It’s Broken

Every now and then I am struck by stupid grief.

This morning, I went out into my sunny garden to stretch a bit. I found a plastic container out there, one that my ex had written “baby oatmeal” on. And it broke my heart.

It’s been years since this container held baby oatmeal but I have this vivid picture of baby cereal, baby spoons, high chairs. My children aren’t babies anymore. When they were babies, their world still felt intact.

I don’t know what to do when I don’t know what to wish for. I don’t wish for a return to my marriage. I also don’t wish that I hadn’t had my children, though they were born into a failing marriage. But it’s hard to want this broken life for them. Their father and I have shared custody, and I miss them so much. And yet I’m so tired when I’m on my own with them that when I get extra longed-for time, I often wind up crabby or impatient and I fear I spoil it. I want them around all the time, but I want help bearing this household’s burden too. I want them around all the time, but I don’t wish their father out of their lives.

I can’t even feel guilt for my choices or decisions around the split, because growing up in an empty marriage wasn’t good for them either. It was not helping them become stable and secure or teaching them about love. There’s no clean and easy, black and white option here, no matter how my my mind casts about looking for one.

Last night, my daughter cried because she wanted to stay at the school’s open house that she had been so looking forward to. I had the time to stay–but it was her night to go home with her dad, and he needed to leave. My available time didn’t do her any good. I went to church to do a simple deacon task and felt grateful for the company of the youth group I encountered there. I went home alone.

My children’s foundation is gone. I keep hearing that this can be OK, that they can and will heal. I also have great hope that they can see better examples of marriage that will teach them better what love, warmth, and commitment are. I even feel hopeful that my own future will include such an example. But I’m terrified that another blow or loss will break them, and I can’t prevent that any more than I could prevent this first great loss.

For me, I can want the harder route. I can force myself to feel the grief, to feel the growing pains, even though I want to hide from them and it wouldn’t be hard to hide in my kids, in my work, in my friends, in my relationship. These things make me happy and they keep me busy. But I am growing into the more mature and complete person that I wasn’t before. I am learning how to be on my own. However, this breaking process hasn’t been a much-needed growing process for my children. It’s been a fracture. And I can’t change that or wish it into being something easily fixed.

So. Grief.

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Comments

  1. Bridgette:

    Thanks for being honest and sharing your grief. I have friends in your shoes and I know you are speaking their truth as well. When my mother divorced my father I remember her saying it felt like a death in the family, because in a way it is. Allow yourself the time to grieve as you figure out this new stuff. Sending you a giant, enormous and slightly suffocating hug.

    Reply

    • Laura:

      Thank you. I will gladly accept that hug. And it is a lot like a death, only you don’t want all the mementos and memories you stumble across.

      Reply

  2. Sherri:

    Oh, my sweet friend… I hope that sharing your heart helps you move forward in teeny-tiny ways.

    Reply

    • Laura:

      I think it does; it certainly helps me understand what I am feeling when it is mixed up and confusing.

      Reply

  3. Jereann Lefever Crowley:

    Please look at your divorce as a death. Not only of your marriage but of your togetherness, your hopes, dreams, the future you will now not share and because of this give yourself time to grieve. It will not happen overnight or even in a couple of months. Everyone’s grieving is different, but just as you would not beat yourself up for grieving over a loved one’s death, do not beat yourself up for grieving over the death of your marriage.

    Reply

  4. Judy:

    This was beautiful. It beats repeating that you’ll get through this and your kids will thrive, too. Time is needed for all of you.

    Reply

  5. Jill:

    I have to echo what Bridgette said: Allow yourself to grieve. Sometimes a broken heart can rebuild stronger than it ever was. Lots of hugs, friend.

    Reply

  6. Michelle:

    I only just started following you and I am compelled to write after reading this post. It knocked the wind out of me because I’m RIGHT THERE with you.

    I am a mom of three also, and recently (last summer) separated. So much of what you wrote resonates with me. I don’t want the marriage back either….but I want that dream back. And I know it’s gone forever. I, too, am grieving.
    Thank you. I’m going to go read this again. Also, I’m giving you a big cyber hug.
    Thank you.
    Xo
    Michelle

    Reply

    • Laura:

      Thank you. I don’t know that many single parents, so it’s good to stick together. Keep in touch.

