The Lingering Brokenness Of Divorce

by Vanessa Nichols
Originally Published: 
Woman sitting at the kitchen table alone
Blend Images / Shutterstock

I’ve been navigating being a divorced mom for 10 months now. I won’t count the prior year that we were separated because I truly thought there was hope of reconciliation so, 10 months. That isn’t a very long time, I realize this, but it’s enough time for the proverbial dust to settle and feel the feels.

Here’s where I’m at: I’m broken.

This is not to be confused with still being in love or being broken from not having a man in my life. Yes, I sustained a pretty fractured heart through all of this. Yes, I fought for our marriage long after I should have, fueled by my love for him even when he gave me every sign that changes weren’t going to be made and our lives wouldn’t come back together as a couple. My heart has healed a bit since the rawness of all of those unexpected blows. What keeps me broken are the voids that go along with my new divorced life, especially as a mom.

My daughter is 6. She has two houses. She has two different parenting styles within these two houses. She has two totally different lifestyles in these two houses. She has to adapt to these differences.

She remembers a time when it wasn’t this way. She remembers one house with two parents. She remembers being able to ask Daddy for something if Mommy was busy. She remembers doing everything as a unit of three. She remembers a dinner at the table with all three of us. She remembers that feeling of safety from knowing her family was under one roof.

She now has this void in her life, and this void of hers brings the greatest amount of brokenness for me.

I get it. Divorced parents are the norm. It’s been the norm for a few decades now. It’s commonplace, but this doesn’t mean that it doesn’t hurt like hell for kids. It certainly hurts my daughter. No, she doesn’t have behavioral issues or some grave form of childhood depression. She is actually quite well-adjusted, but she hurts. She is sensitive, and she worries about hurting our feelings, too, like if she would rather be with me when it’s her dad’s night. She will tell me she misses her dad living with us under this roof, our roof. His house is still not a home to her, because to her, home is where all three of us were. She still asks if Dad will ever live with us again. That stings just as much as it did the very first time she ever asked. This is an integral part of shaping her and the adult she will become. It’s not what I would have chosen for her.

I didn’t sign up to go at this alone. Yes, we co-parent. Sometimes we co-parent pretty well, but it still is not what I wanted my family life to look like. Not having a partner is a huge void for me. I did not get married and procreate to eventually toss my child back and forth between houses, no. But more so, for me, I didn’t want to be staring across the table at an empty chair at dinner or an empty spot on the couch after I put my daughter to bed. I didn’t want to make every decision alone or not have someone to bounce ideas off of. Not having that person to talk to about the day’s events, or to not even have that person there with you to stare at a sick, feverish child at 2 a.m., is painful. And it’s not just a person that’s missing, it’s the person that’s missing who helped create this life with me.

I have tremendous moments of jealousy and envy when I see a complete family walk by my daughter and me in the mall or in a restaurant or at school functions. When I see my friends posting pictures on Facebook celebrating anniversaries and holidays, I struggle with my emotions. I have a difficult time pushing aside this bitterness that continually surfaces.

Then there is the huge void I feel when my daughter is with her dad. Those two or three nights a week that I’m missing out on her and her life. Those moments that I can’t share with her. That pang of hollowness when I pass her empty room as I’m walking to my bedroom at night. That feeling of emptiness knowing that if she wakes up scared or sick that I can’t be the one to comfort her.

It’s nice to have some moments to myself. It is. It’s a break from parenting, in a way, but it isn’t a break from worrying. It isn’t a break from continuously wondering if she ate well, if she’s feeling OK, if her homework is done, if she got to school on time, or if she’s happy. It isn’t the type of break I ever wanted.

I often hear that some think I’m “lucky” because her father is “so involved.” I disagree. It isn’t luck that the man that I chose to marry and have a child with decided that he didn’t want to be my husband, or even be a dad at times. It’s actually quite unfortunate. Am I glad that she has a father who is living up to about 35 to 40 percent of his obligations? Sure, it’s more acceptable than none at all, but it isn’t “lucky.” I would rather we live up to 100 percent of our responsibilities as parents and still be a family, but that wasn’t in the cards. I am forced to settle for what he will give to her.

This brokenness is lonely, and I’ve allowed it to steal a lot of my joy. I spent more than a few nights in tears mourning all of these broken pieces. Last year at this time, I was in the trenches of the entire divorce process. I was watching all of these broken pieces being thrown up in the air and holding my breath to see where they would land. They’ve landed, and yes, it’s made a bit of a mess.

What I’ve learned is that what’s broken will remain broken, because there are just too many pieces to put back together. But I’m doing the best I can to make it a beautiful mess. Instead of putting the pieces back together, I know it’s up to me to create something new, something even more amazing.

I’m getting there. I’m learning that my new norm is a fierce lesson in independence and strength. I’m learning that living with a certain amount of brokenness is OK, because it has to be.

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