Divorce is something I am all to familiar with. At the age of two, my mother divorced my father. I don't really remember much other than my father not being around afterward. But years later, I remember reading something my mother wrote in my baby book. She wrote how she hoped that the divorce wouldn't screw me up.
My Mom remarried when I was 7 years old. And my stepfather essentially became the Dad that I never had and took on the role of raising me. They both have helped shape me into the person I am today and we have always been close. But no family is perfect and ours certainly wasn't. After 25 years of marriage, they separated last year and have since divorced.
I knew it was for the better but it broke me down in ways I never could have imagined. I wasn't prepared for the aftermath and how it would effect me not having the parental unit I was accustomed to having all these years. The first six months I felt depressed and sad by everything that was taking place. One parent was moving on too fast and starting a whole new life and one parent was still struggling to deal with the reality. I felt torn between the two and neither one of them seemed to notice my feelings at all.
And to make it worse, there was little comfort or understanding from friends and family. Everyone seemed to have the same attitude of "oh well, life happens". But it was MY life and it did matter. And trust me, I never thought that being in my thirties and having divorced parents would be such a big deal. But the truth is, divorce is hard no matter what age you are. You are not bullet proof to the emotions of something just because you're an adult.
I've had to learn how to set boundaries with both parents all while trying to rebuild my relationship with them individually. How to factor in holidays and visits and everything in between. And because there is no manual on how to deal with it all. I felt like I needed to share the things that helped me in the process.
1. TAKE A BREAK IF YOU NEED TO
By this I mean, distance yourself if need be. Sometimes the best thing you can do is take care of yourself. Both parents have to deal with their new reality and you have to allow yourself the time to do the same. And don't feel guilty about it. We all need a break from time to time.
2. SORT THROUGH YOUR FEELINGS
You may feel a sense of loss and sadness and it's important to recognize those feelings and deal with them. Talk to someone, write down how you feel and be honest with yourself. And know that you're allowed to feel this way even if others don't understand it.
3. FIND ONE PERSON YOU CAN CONFIDE IN
Your friends may not be sympathetic to your situation. And like any big change in life, you will need someone who can be a listening ear when needed. I am so thankful for my friend, Jackie. She took my calls at any time of day and was there for me when ever I needed a friend. I told her things that I could barely admit to myself. Having someone there you can trust and confide in will help you to get through the worst of days.
4. BE OPEN TO THE CHANGES YOUR PARENTS WILL MAKE IN THEIR LIVES
To be honest, this is still something I am getting used to. It's not easy to see your parents move on and be with other people. And they often start to live a completely different life than they did before. But if I've learned anything through this process, it's that everyone deserves to be happy. And although you may not agree with their new life decisions, it's their choice to make.
5. SET BOUNDARIES
At some point you will have to set boundaries with each parent. And it can often feel like you're putting them in "time out". But in order for you to have a healthy relationship with them individually, you will have to let them know when they are crossing a line. And it's okay to not want to hear every detail of their divorce, or who did what wrong and even things about their new significant other. YOU get to set the boundaries of what makes you comfortable.
6. ESTABLISH INDIVIDUAL RELATIONSHIPS WITH EACH PARENT
Now that each parent has moved on in different directions. You will have to reestablish your relationship with each parent individually. You will also have to find ways to communicate, share holidays and factor in visits. Dedicate some time to spend with each parent separately to re-familiarize yourself with one another.
It's been a long year of high emotions, changes and accepting the reality of my family's new normal. But I'm thankful that we each seem to have found some sort of peace within ourselves amidst the chaos.
If you've experienced divorce, what helped you to cope?