By Karen Kaye
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 keep 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?
- 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.
- Learn to rely on yourself and in that process, you will be learning how to love and care for yourself.
- Trust comes first from trusting yourself. Trusting others will then follow.
- 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!
- There is no perfect way of reacting to a divorce. It is important, though, to see the big picture.
- It is okay for you and your children to feel the pain and grief of divorce while learning and growing together.
- 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 parent DOES make a difference.)
- 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.
- Be aware that as an adult, you have some power over the outcome of your divorce and its effects, while your children are powerless.
- 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 rollercoaster ride of divorce. It 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.
Karen Kaye, LMHC is a licensed mental health counselor with a master’s degree in family therapy from the University of Maryland. For more information, visit www.imstillmebook.com.