Why Being an Adult When Your Parents Divorce is Devastating
When it comes to having parents getting a divorce, the conversation in regards to children is often focused young children, rarely adults. When you're an adult, it's a whole different ball game, and it sucks. So I'm going to share my story in hopes that it will lead to some deeper healing, and hopefully gives someone out there something that they can relate to; something that lets them know they're not the only one struggling with this.
I fucking hate Valentine's Day, but not for the usual reasons. I used to not mind it, and it was a great excuse to eat chocolate. But Feb. 14th was my great grandma's birthday, who passed away a few years ago. It's also the day that Isaac, my sister and I helped my mom move into her own apartment because my dad wanted a divorce. That was a year ago, and I've had quite a few panic attacks and been overwhelmed with anxiety this weekend as those memories come back. Plus, today is fucking Family Day, a holiday here. Awesome.
I'm not in any way saying I'm against divorce - I believe that people need to do what they must in order to get through this life in the way they deem is for their best. What happens in a relationship is nobody's business except for those in the relationship, and I am not here to judge. I also understand that it had nothing to do with me, but was a decision my father needed to make for himself. What I do want to do is talk about what it's like having your parent's divorce when you're an adult and people expect you to be able to cope.
I have not coped well. So much of my identity for 25 years was built on the belief that family is one of the most important things in this life. I have always had a family home to go back to, I knew what to expect for the holidays, and I knew they would take care of each other as they grew older or if one of them got sick. Now, I'm homesick, but I have no home to be homesick for and I feel very lost. My biggest worry about the holidays used to be if we spent them with my family or Isaac's, but now I worry about spending it with his family, my mom or my father, and if I choose one parent will the other be hurt or lonely?
Now I worry about both my parents as they age, and are now alone. Both live in towns that are not near my sister or I - what happens if one of them gets sick? Who is going to take care of them? My mom lives so far away that it is hard for us to come visit, and even if I do, the only memories I have of the town she lives in are of family trips there together. I cannot go see my dad, because he is still in the same house they lived in and it triggers all kinds of panic and suicidal thoughts being there without my mom's things and seeing the animals she loved but had to leave behind.
It's been hard on my own relationship as well. In the depths of my anxiety, I worry about everything. One of the things that inevitably always comes up is wondering if or when Isaac is going to leave me, whether it is logical or not. I know worrying won't help, and what will be will be. But if my dad can leave my mom after 27 years of marriage, and everything she thought was true was a lie, then why would my relationship last? Why should I believe him when he tells me he loves me and isn't leaving - my dad used to say the same thing. That's the joy of anxiety - it cycles and spirals and takes things you understand logically out of reach; logic seems illogical.
I will be honest and say that this is one of the many triggers that led to my breakdown. I barely managed to deal processing these changes, and when Christmas started coming I simply just could not anymore on top of everything else I was going through. It got to the point where I was so confused, torn and exhausted that I thought it would be easier to kill myself. I didn't know who I was anymore, because one of my core identity pieces had been shattered. On the other hand, it took that happening for me to re-establish a relationship with my father, and it strengthened the close relationship I already had with my mom.
A huge part of my work has been developing rebuilding my identity and establishing boundaries around this situation. I have learned to put my needs first, and that there is nothing I can do to help either of them. The only thing I can do is my own work, because I now understand that me being gone would hurt them even more. I am learning how to define my identity and my values for myself, since what I grew up with no longer exists. I spend most days feeling lost, and feeling homesick for that feeling of safety and familiarity. I'm nowhere near being able to cope with it, but I did make it through this weekend without seriously considering suicide, which is a HUGE step and was not the case two months ago when I was this triggered.
If you are going through a similar situation, I want to leave you with this - the only thing you can do is show up and do your own work, for yourself. We each go through this life and need to follow our intuition to our own highest path. By understanding that, I am slowly starting to forgive, release my anger and sadness, and move forward.