Guest post by Anonymous
I was seven when my entire world changed.
The life I knew, the life I thought was coming. Gone.
You may be thinking… gosh, what kind of awful tragedy happened to this girl? Abuse? Tragic accident? Death of a loved one? Abandonment? Terrible medical diagnosis?
None of those.
My parents separated. And divorced. Their marriage ended. A whole new life began.
I just want to make a quick disclaimer – this is my story. This is one perspective of a now-adult child of divorced parents. I am in no way intending to offend, shame, judge or cause a raucous with anyone who is divorced or other adult children of divorce. I am only sharing my story because, more often than not, the children are not allowed to speak. If the parents have moved on and are good, then the children are, too?! Not necessarily. Please keep all of that in mind as you continue to read and/or comment.
I was playing with my friends in the cul-de-sac, and my mom called me over – she was sobbing. She and my dad were standing in the doorway and told be me they were getting divorced.
Let’s remember, I am 7 years old. I have no idea what this means. I’m sure they tried to explain it to me the best they could, but let’s be honest, I just wanted to get back to playing with my friends. Much to their embarrassment, I ran off to my friends yelling, “We’re having a divorce! We’re having a divorce!”
The next thing I knew, my dad was sleeping in the guest room for a while. At 7, time is a bit deceiving, so he could have been there for a week or a few months. For all I knew, that’s what divorce was. Dad sleeping in another room. Eventually, my dad moved out and moved in with his girlfriend. My mom and I moved up the street to a new home. Oh. This is divorce.
A short time after, I took my first trip to Dad’s house. He picked me up, and I left my mom behind. As exciting as it was to finally be with my dad, I remember feeling so sad that my mom couldn’t come with me.
My parents’ divorce was one of the “good” ones, so I was told and witnessed – and believed – my entire life. Compared to the horror stories that I heard from other family members and friends, I suppose it’s true. There was minimal fighting (I can count on one hand the number of times I remember intense blow-ups), straight forward custody arrangements, child support paid on time, memories made with both parents, relationships built, life went on.
My parents worked really hard (thank the Lord) to put me at the center. I lived with my mom, and saw my dad every other weekend and alternate holidays. They communicated about school. Dad showed up to almost all of my swim meets, even on the weekends I wasn’t with him. Mom encouraged me to talk to my dad about the “tough” things that I would have rather ignored. Truly, I am so grateful for all of that. Because, it could have been a lot worse.
Eventually, I went to college, had a beautiful conversion to the Catholic faith, graduated from nursing school, landed a great job at one of the top pediatric facilities in the country, did mission work, lived overseas, bought a home, and so many other wonderful things. From the outside, my parents’ divorce looks as if it had no impact on my life.
Yet, when I was living overseas, doing some long-term mission work, I was stripped away from all that I knew, all that was familiar, all that was keeping me comfortable. I was so overwhelmed with life (thinking that I was just not able to handle the mission work), that I had to leave. I had to figure out what was going on. Eventually, I sought therapy and realized I was depressed and struggled with a bit of anxiety. I had some deep, deep wounds that needed some healing, and that stripping away of all that I knew exposed them in a way that I couldn’t ignore anymore.
It didn’t take long to realize that those wounds had everything to do with my parents’ divorce. It affected me deeply. More than I ever thought was even possible.
And I was furious. I was so proud that I had a good and successful life that wasn’t damaged by divorce! It was “easy” and not messy, little drama. My parents were healed! I had good relationships with both of them! Things were good and fine. I was good and fine.
But, I wasn’t. And, really… it wasn’t. Things weren’t “good” or “fine.”
The divorce affected me, even though it wasn’t supposed to, according to… everyone.
I couldn’t stop it from hurting me. I wasn’t strong enough. I wasn’t good enough. I carried that shame for a long time.
I had no idea until recent years (decades after the divorce) that I was even allowed to not like it. That I was allowed to be upset. That I was allowed to feel pain from it. That I didn’t have to like going back and forth to my dad’s (of course I liked seeing/being with my dad). Or that it was appropriate to feel confused about my parents getting along so well, yet they couldn’t stay married and be together.
Since both of my parents had moved on and were fine, I suppose I realized early on that I had to be “fine” with it, too. Plus, there was nothing I could do about it, anyway. So, I just had to deal, which I did, for 20 years.
At almost 8 years old, I started providing incentives for my mom to not cry for a whole day. This only happened a few times right after the divorce, but it is amazing what will affect kids and what won’t. In a way, it was when I became “responsible” for how my mom reacted and felt. I never wanted to do anything to upset her. I didn’t want to add to her stress. This has affected aspects of our relationship throughout the years.
I never wanted to upset my dad. If he could stop loving mom and leave, then he surely could stop loving me.
I struggle with handling my own emotions, as I didn’t really learn how to handle them correctly since I was so worried about upsetting my mom and dad, and that’s all I was ever concerned about. I was a people pleaser. I was the nurturer, taking care of others. I got detention one time in all of my schooling. I worked hard to get good grades. I couldn’t imagine what it would be like if I didn’t. I never wanted to rock the boat.
Big decisions were agonizing for me and I carried that into adulthood. I was afraid of making the wrong decision, which could then upset or disappoint my parents. My 7 year old self would fear that they would be upset and/or leave. Now as an adult, I desire to be married and have a family, yet putting myself out there is a challenge. The fear of loving someone, being vulnerable and then having them leave is very real.
This is my reality. This is the reality of many, so I have learned very recently.
Divorce is a loss. It’s death of a marriage. Death of family. Death of what life was. Death of what life could have been. And with most deaths, you grieve. You feel the pain. You take time to grieve that loss. But, divorce? No way! These things don’t affect children, right? How many children right now are not being allowed to grieve the separation and death of their parents’ marriage? How many adults are out there who never knew they were allowed to grieve?
There is no life that is without suffering. There is no life that is without pain. My life is no different. Your life is no different. It’s what we do with these sufferings and pain that matters. Will we take time to heal? What can we learn? How can we grow? What beauty do we see?
The very fact that I can even put all of this into words is an amazing thing. It really shows me how much I have healed, how much I have learned, how much grace the Lord has truly provided me.
I haven’t figured it all out. I don’t have perfect relationships with my parents. I am still healing. I am still learning. But, mostly, I am still hoping. I am living a beautiful life. The Lord has wonderful and amazing plans for me, and I am loved and adored by Him. I am confident in His love and His grace to continue transforming my heart.
Anonymous is a single Catholic woman in her 30s, striving daily to seek God and all things orange.