      Reply

  7. Windy Taylor:

    This is lovely and painful and I nodded along the whole time. Thank you. It’s hard to be a grown up.

    Reply

    • Laura:

      Yes. I didn’t begin to quite understand that until I was some years in.

      Reply

  8. Andria:

    I have written such similar words in my journal, that for a moment I actually thought someone posted my stuff online :) I’m in exactly the same place. Thanks so much for writing about it. It doesn’t take the grief away but it does assuage some of the loneliness. I do believe that all of our kids will eventually be fine and I hope, someday, will thank us for being so brave.

    Reply

    • Laura:

      True, and I also found writing about it to be helpful in sorting out what I was feeling this morning. I also do hope to encourage others in my spot by sharing our stories.

      Reply

  9. Lorrie Ann Schumacher:

    Yes, at times it will be hard and lonely, but chin up-its going to be great! I was in your shoes, trying to raise three kids alone and man it was hard. I felt like such a failure to my children at times. I mean, I gave them a broken home and it wasn’t fixable. I know how you feel. Now you can see how you will feel:

    You are going to find someone. This someone will be the right one, because before it was all about you and him, now it will be about the whole family. You are looking for a totally different person. You’re older and wiser and the man you are looking for will be older and wiser. Someone who is not just around the same age, but maturity level too. Someone who wants a family and knows what that will entail. Someone who will love the kids for who they are, not just because he fathered them.

    It’s gonna be great! When the time is right and you both are ready-then you will meet. Chin up and work on becoming who you want to be (and becoming so proud of yourself for handling it alone-man, you are awesome!). And then figuring out who you need your partner to be….that way you’ll be ready! Be excited! Your life is going to be awesome!

    Reply

    • Laura:

      Thank you! :) I do feel very hopeful.

      Reply

  10. thebufferzoneday:

    “As a mother of three, I found replying “I’m doing the best I can.” to all comments directed at me concerning my 10-minute tardiness in carpool, my child wearing two different gym shoes, and the fact that I seldom made a “traditional” home cooked meal. I also repeated that phrase endlessly to myself during difficult times, and tried hard to believe it. It’s sad that we are often just as hard on ourselves as any hater.
    Now, that I’m a grandmother of 6, I find it also helps to live long enough to see your son or daughter realize that their children are acting/thinking/doing as they did, and wow, this parenting stuff is hard.
    Wishing you all the best, Diane

    Reply

    • Laura:

      You are right. And I now appreciate my own parents so much more! I try to remember to tell them that.

      Reply

    • Cassie H:

      Thanks for sharing, thebufferzoneday. I am married with 3 young kids and I often feel that way too! (This morning was my son’s first class at our park district, which recently opened a second location. I double checked the time and room, but not the BUILDING location. I went to the wrong one and he missed his first class. :( Instead we did open gym and stayed to meet his teacher after class finished!)
      To Laura, even though I am still married, I have allowed my thoughts to go down that path when we’re having one of those arguments that makes you think about what it would be like without your spouse. I wish I had something more comforting to say – but I can admit that even in a mostly happy marriage, it still has its difficulties and I find myself forgetting things, saying YES too much, and falling short – like last week when I forgot to have my daughter make her teacher a birthday card. (Her teacher did not forget to send a thank you note, however).
      I hope you can grieve properly and come out stronger on the other side!!

      Reply

  11. A Child's Eyes:

    Love you, my friend. I love how vulnerable you are, and I love how you don’t try to have the answers. Big hug coming through this computer to you! – Ashley

    Reply

  12. Lori:

    My mother passed away suddenly when I was 6, there was incredible confusion and grief for me that reappeared many times as I matured. My dad remarried when I was 10, I was so grateful for a mom! I was also jealous that my stepsisters’ parents were “only divorced” they were so “lucky” to have the opportunity to be with both parents – the gifts and fancy trips with their dad didn’t help my jealousy, lol. Point being, yes there is grief, don’t be afraid of that, walk through it, let it shape you, it will not break you or the kids – especially not with a mother that loves them as much as you do! I am not a broken person because of my past, my past molded me into the person I am.

