When Parents Divorce
by Carrie Ward
I always wanted to be a “fly by the seat of my pants” type of person, ready to take on anything that came my way. But by nature, I need to know what’s coming, so I can be prepared for dreaded bad news or the simple things like a preschooler’s hunger meltdown on a morning shopping trip. However, I could never have prepared myself for the change that began five years ago. My husband was out of town and a phone call from my mom began a change in my life that I’m still coming to terms with.
My mom retired from teaching middle school and while she was trying to sort out her new role in life, she also was questioning her more than 35-year marriage to my dad.
Growing up, their relationship embodied the marriage I wanted. When my husband and I were dating, I told him I wanted the bond my parents had — and nothing less. Their marriage took precedence over other relationships, and even though as a small child I didn’t like being left with Grandma and Grandpa, the trips they took as a couple were a priority to them.
I could tell my mom was struggling with everything. The scary part for me was that she hadn’t talked to my dad about her feelings. So I kept this information to myself during Christmas and into the next year when I became pregnant with my eldest child.
She wanted more from my dad and over the course of the next year I tried to help. I booked a romantic weekend away for my parents at a bed and breakfast. But my mom rejected that idea and continued to push back. I kept hoping that something would click and she’d see that their life together — our family — was worth saving.
I was pregnant with our second child and was constantly at odds with my mom and didn’t understand her perspective or what it would take to get things back on track. My dad was confused and not sure what he was doing wrong or what to change.
My mom eventually moved to a house about five hours away from me. It was clear things weren’t improving for my parents. I felt angry! But I remember my husband saying I was handling things much better than he’d thought I would. I was still holding out hope and in a bit of denial.
Unfortunately, things did not turn around for my parents. They divorced and now both have significant others in their lives. My parents have moved on, and I wish I could say the same for me. This past year has not been one of closure for me, but one of deep sadness as the denial fades and reality sets in.
I didn’t talk with friends for a long time about how my parents’ breakup was affecting me. But I needed support and reached out to my MOPS Coordinator for prayer. She told me her parents had divorced too and that I would grieve for what could have been. It was the best piece of wisdom I’ve received through this painful time.
I continue to grieve as we figure out this new dynamic in our family. I grieve that my children will not visit my childhood home and have Nana and Grandpa tell them stories about me as a child. I dread having to explain the situation to my children because I hardly understand it myself. I worry about the next big event and deciding which one of my parents will be there because they don’t want to see each other with their new spouses.
I’m still struggling with sadness and grief. As my foundation crumbles, I know God is keeping me from falling into a depth of pain I cannot bear. He is my strength.
Carrie Ward is a mom, a writer and a public relations consultant from Sealy, Texas.