Maybe you saw it coming, even hoped for it. I didn’t. Like many people I know, I led a blissful childhood of ignorance, unaware that the adult world is hard to navigate. If my parents had issues when I was a child, I didn’t know about it; they ensured a childhood for my brothers and I that was free of responsibility. I grew up loved, happy, and naïve, and I’m thankful for it.
Still, it happened to me. My parents divorced when I was in college. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever been through, but not for the reasons people think. Being a child of divorce never ends, and that’s why I’m writing to you.
At Thanksgiving, you’ll sit by one parents side, worrying how your other parent is handling being alone. At your wedding, you’ll watch as your parents, once so in love, briefly and awkwardly say hello. Your extended family will choose sides, and you’ll watch in horror as your aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents hardly look at their ex-relative, their old best friend and longtime family member. They’ll offer you advice but few condolences. They won’t understand that by ignoring your parent, they’re hurting you.
You’ll feel alone. Your siblings will handle it differently, and you’ll be mad at them for it. Keep trying to understand them; they’re the only people in the world who know what you’re going through. Don’t let anger or sadness drive them away from you.
You’ll see your mother cry. You’ll see your father cry. You’ll see your parents for who they really are: not just mom and dad, but real people with real feelings and flaws. You’ll compare them, contrast them, and feel bitter and angry. You’ll say things you regret or always regret never saying them. You’ll watch the person who raised you act like a child, and you’ll be forced to act like a parent. You may stop answering their calls for a while, just so you can refocus and take care of yourself. You’ll feel guilty, but don’t be afraid to take care of yourself.
You’ll worry about the future. You’ll worry there will be drama on your wedding day and when your kids are born.
You will have a really hard time trusting someone with your heart. After all, if your parent can hurt you, anyone can. Child of Divorce, I’m so sorry you’re going through this. People say it will get easier, that life will move on. In many ways, it won’t.
But you’ll learn a lot about yourself. You’ll realize how strong you are. You’ll think a lot, and gain some perspective on life. Maybe you’ll get closer to God, or some other spiritual guide. Maybe you won’t. That’s ok, too.
You’ll become a great listener, and after years of listening, you’ll become better at speaking up. You’ll defend your feelings time and again to your family, and eventually, you’ll become better at advocating for yourself in all walks of life. You’ll stop letting people manipulate you, and you won’t be afraid to tell people how you really feel.
Someday, you won’t be afraid of love. You’ll fall again, more hesitantly than before, but it will happen. You’ll learn to trust, and maybe you’ll get married. You’ll look at the beautiful family you’ve started, and realize that while being a child of divorce isn’t easier, you’re a better version of yourself because of it.