Real Life: Tammy and Brooke

Moving Past the Pain

"Three-and-a-half weeks ago, he calls me and tells me he's not coming home. I was in shock. I said, ‘You're not really doing this. You can't be doing this,'" says Tammy of her soon-to-be ex-husband. With tears rolling down her cheeks, she continues, "We can't understand why he left, and we can't understand how he could leave such a loving relationship, when everything was so beautiful."

"It's just really hard on me. I'm sick now. It's just horrible," says Tammy's daughter, Brooke, as tears well in her eyes. "My mom is the strongest woman, and right now, she's turned into the weakest. I just want [my stepfather] Dean back really bad."

 

Dr. Phil asks Brooke, "What do you think about all of this?"

"It's so unexpected. I never thought that this day would come, and I'm also scared that I could possibly lose the bond that I had with my dad," she says, fighting back tears.

Tammy says, "I do have hope still. I have hope that he will realize what he's done, and he will come back."

Dr. Phil addresses his previous guest, Elaina, 17, whose father recently decided to divorce her mother, Carol, after 23 years of marriage. She and her sisters are devastated. "Tell me what you think about all this?" he asks.

"It's really hard to deal with, because, like [my sister] Amber said, you're used to one way, and then one day, it's just all gone. It tears you apart," says the high school senior.

"You're talking about now quitting school," Dr. Phil asks.

"I'm not going to quit school. I'm just going to do it online instead," she says.

Dr. Phil isn't buying it. "When something like this happens, it can spin everybody out of their orbit, and you start making decisions while you're very emotional and while you're all torn up, and then that can lead to a really negative consequence, and then that consequence can snowball into something else," he explains. "That's what I don't want to see happen here."

 

Dr. Phil mentions that Carol expresses a lot of anger toward her soon-to-be ex-husband, often in front of her girls. negativity out of either of them right now." She adds that when the divorce

Amber explains, "My mom used to be the peacemaker, and it's hard to look at her being bitter, right now. You try to understand, but she used to hold everybody together. Now, it's like she's falling apart herself. I can't stand the negativity out of either of them right now."

 

Amber adds that when the divorce was first announced, the family decided to stick by each other and help one another get through the difficult time. "That may have happened for a few days or a week, but that's definitely not happening now," she says. 

Dr. Phil says that Carol had two questions for him: How can she make the situation better for the girls, and how can they begin to heal? "Divorce is not a life sentence of grief," he assures Carol. 

Dr. Phil shares his plan of action for dealing with the heartbreak of divorce. "Number one: You have to change your expectations. You've always had an expectation that he was going to be there," he says. Step two is understanding that you have to accept what you can't change. Step three involves creating value from the experience. "These girls need you," he tells Carol. "They need you to not be stuck. You can't get stuck in the anger mode. You can't get stuck in a way where you remain in the front row on the bitter bus from now on. It's going to take time, but you need to hear [your daughters]. They're saying that in this, they've not only lost the parent unit. Dad's gone, and you've changed dramatically, to the point that there's so much negativity and so much talking bad about him. They're saying, ‘We don't hate him. We hate his decision.'"

The girls agree that they do not hate their father.

"They feel a sense of betrayal if they're talking to you about what a bad guy he is," Dr. Phil tells Carol. "You are an intelligent, healthy, articulate, energetic woman. You were before this happened, and you will be after. But the only time is now, and so you've got to live in the now and recognize that he didn't divorce them. He divorced you. That's between you and him, and both of y'all need to keep these kids out of it."

Dr. Phil explains that kids who are caught up in the middle of a divorce have very exaggerated needs. "The number one needs they have is the need for acceptance and approval. They have to know that they're OK with you and with their dad," he says. "They need to know that you're still there. They need to have an assurance of safety. They've got to know that everything in their life is going to be OK. They've got to have freedom from guilt. They can't feel guilty when they go talk to Dad. They can't feel guilty if they're not with you every minute. The rules of life, the way things go, need to remain static. You don't want your whole world falling apart, where everything is different. You want to conduct yourself, as much as you can going forward, because they need a stable parent. They need you to be what you've always been, which is to be their rock, their role model, their guiding force."

"This is like war between them, and it's disgusting me," Amber says.

Dr. Phil addresses Carol. "You can't control what he does," he says. "Hopefully, he'll hear me say that these kids need to know they're OK with both of you. They need to not be a rope, in the middle of this tug-of-war." He reminds her that the only person she can control is herself. "I want you to set a bar for yourself," he says. "When this is all over, I want you to look back and say, ‘I handled this with emotional integrity. I continued to be a role model for these girls and took the moral high ground. I didn't show the ugly side of something that doesn't involve them.'"