but not easy. It's about taking radical personal responsibility for everything you can control. Then letting go of what you can't. So you know, deep down, that you have done everything right for your child.
My unique approach supports you to:
The 12-week course consists of:
I developed the Ceasefire Method after being in the situation you are in. It's a holistic approach that involves psychological triage but also looks at strategy, conflict theory and philosophical approaches to adversity. The connections you will form with the men in your small group will support you through one of the most traumatic events in your life.
This was published by the sixth International Conference on Men's Issues (2020), a conference originally planned for Sydney, Australia, but later turned into a virtual conference due to Covid-19. The title is Living With The Trauma of Losing Child Access.
"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." — Ceasefire Method group member
*Outcomes depend on your commitment to the work. I am committed to providing the best environment possible to support you through the process. You might not be ready for this programme yet but if you are not sure please contact me to talk it through.
"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." — Ceasefire Method group member
"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 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." — Ceasefire Method group member
All group sessions begin with guided grounding exercises end with reflective homework exercises to help you get the most out of your next session.
"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." — Ceasefire Method group member
By high ground I don't mean the moral high ground. I mean a place from which you can see what's going on and can't be overrun. High ground is safe. You can rest and relaunch from here when you are ready.
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, ongoing and often counterproductive) or you are panicking because access to your child/children is being blocked (there may also be allegations of domestic abuse), the Ceasefire Method offers a supportive 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. If nothing else this process will give you clarity on whether, strategically, you are doing the right thing. If what you've been doing so far isn't working, keep reading.
This is gritty
Not for the faint-hearted. It's a serious commitment to gritty 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 quality 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.
Move out of your trauma responses. Prioritise and execute
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 for your child, along with the other men in your group.
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 hypervigilant forever, you'll crash and burn, so this is about softening a little and beginning to breathe. 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, but your fearful limbic brain will disagree and try to hijack your plan.
Feel the pain. 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. Let go. Forgive your ex. Even if she's not ready to stop fighting
The therapeutic aspect of the course is around processing stuck emotions, coming out of your fight-flight-freeze limbic survival state and transforming the conflict dynamic. Below is an overview of the program contents. But to clarify, this is not an educational course, it is an integrative psychotherapy course that uses elements of psycho-education to support your transformation.
How I'm qualified for this work: my story and an introduction to the Ceasefire Method.
Normal Trauma Responses Of Losing Child Access (2 of 7)
Your Nervous System Holds The Key To Settling Conflict Over Child Access (3 of 7)
Stalemate With Your Ex: Change Your Part And You Change The Whole (4 of 7)
War Is A Symptom Of Man's Failure As A Thinking Animal (5 of 7)
Separated Dads: Serve Your Child By Starting To Heal (6 of 7)
Attachment: The Real Story About Fatherlessness And Domestic Abuse (7 of 7)