Children of Divorce

The other day, an acquaintance said to me “I didn’t know Mormons could get divorced.” It stopped me short, but I recovered quickly. Yes, Mormons can get divorced. The general impression is that we do it with less frequency than the broad population, but if you look at the numbers, we are nearly equal. Part of me likes that we are perceived as having more stable marriages, and part of me pays the price for that perception within my own community.

I have three separate sets of LDS friends who are navigating the choppy waters of divorce. No one ever wants this to happen— I don’t care who is involved or who initiates the process, it sucks. Anyone who tosses platitudes about how divorce is “too easy” is a fool. While every divorce is different, I guaran-damn-tee you, it wasn’t a decision entered into lightly, or on the fly. There is always— always always always— years of pain and hidden struggle, despite how things may look from the outside.

What my children and I experienced in our divorce was not just the loss of a husband and a father, but the literal loss of home, safety, financial support, family and any shred of security. Most children, mercifully, will never have to go through that, even in a divorce— but the ones who might (mine) can and do turn into fine, well-adjusted, happy and healthy young people.

It just takes time.

Jeffrey will be eleven in two weeks. He has the most memories of the last few years, and the vocabulary and maturity to express himself- and he does. In the car the other day, we were talking, and Jeffrey wondered aloud at how his friends are feeling. I asked him who he was thinking of, and he rattled off the names of the kids who’s parent’s are divorcing, and added “I remember then, when it was new, and it was scary and hard.”

I was quiet, hoping he would add something further. I find if I give him room, sometimes he is able to find more he needs to say. “How about now?” I gently ask.

He leans his head back on the seat and looks for a bit out the window before turning to me. “Now it’s so much better, mom. I’m happy. I wish I could show my friends that. I don’t want them to be scared. Things are SO much better.”

I teared up, and put my arm around my giant kid. With the devastation we went through, the upheaval, the constant struggle, the mom being in school year-round, the extra responsibility placed on his too-young shoulders— this is the truth. He is happy. He knows he is loved, and he has the compassion and ability to empathize with those he cares about and try and share it.

It’s not that I recommend divorce as a way of forcing growth. If there is a way to happily and healthily hold a family together, it’s preferred. In my case, that wasn’t possible. But know that if you’re facing divorce, or someone you love is, it’s truly not the end of the world. It may be the opening of a whole new world, one you didn’t know or plan for, but one that might hold happiness you never expected to find.

I know that my children are better off and happier than if I had sacrificed us on the altar of “staying together no matter what”. I know this. Two miserable people cannot raise happy children who know how to build healthy lives.  Ironically (or perhaps not) my relationship with my ex-husband is better and healthier now than it would have been if we had stayed married. Getting divorced freed us from the expectations of the other, and allowed us to be who we wanted and to remember what we liked about each other, and not be swallowed in disappointment and pain. He’s my friend again.

This enables both of us to be productive and healthy parents, in ways that were likely blocked to us had we bypassed our own spirits and happiness in order to present the world an ideal. Had we stayed together, I would have been a miserably unhappy woman, and he would have continued to turn to unhealthy means to cope with the weight of that unhappiness- his, and mine. Nothing will ever convince me that raising children in that environment would have been healthier— emotionally, spiritually or temporally— than what we have now.

It gets better. I promise. It takes time, patience, and love. But it gets better.

17 thoughts on “Children of Divorce

  1. Thanks, Tracy. Good on ya.

    What you’ve said about divorce coming after years of pain is so true. Talk about selfishness and ‘taking the easy road’ is so glib and foolish. Quite often, the person who initiates the divorce is actually the one who has put the most effort in over time. One reaches a point where there is simply nothing left to give. One can choose to die or move on. Possibly, no one who hasn’t been in that situation can know it.

    • Quite often, the person who initiates the divorce is actually the one who has put the most effort in over time. One reaches a point where there is simply nothing left to give. One can choose to die or move on. Possibly, no one who hasn’t been in that situation can know it.

      Amen and amen, Thomas Parkin.

  2. I love how fresh your take is and how real you are. While I am neither the product of divorce (my parents are not church members but have been married 35 years) nor have I been divorced myself (only married 13 years), I appreciate your honesty and candour and feel like I learn more from your perspective than from the cliches and trite answers that so frequently get pumped through the church (not that the church or leaders are wrong but they haven’t BEEN there).
    Have you ever considered writing a book about divorce and raising kids as a single parent? I can imagine there is a LARGE market of LDS parents out there who would love a realistic and honest approach and who would flock to a book like that …..

  3. I’m so glad your son could say that he is happier! That is huge. You have had a long road, not over, but moving forward and I so appreciate you sharing it.

  4. I have so many thoughts on this, and am not sure an eloquent way to word them. I am a product of divorce, LDS (temple sealing and all) divorce, including an eventual temple sealing cancellation. I am a better person for it. My parents, though one has fallen away from the church since then, are better for it. Hindsight is 20/20 and I understand things as an adult much more clearly than I did as a child, but everyone was so much more happier after the divorce, even now. My parents were better parents apart than they ever would have been together.
    I still would not turn to divorce as the first answer to struggles, but sometimes even hard fought struggles end in divorce, and that is better for everyone involved. It allows for opportunities, like Jeffrey, for growth and maturity…hard earned and well prized!
    Children of divorce…yours will be just fine!
    Love them, love you!

  5. As a fellow divorced, single mom, thank you so much for articulating what I have expreienced and felt these past few years. No one knows the road of pain and grief a person goes through before, during and after a divorce. The experience was painful, but I feel so blessed for the growth and increased perspective that have come as a result. My home is not “broken” and my children are not destroyed. I feel so much more whole as a woman and mother and I know that blesses both my children and me.

