Now there’s a fun title, huh? Fun or not, it’s an important one.
You’ve probably heard that in our country, about half of all marriages end in divorce. But what you may not have caught wind of yet is that January 2021 is predicted to be a record-setting month for separation and divorce filings.
The news just keeps getting better and better, amiright?! (Sarcasm, guys. Sarcasm.)
Look. I don’t have to tell you why so many marriages crumbled under the weight of 2020. Crises have a way of magnifying the good and bad in all of us—and in our relationships, especially.
Considering that our collective stress and anxiety are at all-time highs and our definitive answers and resources are at all-time lows, families have been in the crosshairs of the pandemic since its onset.
So, let me start by saying this.
If your marriage has ended (or is ending) right now, you are not a failure. And, you are not alone.
I remember sitting with my attorney and the divorce mediator in a small office with a lacquered-finish table. My now ex-husband was one room over. One room with a very, very thin wall between us. I tried to be cool, calm, and collected. Because, you know, I AM GROWN AND CONFIDENT AND DON’T NEED A MAN IN MY LIFE TO COMPLETE ME.
As it turned out, I sort of turned the situation into a dumpster fire. A very sad dumpster fire.
“Would you like to go back to your maiden name?”
I couldn’t answer. I tried to pass off the sob as a cough. I did a bad job, y’all.
Cue the theatrical hysterics.
I am a failure. My life is over. This is all my fault. If I had done this, or not done that, or if I could go back. I AM A FAILURE!
Maybe your attitude toward your divorce is different. Maybe you’re relieved. Or apathetic. Or even excited. Regardless, when you get divorced as a parent, there is no winner.
But that doesn’t mean there have to be losers.
Here are a few ways I survived getting divorced as a roaring mama bear of three little girls.
- Enter the acceptance room. I rejected the idea of divorce from jump. He was like, “I want a divorce,” and I was like, “And I want to eat Doritos for breakfast and still lose weight. Divorce is gonna be a no for me. What should we do this weekend with the kids?”
My reluctance to accept the inevitable was not helpful and only delayed the healing process for our entire family.
One of my favorite quotes that I read during that season was this: “Most things will be okay eventually, but not everything will be. Sometimes you’ll put up a good fight and lose. Sometimes you’ll hold on really hard and realize there is no choice but to let go. Acceptance is a small, quiet room.”
The sooner you open the door to the acceptance room and step inside its sometimes-cold, sometimes-scary, but always-life-giving walls, no one can move forward.
- No one survives divorce. “Um, Holly?” you’re probably asking. “Isn’t the title of this blog post, like, MAJORLY misleading?” Well, yes and no.
What I mean is that no one—especially your kids—will be unaffected by the dissolution of your marriage. Heck, the server at our family’s favorite restaurant cried when I told her we were divorcing.
So, the very first and very most important thing you can do to survive your divorce is to be honest about it.
Once the decision has been made to move forward to file, it’s time to tell the kids. There are tons of books and resources online that give great suggestions for ways to tell children of all ages that their parents are divorcing.
Spoiler alert? They probably already know way more than you think they do anyway.
- Find people in your season. You’ve heard this same advice about parenting—find people who are going through what you’re going through. There’s something incredibly bolstering about knowing I’m not the only one.
- Find people one season ahead of you. As soon as I realized he was actually going through with the divorce, I called my friend who was about two years out from her own divorce. She seemed to have handled it well (as well as you can). And I admired her co-parenting relationship with her ex.
“What do I do?”
Lindsey calmly led me through what would happen at each step. She sent me documents, resources, websites. But more than anything, she sent me hope. If she could get through it, I knew I could too.
- Establish your (new) family identity. Okay, this one may sound silly, but I’d put it at the top of the list in terms of survival.
When we were first living on our own, I started calling us the “Girl Gang.” Then, we started having a family theme song each summer. And before we could go anywhere in the car, we had to jam out to that song together. Saturday mornings became mandatory breakfast at 9:00 a.m., sharp.
It can sound cheesy, and trust me, my girls have told me as much on more than one occasion, but with each small tradition that my new little family created, the pieces of something that felt broken between us began to come together. I wanted my girls to feel a part of something whole and solid and unshakable. Something that would never be affected by a divorce.
Some things should stay the same in your home. But there should also be some intentionally wonderful and unique things that don’t.
Look. I’ll say this in every divorce-related blog I write. Divorce sucks. Divorce is hard. Divorce is a death. But I promise you this—you will make it to the other side. You’ll wake up and think, “Hey, I didn’t cry yesterday.” Or, “Hey, I didn’t scream at my kids yesterday.” The sunshine will come out again.
Don’t ever lose hope, and you’ll do more than “survive.” You’ll LIVE. Fully and wholly, in time.