How to cope with Depression after losing custody of your child

In this article we will discuss the emotional distress that comes with losing custody of your child.

We will also discuss how to identify depression related to this loss and what steps you can take to cope and manage your distress. 

How to cope with Depression after losing custody of your child

The idea that the relationship between you and your child will change following a seperation with your spouse or due to other issues can be distressing. 

Here are a few steps you can take to cope with this change and loss:

  • Seek professional help and therapy
  • Engage in self care
  • Seek Legal advice if you can
  • Consider support groups
  • Attend parent education programs for the legally separated

Losing custody of a child is a common issue that many parents face during the process of separation or divorce, and also in cases when the parents- for reasons such as substance abuse, reported child abuse and negelect, neglect due to mental and physical illnesses- are deemed incapable to taking care of their children.

When you lose custody of your child there are various stresses and worries that can overwhelm you. You could start worrying about the child, their future, your future with them, the legal battles would also have been an added source of stress,

It can also become difficult for you and your child to adjust to these changes, the fact that your child has been taken from you and that you no longer have access to them can be an excruciating experience. 

When the challenges associated with custody issues become especially prolonged or intense, they can lead to symptoms of common mental health conditions such as anxiety or depression. 

Let us take a look at the various mental health challenges related to losing custody of your child.

Mental health challenges related to custody issues

Every person’s experience of a custody battle is different. You might have lost your child because of your separation or divorce from your spouse, or it could be because of other  issues that have deemed you an “unfit” parent.

Your experience of losing the custody of your child is the same as any other kind of loss you might experience. The various stages of grief that you might experience can cause a lot of mental stress on you. 

So, it is common and expected if you begin to face various mental health issues after you lose custody of your child. 

Some of the common mental health issues that you could be facing includes:

Anger: It’s common for people to feel angry and irritable when custody arrangements do not rule according to their favor. Your anger could stem from the perceived loss of control over your child, or feel that decisions are unfair or unjust.

Stress: Custody issues are understandably stressful. People may feel tense, have difficulty sleeping, or experience other symptoms of stress. You might not be able to sleep, eat, or think straight. You might also notice some physical symptoms of aches and pains.

Social withdrawal: Some people tend to pull back from family and friends when going through periods of high stress. You might be withdrawing socially from your friends and loved ones who offer support. It could also be a symptom of depression, 

Guilt: You may feel guilty, ashamed and blame yourself for the situation which could add to your stress. 

Identity and sense of self: Your relationship with your child may change by varying degrees, which can cause a change in your identity.

Anxiety: You may feel anxious or be preoccupied with worry about your child. You may find it hard to relax or concentrate on other things.

Depression: Changes to your relationship with your child may leave you feeling sad, hopeless or depressed.

Substance abuse is another issue that many parents face after separation and divorce . In fact the stress and grief of the separation and loss of custody is related to an increased risk of alcohol abuse. 


A retrospective study done on maternal mental health after the loss of custody has found that Losing custody of a child to child protection services is associated with significantly worse maternal mental health than experiencing the death of a child. 

Mother’s who have lost the custody of their children are also seen to have a higher risk of anxiety and depression, and substance use. 

A study that has looked into the accounts of fathers who have been separated from their children has a higher likelihood that they will developed a dependency of substance use- especially with alcohol, have conflicts with this ex-partner, which will add to the various stressors that he might find hard to cope with leading to mental health issues.

The depression and other mental health conditions you might be experiencing right now is something that many parents, in a similar situation such as yours, have faced. You are not alone and there is always help.

Let us take a look at some steps you can take to help yourself. 

Coping with the loss

There are many things you can do to look after yourself as you cope with the loss of custody of your child. 

There are also things you can do to help heal the relationship with your child if you are allowed some access to them. 

Let us consider a combination of the following:


If you notice the symptoms of your depression has persisted for more than two weeks and it is impacting your ability to work, maintain relationships, and deal with the stressors of your daily life. 

It is advisable that you meet with a physician to help you figure out what is wrong, they can direct you to various mental health professionals. 

Working with a therapist that is informed with the unique issues of grief and loss that comes with divorce and custody battles can be a good place to start. 

Depending on your particular challenges, you may work with a therapist on custody issues that are stressful for you and your child such as communicating, time spend together if you are allowed to, broaching the subject of why you have to be seperated.

Your therapist can also help you assimilate with these changes and engage with your life beyond the divorce and custody arrangements in ways that are healthy. 


Your therapist can help you make necessary lifestyle changes that can help you manage your depression and its symptoms. 

You can also take the effort to indulge in self-care changes by paying attention to your diet, your sleep, and your physical body. 

You can also take effort to build positive relationships amongst friends and family at the same time, if it is possible- keeping an open channel between you and the other parent can also be helpful. 

However, it is important for you to remember that the things you do as “self-care” can be anything that you deem is good for you and what is necessary- even if it means taking it one day at a time or sleeping in. 

Legal advice or representation: 

If you have any concerns, regarding the custody issues and need more information or clarity it’s best to seek advice and support from a legal professional 

Seek out lawyers and social workers that do pro bono work if money is an issue but the intent here is to be legally aware and empowered so that you can make choices that help both you and your child. 

Support groups

Sharing experiences and learning from people in similar situations can be encouraging and helps people develop skills to cope. 

You can join a support group for people struggling with divorce or custody issues or even one that has to do with people coping with depression.

Community centers can be a great place to seek out these types of support groups or your therapist can help you find one. 

Attend a parent education program

Seeking out parenting classes that specifically have to do with divorce and custody arrangements can be something for you to try out.

There are many issues surrounding divorce and separation that can impact you and your child to great extents. Equipping yourself with these skills can  help you build a healthy relationship between you and your child. 

These classes can also help you take better care of yourself through the loss. Asking about these classes at your community centers or your therapist or even some social worker can guide you towards such programs. 


In this article we have discussed the mental health issues that parents struggle with when they lose custody of their children. We have also briefly discussed what you can do to cope with depression.


Frequently asked questions related to “depression after losing custody of child”

How do you move on after losing custody?

Moving forward after losing the custody of your child can seem impossible but it is a necessary step. A few things you can do for yourself include:

  • Take time to heal after what must have been an intense custody battle
  • Seek out support from loved ones or from support groups
  • Choose healthy lifestyle for your diet, sleep, body
  • Make attempts to learn how to parent in context with the new conditions
  • Try to communicate with the other parent/guardian so that there is an open line of communication..

How long does it take to regain custody of a child?

It is estimated that once a parent has lost custody, it can take the better part of two years to regain custody, sometimes even more depending on context and issues surrounding the separation.

Can you get PTSD from losing custody of your child?

Usually, divorce cases tend to drag on and often cause a lot of emotional distress and stress on the people involved. Custody battles also tend to impose the same chronic strain on the parents and the child. 

There is a possibility that losing custody of your child can cause you to develop Post traumatic disorder because of how stressful of an event this change can be.

How to deal with the stress of a custody battle?

Some things you can do to deal with stress of custody battles include:

  • Seek out professional help to manage stress through therapy.
  • Seek out support groups and support systems from family and friends.
  • Educate yourself to understand parenting in the context od divorce
  • Ensure that the stress does not get ot the child
  • Work closely with your legal team to make a custody agreement that works for all three sides- you, partner, and the child.
  • Make lifestyle changes to help manage stress


Can a parent lose custody for mental illness?

The court is required to determine whether either parents are capable of caring for the child. There is a complete evaluation that comprises financial, emotional, and physical considerations.Mental illness can cause the court to label a parent unequipped and result in lost custody privileges.

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