  6. I would love to hear my son say the same thing someday, but we aren’t there yet. Working on it though :-) I envy the sort of freedom you seem to have found in knowing that you are better off this way. As dumb as it sounds, I almost wish I had years of misery and thinking about it first before my ex walked out the door (with his mistress). Although there were the usual issues that any marriage has (and a few big ones that I thought we were working through) I considered myself happy and he told me he was too. It’s quite possible I would have eventually called it quits if the issues he had didn’t resolve over the years, but I would rather exit a marriage feeling like we had done everything possible before signing the papers than this feeling of wishing he had been honest with me before he had both feet out the door. I have come to realize how much choice means. We are very amicable and it isn’t hard for me to do, but a big part of me will always resent him for taking that choice away from me.

    My (long, rambling) point is I think true healing will come when I can also look at my kids and genuinely feel that our family is better this way than if we had been together long enough to work on the dividing issue(s). I guess you don’t escape the years of pain whether you are the ‘decider’ or the ‘decided.’ Without minimizing the fact that being a single mom sucks and will always involve some amount of baggage, I am happy to hear that your family seems to be in a good place. I know there are always good days and bad days, but posts like this give me hope for the kind of contentment I am hoping for for me and my kids. Thanks for sharing it :-) (btw, when does school start for you?)

    • Can I offer some insight? I’m going to, and I hope you know I’m talking to myself in writing this as much as to you (or any other person in a similar situation)

      We are all the decider and decidee, all the time. My husband chose drugs and financial ruin, not a mistress, but I lost the life I wanted just as abruptly. The choice lies in how we respond. No one, and I mean NO ONE, can take away your ability to choose and make decisions in your life. Very seldom do any of us get to make the choices we want- the power lies in dealing with what we’ve got.

      There is no escaping pain, it’s just in how you want to deal with it. Being alive, living in this world, from being born, to death, means pain. Life means constant change, and change usually hurts. Your children may come to place where they see the grace in what you had to do– they may not. My other two may or may not have the grace of Jeffrey- but their outcome and point of view does not determine the validity and grace of my path. It’s that way for everyone.

      You have to find your own worth in who you are, and not in the reflections given to you by others. This is part of why I am on such good terms with my ex. People ask me all the time how I am not angry at him– and I’m genuinely not. We are both fallible and broken people, doing the best we can, and we both have screwed up along the way. It would be easy to point the finger of blame at him since his flameout was so blatant- drugs are bad… but the truth is, I played a part too. My part is not as easy to sum up and blame as his, but it’s just as real. It would be easy with your ex, too. But to what end? The truth is, we all bumble and mess up in a million ways. It’s not for any of us to rank the mess we make and decide who is more culpable.

      The grace lies in forgiveness. Forgiveness, and faith that you are still in the hand of God. What would I not know about myself if this hadn’t happened? What might my children not have learned? Who knows what lessons we could not have learned any other way.

      I hope that is helpful.

      • That is all true and very helpful. Forgiveness, faith and worth are all things I am struggling with now, more than in the beginning when I firmly believed that how I responded would define me. I do still believe that, but I wasn’t prepared for how exhausting it is to continue to forgive in the face of constant new hurts, and how tempting it is to just find my strength from anger. I’m not giving up into bitterness by any means, and I know where I want to be and where I want my kids to be, but I am still floundering through the ‘why’s’ and the self blame. The shred of faith I am clinging to is that if I continue to do the things I know are right and will move me forward, I can find the strength I need for that forgiveness and that I will acquire better faith along the way. Sometimes I fail and sometimes I am barely doing it, but I’m still there for now. I’m anxious to put this behind me, but I know it is a process. It is always nice to have perspective from others who are familiar with the path. Thanks for your insight. :-)

      • My heart goes out to you. I know where you’re at, and I know the anger and hurt. I lived with it for a long time. It does go away, so help me… it does. Just keep putting one foot in front of the other, and the healing will transform you. I’m a living testament to that truth.

  7. Tracy – you are wise beyond your years. I have read your blog for quite a while and have never commented but this entry and your reply to Cynthia brought me to tears. Your son has a beautiful soul as do you. Thank you so much for sharing yourself and your children with us. My trials are different than divorce but the wisdom and advice you share is just as applicable. God bless you and your family.

  8. DD, Eliana, Kellie, Ms. Jackson, and Peggy- thank you all for your kind comments as well. I appreciate the de-lurking, the continuing friendship, and support. Dandelion and my relationship with the real people who read and comment is honestly part of how I have been able to deal with the last many years.

  9. You are amazing. Absolutely amazing. Like Peggy, your response to Cynthia brought tears to my eyes because of how humbled I felt at your self reflection and accountability. Thank you for MY reality check.

  10. So many people have asked – some with accusing undertones – why I’m able to spend time with my ex and my kids…as if I’m betraying myself by so doing. My reasons are and have been the same as yours: he is human and made mistakes.

    Thank you for articulating so beautifully my own feelings. The hurt does pass, even though it once felt like it would swallow me whole, and I am being made into a new creature.

  11. This was a beautiful post Tracy. I appreciate your honesty and openness and it amazes me how often others throw out the phrases that can cut a single parent to the bone without batting an eye. I too am a divorced single mother of 4, not 3 like you, but your journey even though it’s been different from mine has brought me strength and more than anything a guiding light through the darkness many times.Thank you for highlighting the good and the hard times.

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