    Reply

    • Laura:

      Thank you for sharing, and that is helpful.

      Reply

  13. edbrenegar:

    Stories are different, but not totally. I recognized when my children were turning into adolescents, that they needed me to be a different person for them. So, I became their partner. And they mine. We partnered on what we wanted our lives to become. For my sons, this focused on scouts, their advancement, and mine as their scoutmaster. For my daughter, swimming. As a result, we developed an honesty and a vulnerability to one another that carried us through our individual transitions in life. And, now, as they are all grown, trying to figure out what’s next for them, we can talk directly about just about everything. I pray that your kids will find you to be their partner as they and you grow through life’s changes. May you find peace each day.

    Reply

    • Laura:

      Thank you for your prayers and blessing.

      Reply

  14. Morgan Murray:

    Thanks for, “I don’t know what to wish for.” In accepting my impending divorce, I am learning about the difference between Christian hope, and the wish-making that I, as a Christian, was obsessing on. Wishing led me to pray the God to change the circumstances. Hope allows me to live fully in the present (sobbing when I have my ‘baby oatmeal’ moments) and know God can be glorified even in this. Our marriages are truly dead, and that is good news insofar as death is the necessary precondition to resurrection.

    Reply

    • Laura:

      Amen to that. I think somehow we’ve turned God into a wish granter rather than a comfort and an empathetic presence when life is broken. Thank you.

      Reply

  15. Byron Wade:

    Laura – thanks for the post. Very insightful and brings back memories of my mother who was separated and subsequently divorced from my father while raising me and my two brothers. Although we did not see her grief and frustration outwardly, I can only imagine she had a grieving process to endure in her quiet moments as well. The most important line that caught my eye was when you said, “But I am growing into the more mature and complete person that I wasn’t before. I am learning how to be on my own.” Yes, it is not much of a much-needed growing process for your children and I admit there are some scars from the whole separation/divorce experience. However I believe that your experience will help your children become they best they can be without viewing divorce as a negative. From reading your posts I think they will be very strong and assertive adults!!

    By the way, I am a good friend of Bruce Reyes-Chow, your friend and book-writing client (?). We’ve known each other for 20+ years and I was his Vice-Moderator when he was the Moderator of the Presbyterian Church (USA) back from 2008-10. We both need to write a book on that experience! 😉

    Anyway, may God’s peace, blessings and comfort be present with you.

    Reply

    • Laura:

      Thanks so much for your encouragement and affirmation. It has often helped me to hear from the children of divorced parents (or children who wished their parents had divorced). Many of my friends seem to have undergone that experience, with or without scars, but always with good advice and encouragement. Thanks for your prayers and blessings.

      And it’s nice to meet you! I am moderator of a PCUSA board of deacons, and I met Bruce when he came to speak at my church. He’s been a good reminder of why I love our denomination, and a terrific editing client too.

      Reply

  16. Diane:

    I so enjoy your writing. Thanks for sharing. Something that helps me (divorced 8 years and the 3 kids live with me) is to remember that parenting is hard no matter what your marital status is. Always hard! Fun, too, but a big responsibility regardless. I sometimes think people give too much credence to the whole ‘broken’ image with divorce. I have long said our family changed, it’s not broken. My kids have both living parents, grandparents, etc. It’s what you make it. Certainly, there can be worse challenges to deal with, and usually the people who are least supportive are the judgemental married ones. Personally, I find it far less tiring to just respect wherever people are at and not pretend I have any control over their lives. My life takes enough energy. Take care!

    Reply

    • Laura:

      Thank you so much for being encouraging. It’s true that I think many good things can come out of this, such as supportive new friends and relatives in addition to the supportive friends and relatives we already have. :)

      Reply

  17. Anonymous:

    This may not be a popular comment, but if I may suggest…keep the door open to reconciliation with your husband. Through Christ, ALL things are possible. He can resurrect anything, even a marriage that is broken. He can heal and restore and make it new — not what it was, but something better. Hurting, broken people and relationships…that is His specialty. Being apart may be necessary for a time, but it doesn’t have to be forever. I have lived this and know it is possible. Peace to you.

    Reply

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