4min readLifestyle 02 December 2019
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.
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Dating. Divorce. Marriage. Being single. None of it is easy.
I don't think any of us have the right answers or know exactly what we are doing when we navigate through relationships or breakups, even if we do take every Buzzfeed quiz there is out there. What I have found out though, is by writing this book, Female. Likes Cheese. Comes with Dog: Stories about Dating, Divorce & Saying "I Do" most everyone can relate to some part of it, whether it is having an awkward date, being dumped, or falling in love. The short stories read as if we are talking over drinks at a bar gossiping about our love life. It's as if, you, reader, are one of my best friends. I hope by reading this book you are reminded that you don't have to be anybody but you and your mistakes are simply memories to learn upon. Get comfy, grab a glass of wine (or your beverage of choice), cuddle with your furry companion (pet or otherwise), and enjoy…
From the chapter "Kansas & The Firepit" from Female. Likes Cheese. Comes with Dog: Stories about Divorce, Dating & Saying "I Do"
I had lost my dog to my ex. I was a mess. I thought this man was going to be by my side the rest of my life, I had gained a lot of weight. Not the kind of weight you gain when you tell your friend "OMG, Kelly, I, like, put on five pounds this summer because of all the partying I've been doing at the rooftop bars," but real weight. The weight that makes you feel totally inadequate. The weight that makes you say, Hey I might as well keep eating because it doesn't matter anymore. I was inconsolable during that summer.
I still wasn't completely out of my trash TV and alcohol phase, but I had switched to vodka, at least. Which, let's be real, just hides the fact that you're an alcoholic. I wasn't really talking to anyone about my problems. My mom tried to take me to fat camp. Yes, fat camp. When your mother says the reason why you're not happy is because you're fat, there comes a point where you really don't know whether to laugh, cry, or drink. I think I did all three. The reason why I wasn't happy was because I was going through a divorce, and my life was unraveling. I was not only unhappy but also fat, so I guess there was some truth to that. It was just what I needed to hear to get myself back to reality.
While cleaning the kitchen one day, I walked by a pair of boxing gloves. Boxing was something I had always been interested in. Watching it on TV and having some friends that had done it professionally, I figured I would take the plunge and put this "body after breakup" into motion.
There was only one boxing club in our area for fitness. I walked into the afternoon classes knowing that I was going to be a little out of my element, but I'm not afraid of a challenge. I'm an outgoing person and being sports savvy, I knew that I would catch on quickly. The guy teaching the class, Kansas, was very attractive. Ladies, you know how in yoga when you have to do the sun god pose? Well, let's just say he was what you would hope a sun god looked like. With sweat glistening down the side of his face, it was almost as if the ceiling parted and angels started singing as he stood over you telling you, "Ten more!" as you got down for ab rounds between punches. This guy was exciting. He was energetic. He was. . . constantly checking on me during class to make sure my form was correct, since I was new, and let's face it—I was totally OK with the attention. After class I signed up for a one-year membership and became addicted, not just because I loved the workouts but also because of the hot trainer.
I started coming to class three times a week, initially taking only Kansas's classes, but not wanting to look obvious when I really started crushing on him, I had to mix it up. I mean, this is Crushing 101. This was my first crush out of the gate post-divorce, so exactly what you think would happen, happened. Kansas became my rebound guy. I would make any excuse to linger after class (which, looking back, just made me look desperate), but then sometimes I would switch it up and leave. I mean, it was a game. I was trying to figure out if he was interested or not. It was exhausting. After talking after class for a few weeks, I happened to mention a home improvement project I had been thinking of working on. Being the good listener (stalker?) that I was, I knew he just happened to be interested in home improvements, as he did many of his own. I figured that would be a great way to get to know each other better and for him to fall completely in love with me, of course. Duh. Now I had a reason to cross something off my "list". I love sitting outside and having a glass of wine and listening to music by a fire. I wasn't really sure how I was going to accomplish this task on my own, but recruiting a fine gentleman like Kansas would be a good start. So, he agreed to my firepit project, and after gathering supplies at Home Depot, he came over, and I quote to you from my journal, I kid you not:
So today he shows up, and we are in the backyard digging the hole, and he takes his shirt off. His body is a wonderland! I mean sweat is just glistening down his torso. So I had to change the subject somehow and shut my gaping mouth, so like an idiot I say, "Oh, look, a callus on my hand," and he says, "Those on a woman are sexy." FML.
Ladies and gentlemen, do you want to know what I did that day? Something so adult and so mature: I pushed him into the dirt. I pushed that beautiful body into the dirt. I couldn't take it. I was like a schoolkid on a playground. Because that is the type of tantrum this lady used to throw. Kansas took it as flirting. I took it as frustration, because I couldn't tell a boy I liked him at the time.
This whole awkward flirting game went on for a few more weeks. Kansas would come over, and we'd dig more holes (to bury my dignity in) or set stones—I don't know. I thought rebound guys were supposed to be fun, casual things, but this wasn't fun at all. This was like homework in school. Every day I'd come home from "class," and I'd strategize on what I needed to do to make better "grades." If I had actually spent half the time in real school that I spent on Kansas, I would've had a 4.0. I was having to chase him, but I almost didn't know what race I was running. After all, I hadn't dated since 1884. So I figured if the firepit thing didn't work, then I'd write him a poem... Like a moron...