I was blindsided. I did not see this coming. Sure, we had our issues, but I was not prepared for the volcano that would erupt and continue to overflow for a solid decade. I was a stay-at-home mom. I was focused on raising my 18-month-old baby when my husband dropped the bomb that he wanted to get a divorce and began to pack his things to leave the home we built together. The first question I had was,"What did I do wrong?" I was sleep-deprived, but I was meeting my baby's needs without help and figured that was quite the accomplishment. It is amazing how a trauma can suddenly wake you up in a jolt! Prior to the divorce, I was lucky in the sense that my biggest worry was, "What is the best diaper to buy?"
All of a sudden, I was in a new state of panic as I had to ask myself, "How am I going to feed my baby and keep a roof over our heads?" I was clueless, but fortunately, the clouds above my head lifted as I was offered a position at a local community center where I served as a volunteer. A year and a half later, I was let go. I recall looking up to the heavens asking again, "What did I do wrong?" I had finally seen the light at the end of the tunnel, only for it to return to darkness and despair. It appeared the universe had other plans for me. On a whim, I decided to use my unemployment money to start up a private practice. At that point, I honestly felt as if my angels showed up, as every courageous yet frightening step I took led me to somehow receive another client. To this day, I call it a miracle! I was able to keep my precious child and start a business that no one thought I could stay afloat for a day, let alone the last four decades or so.
So now you might be asking . . . Why the rollercoaster reference? Well, you start off with anticipation,worry, and fear.
You question every choice you make, like when you are waiting in a very long line for a rollercoaster ride that you have to talk yourself into every few minutes or so.
Once on the ride, you have to hold on for dear life as it twists and turns your fragile, human body. You feel as if the ride will never end, and even when it does, you are left with this sickening feeling in your stomach. I call this ride, "divorce."and it has several stages that require processing as well as learning life lessons.
So, what are these life lessons, and how can we establish a new hope as single or remarried parents?
1. There are no guarantees in life. Spouses leave. Jobs end. Friends fade away. Be ready for the ups and downs that life brings you to teach you to grow.
2. Learn to rely on yourself, and in that process, you will be learning how to love and care for yourself.
*After I experienced 5 different losses within eighteen months, I learned that hitting rockbottom has the benefit of pushing you to face your fears all at once. Yes, the process can be terrifying, but the reward is being able to rise from the ashes.
3. Trust comes first from trusting yourself. Trusting others will then follow.
4. Being a better parent to yourself will allow you to be a better parent to your child. Self-care is crucial before, during, and after a divorce!
5. There is no perfect way of reacting to a divorce. It is important, though, to see the big picture.
6. It is okay for you and your children to feel the pain and grief of divorce while learning and growing together.
*For me, my first response was shock. Then came the emotion of fear, and finally, my anger empowered me to move forward with the tasks at hand, one of which was the actual divorce. The other was to teach my daughter that she was entitled to her emotions and responses to the changes occurring around her. I was not afraid to allow my daughter to see me being imperfect during this time. I did not want to hide how I was feeling because I knew that my daughter would grow up learning to avoid her feelings if we did not make it a part of our daily routine. I wanted to normalize that we would have good days and bad days so she would know that no matter what,we would keep going.
7. Remember that you are the roots from which your children branch. How a parent reacts, i.e.,hopeless or hopeful, will directly affect the children's response to the divorce. (A stable parentDOES make a difference.)
8. Parents will need a "village" to stabilize themselves first before taking on their children's needs.Surround yourself with people going through this process as well as people that genuinely care for your well-being and the well-being of your children. It might be difficult to identify the people to keep in your circle.
*I was fortunate in that my mother took a very significant role in my daughter's life as well as my life during this difficult time. If my daughter was sick and could not go to daycare, I could call my mother early in the morning, and she would rush to my house to be there. This allowed me to avoid missing a day of work to be able to support myself and my child. I did not have many people around me that I could trust, especially with my child. Due to financial issues, I managed to bring in a roommate who was a dear, trustworthy friend in need who stayed with my daughter and me for many years. I was working two jobs to make ends meet, so the rest of the time was dedicated to my child, and it was difficult to develop a "village" outside of my mother and my roommate. But I am forever grateful for all that they contributed emotionally and financially to us.
9. Be aware that as an adult, you have some power over the outcome of your divorce and its effects, while your children are powerless.
10. In hindsight, you will be amazed by how courageous you were in this process, and you will learn who you really are.
My book, My Parents Are Getting a Divorce . . . I Wonder What Will Happen to Me, is the legacy that I give to myself, my daughter, and all who are going through or have already experienced the roller coaster ride of divorce.
My book serves as a healthy, creative, safe place for children to explore and process their feelings by initiating discussion, as well as discovering the power of self-affirmation and drawing.
Another unique layer of the book teaches parents as well as other professionals (i.e., teachers, guidance counselors, mediators, lawyers, etc.) to better understand the emotions and needs of each individual child who utilizes this book, without applying their biased viewpoints and/or influence.
WRITTEN BYKaren Kaye