Growing up, I lived in a quaint little neighborhood with my mother, father, and younger brother. We were a typical family, cruising down the highway of life, with only the occasional bump in the road. I’ll never forget the day my family faced a devastating detour, ultimately sending us down Divorce Lane. If you’ve ever experienced it, you know what I’m talking about. Everything you’ve ever known is completely turned upside down, and you feel as if you’re caught in a funnel cloud that won’t stop spinning. You struggle to come to terms with the end of your family as you knew it, while desperately trying to hold onto something familiar. The rollercoaster of emotions seems like it will never pull back into the depot to let you off. You cannot fathom how you will be able to pick up the pieces, as you try to create some semblance of a “new normal.” You mourn the loss of what once was, and what will never be.
All of that accurately depicts my feelings at that time in my life 20 years ago. As a preteen, it was the most difficult situation I had faced. I couldn’t comprehend why this was happening. Suddenly, I was forced to grow up and take on additional responsibilities, as if I was thrust into adulthood overnight. My mother did the best she could, but she needed my help more than ever, as she was essentially now a single parent. My brother began to feel more like my child than my sibling. Now let me back up a second. As the older sibling by six years, I was always a mother hen, but it dramatically changed after the divorce. I felt less and less like a child.
Those first few months were not easy, as I harbored feelings of resentment and anger, as I kept thinking how unfair life was at that time. Why should a child have to go through something of that magnitude, such tremendous heartbreak that s/he can’t even wrap their still developing brain around?
Eventually my mom, brother, and I established a new normal and settled into a routine that worked for us, as a family of three, not four. Life got easier as I, along with my mom and brother, began to accept what was and let go of what once was. We grew closer, and we formed a bond that could never be broken.
Sadly, I did not have much of a relationship with my dad after the divorce, as there was a huge disconnect. I felt as if he suddenly forgot how to be a father. I felt as if he divorced us, his children, not just my mother. How I longed to be “daddy’s girl,” to feel like I had a father I could depend on, one whom I would hold to the highest standard and would only hope to find a mate just like. Isn’t that what every little girl dreams of?
The end result of the divorce was not all doom and gloom as one might expect. There would be a silver lining- a revelation that I was not defined by the divorce, only shaped by it in some conceivable way. It was but a tool that taught me an array of important life lessons – perseverance, determination, the ability to nurture, but most of all, forgiveness. While it hurt me to my core, especially given the circumstances surrounding it, I realized that I could not live my life with feelings of anger and resentment. I would turn a negative into a positive. I would choose to let go and forgive, but not forget. Why? Because forgiveness is not really for the other person, but for ourselves. We cannot truly be happy until we forgive.