My mom was there for me always. She’s never let me down. I’ve never had to question her love or her devotion to me. She still tells me how proud she is of me. That support has carried me through some very difficult moments in my life. Like middle school.
I was bullied in sixth grade. Rather I was tormented in sixth grade. There was a particular eighth grader that had decided I would be his target for the year. Now, I never told my mom what was happening, but just knowing she was there waiting for me after school was a refuge. Whether it was a snack or just a hug always lifted my spirits. She has always been my rock.
And like so many others, we cherish our moms. And too often many mothers have to play dual roles. Whether by choice or by circumstance 21.8 million children under 21 are being raised in a single parent home. And no matter how awesome a parent is, that can be hard.
So what does a newly divorced mother do? Where does she go from here? Having never been a single mom I asked several moms that I know that have dealt with divorce and come through it to live an amazingly full life.
The women I spoke with are people I’ve known for years and highly respect. My respect grew for them as I watched how they handled adversity and guided their children through a very emotional time.
My first question to these women was about the initial reaction. How did they handle those first few steps? From those little questions came significant answers and great insight.
Sandy said that her first reaction was “Life is over.” She had very destructive thought patterns running through her mind. The negativity in this pattern soon affected how she felt physically. It wore her down and caused her to feel as if she carried a sizable burden alone. But none of this was factually true.
At that point Lisa jumped in and said she could relate to Sandy’s struggles. Lisa said for her it wasn’t so much a thought pattern as a doom and gloom attitude. She said that her problems stemmed from overwhelming guilt and shame. Lisa said she felt like she failed her kids and herself.
I asked the other mom Anna if she struggled with anything similar and she said she did. Anna said that she felt as if she had failed as well. She wrestled with the guilt and feelings of doom that the others felt as well. She also said that she wished that she could have had other women to tell her they felt the same things. Anna told us that she really didn’t have many people to turn to during this time and it made things more difficult.
I really wanted to know what happened for these women that allowed them to turn the corner. What took place in their lives that helped move them forward?
Sandy and Lisa both talked about their group of friends. They both had women in their support network that loved them enough to sit down and have some hard discussions. Sandy said that it was her best friend that told her to stop thinking of herself in such negative terms.
Her friend said, “Your life is not over. It’s just a new start. It’s not one you had planned on but it is. There’s nothing you can do to change what happened but you can change what will happen.”
For Sandy it was that talk that allowed her to really see her situation. She began to understand that the focus shouldn’t be what happened but what’s going to happen. It was in that realization that she stopped seeing her life as over and started living her new life to the fullest. She did say that it wasn’t easy and there were days she still felt like a total failure but she knew that those thoughts were nothing more than that - thoughts. She knew it wasn’t the truth.
Lisa told a story of her friends and family rallying around her. She talked of people that loved her in her despair and allowed her to grieve but wouldn’t allow her to wallow in misery.
The feelings of guilt and shame began to shift to determination when her mother told her, “It is what it is. What are you gonna do?”
Guilt and shame are good for manipulation but not for transformation and when she let go of those feelings she began her transformation. Lisa recognized that she could no longer sit in her guilt and live life. She would have to make a choice and she chose life. She said that her friends and family were her strength at times and that she used them to help her make that choice every day in the beginning.
Anna said that because she lived away from her good friends and family her journey took a little longer. She said that she found refuge in the people of her faith community. Anna said that they would bring her meals and eat with her and her kids. She said that several teens volunteered to watch her kids and mow her yard. She said that her feelings of failure began to dissipate when she realized that these people saw worth in her. When the thought of her still being worth something took root, she began to live that way again.
Of course that had been the truth all along, but during these dark moments in her life she somehow lost sight of that. It just took a few people to remind her of that fact.
All three women went through their experiences differently. All three felt different emotions at different times and dealt with them individually. But the thing that struck me was the commonalities in their stories. There were threads that wove in and out of their stories. I couldn’t help but think that there were lessons that we could glean from what I had heard.
Sandy, Lisa and Anna all dealt with negative feelings of one kind or another. Whether it was guilt, feelings of failure or negative labels, they all experienced it. Those feelings affected how they acted with their children, the people around them and how they saw themselves.
I couldn’t help but look at the solution to this problem they had. It was the people around them. They looked to others when they couldn’t see the reality. They weren’t failures or any of those things they were thinking. This one situation didn’t and doesn’t define them. And when they had lost that, they had people around them that constantly showed them reality.
To wrap things up I asked them what would they tell a mom that has just gone through a divorce, what advice would you give them?
Here’s what they said:
Life is not over. Just because your marriage didn’t last it does not mean that your life won’t either. At some point in time, this will be another experience that you will grow from. You will survive and be stronger. You will move on and live life how you create it.
Don’t waste time. Just because it seems like the world has stopped understand it hasn’t. Life goes on. It’s not going to wait for you to recover. There is still homework to be done, chores that need doing, practices and games to make, and a life to live. You have to start putting things back together and understand that you can live a happy, meaningful life.
Find your passion. What was that thing you loved doing? Was it art or music or something for just you? Whatever it is or was that got you excited about your day, start doing it. Set attainable goals to achieve whatever that passion is. Find that thing and sink your teeth into it.
Show your kids what you’re made of. Sometimes life isn’t fair. And the reality is that whether or not you wanted this, your kids will watch your reaction. What do you think they experience when they see their mom in misery just waiting for the “other shoe to drop”? Show them what you hope for them. Show them that life can and will knock you down but that it’s up to us to get up and keep moving.
I hope that the words and experiences from these women help you along your journey. I hope that what they have lived through and related bring healing and hope to anyone starting out on their own again. You may or may not have experienced these things but their advice is sound. And what I loved about their stories is how the end of one thing was the start of another.
What about you? Are you or have you experienced feelings and emotions like this? How did you come through it? What advice and thoughts would you give?