Parenting Post Divorce During A Pandemic

Parenting post divorce AND during a pandemic sucks…In the immediate aftermath of divorce (which is raw, grueling, and painful enough in its natural state let alone during a worldwide pandemic), your mind and even your heart can play a lot of mean tricks on you. To say that the past month has been an emotional roller coaster would be a vast understatement, as some realities of my new (yet not exactly new) status of being a 99.9 percent of the time, full-time single mother has more often than not been anxiety-ridden and even downright debilitating some days, as this parenting during pandemic stuff is surely meant for people much more patient, resilient, and otherwise stronger than I am or have ever been. Admittedly, I have locked myself in the bathroom and cried more times than I care to acknowledge, I have screamed at my children to the point of being ashamed of said behavior, and I have even gone so far in the darker moments to wish for another life because this is not the one for which I signed up. Yes, I know—good and devoted mothers aren’t supposed to feel or say such things out loud. But if we’re to be honest with ourselves, all of us have been there whether we openly admit that or not. Truly, if turning 40 has taught me nothing else, it’s that living and speaking your truth is soul-cleansing and necessary because if you take a moment and really look at the grand scheme of it all, we don’t have that much time left to make amends to ourselves for the overwhelming silence of the first half of our lives.

Yesterday, I took these three amazing and beautiful children pictured here (though now the significantly more grown-up versions of themselves) to meet their father for the first visitation they’ve had with him in almost four months and the actual first visitation they’ve had with him post-divorce, and my emotions were fairly well all over the place for a multitude of reasons too numerous to mention unless I want to write a script for a Lifetime movie, but I digress. The void in my heart as to all things concerning my former husband and marriage and all that entails is deep, and I now fully understand why all of my friends who had previously gone through a divorce told me that it is far worse than experiencing the death of someone you love BECAUSE IT IS. Yes! It’s a big, gaping, proverbial death of all the aspirations and incantations of love and what that former love created (which so happens to be the three awesome human beings you see here). While they are no doubt the three best things that ever happened to either me or their father, they are also the three things that make this whole divorce phenomenon exponentially harder, especially when you harbor a deep resentment for the person who also took part in their creation, though was not ever and is not now exceptionally present for their becoming (but you’re not ever, ever, no, not ever supposed to let them know that). That, my friends, is a rather large and bitter pill to swallow. Indeed, sometimes it feels like it may poison and subsequently kill me, but I begrudgingly and resentfully do it, all the while smiling through gritted and gnashed teeth. Not for him, but for them, as they, too, will have to surmise their own truths in their own time, and of all the things I don’t concede on where he is concerned, I concede this, as that will never be a burden I want to bear or want them to bear. No, never. Not ever.

In speaking my truth of this deep, emotional void and also of the pain of all things divorce (and how said pain often has nowhere productive to go so it seemingly takes up permanent residence in every synapse and space and memory we possess), the reason I am including this picture in this post is because this wall, until late last night, had been empty for almost a year. Several months back when he moved some things out of our home, he also took these beloved canvasses of our children’s first birthday photos without my knowledge or consent and told me at the time he did it because he knew it would crush me (these being my most cherished photos of my babies ever). Long story short, I didn’t ask for anything else material during our divorce proceedings except for him to return these to me (and to my surprise yesterday, he actually did). So, last night, after returning home to the resounding silence and stillness that is my home without my children’s presence, I had the ceremonial privilege to return them to their proper place, hanging on the dining room wall where they belong and have always belonged. As I stood there marveling at these images of my three precious kids in their most innocent form, I cried tears consisting of at least 1,000 different emotions I have felt over these past two years, otherwise letting go of some of that anguish and bitterness that has consumed me for far too long. I allowed myself to sit in that formerly blank, but now occupied space and let all of that energy—whether good, bad, or indifferent—out. It was cathartic and oh-so desperately needed, and it’s given me the long overdue permission to more genuinely go on about the work of continuing to rebuild both myself and my life and my children’s lives, and not because it’s often glamorous or fun (no, of course, it’s not), but rather BECAUSE I HAVE TO and BECAUSE I WANT TO.

By sharing this story during what is undoubtedly an uncertain and scary time for many of us even under the best of circumstances, it is my greatest hope that we all remember in the midst of what may very well be some of our darkest and most trying times, that this void—this seemingly endless and vapid space—it won’t last or stay empty forever. Of course, it may hang over us and it may consume and subsist on our energy for a certain period of time, but it will inevitably fill up and runneth over again, so to speak. However, this will only happen when we’re ready, and today, I am ready to begin the often excruciating, yet simultaneously healing work of moving on with my life and continuing to open my heart to both things and people who are actually worthy of my love, my time, and my attention. In this ebb and flow of life and all its contents, it’s no secret that it has taken me an exceptionally long time to arrive at this critical juncture. But here I am, detours and delays and breakdowns and all, finally ready to begin again and it feels amazing and right and real. Of course, I am not so naive as to think there won’t be some setbacks along the way, but I will take them as they come—moment by moment, day by day. Yes, in learning to speak my own truth, I realize that I may not know much if anything else, but I KNOW THIS MUCH IS TRUE.

 

“Here’s to finding the courage to speak your truth, whatever that may be.”

Ashley

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