Friday, February 28, 2014

Coping With The Unexpected

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Every once in a while, something will happen in our lifetime that we never thought we'd witness...let alone be a part of. Sometimes it's a technological advancement, a natural disaster, a ground-breaking medical discovery, or even sometimes it's something more personal. For me, it was being the maid of honor at my mum's wedding this January.

The last few years have been life-altering for me and healing from my parents' divorce was the first big step. We're living in a time where it seems like everybody gets divorced, so it helped that I had a lot of people I could lean on for support when I needed it, but it was still an excruciating thing to witness and try to adjust to. And if I'm to be completely honest, I still haven't fully made that adjustment. Every once in a while I'll have a dream where my parents are still together, where we're on a family trip or all just hanging out together at the dinner table. When I have dreams like these it's makes me realize that these things will never happen again and it's like the wound has been reopened and an entire container of salt has been poured in. I will never have Christmas dinner with both my parents at the same table, I will never go on another fun family trip with both of them, I'll never see them cuddled up on the couch watching TV together, I won't ever see them exchange gifts again. I will never see any of those things that were once priceless to me happen again.

I imagine that having your parents divorce when you and your siblings are adults is a whole different experience than having them divorce when you're young. I don't think one is any easier or more difficult than the other, just different. My younger sister wasn't out of high school yet but my brother and I were and we were both in serious relationships of our own. My parents had their issues like any other couple (obviously, considering the divorce) but they were also my role models regardless. My parents got married when my mum was only 19-years-old and were together for over twenty years. My whole life I have wanted nothing more than to be somebody's wife, to make them happy, and to raise a family of my own. So as a young adult who was striving for a serious and happy relationship of my own, witnessing my parents divorce made me feel hopeless. Like if they couldn't succeed I'd never be able to.

As soon as I started to make progress in healing from the divorce, the next step came along before I was ready for it, and it was even harder. Watching my parents start to see other people. I'll never forget the first time I saw my dad kiss a woman that wasn't my mum or when I saw my mum kiss her now husband for the first time. It's something you never expect to witness in your life because everything is supposed to be perfect and your parents are supposed to be together forever. Once I realized that it was truly over and they were moving on, I knew that it was time for me to move on also. I did a lot of reading and research around the time that my parents split and I learned a lot. Some of the things that I realized I had to do in order to get through it as healthily as possible were:

1. Do not compare. I learned that regardless of how naturally it happened, that I had to fight to not compare the people my parents were seeing to my other parent. "My mum is more beautiful", "My mum is more successful and sweeter", "My dad is better looking", "My mum is more giving", "Dad is funnier", etc. were things that were constantly going through my head when I met a woman my dad was going to take on a date, or a guy that my mum was talking to. I had to constantly remind myself, and still do, that this isn't about me. It's not about who I like more, who I think is "better", or the fact that I wish my parents were together...it's about my parents and what makes them happy.

2. Don't be negative. Staying positive might have been the most difficult thing and I still have negative feelings about all of it from time to time, but I learned that the negativity is useless. Being negative about my parents' divorce, their new relationships, or my mum's wedding wasn't going to change any of it. My negativity wasn't going to bring my parents back together or stop a wedding. I had to realize how much mine and my siblings support meant to my mum and be there for her for this new chapter in her life, and to be happy for her. Again, her wedding was about her and her new husband, not about me. Hopefully one day I will be married, and that day will be about me and the man who will be at the altar with me. But mum's wedding? That was about her and her husband and I needed to accept that.

3. Accept the situation but don't expect affection. Acceptance is the key to moving on in any situation because acceptance means that you're no longer fighting something. Once I realized that my negativity wasn't going to change anything, I had to accept the situation for what it was. I had to focus on my mum and hope that this new chapter in her life would bring her the happiness that she deserves. However, I also accepted the fact that I might not have the "ideal" relationship with my dad's girlfriend or my mum's husband right away. It's easy to form a bond and love your friends and your boyfriend/girlfriend because after all, you chose to have them in your life. Something about your friends attracted you to them and made you want to have them be a part of your life, same as your partner. And it's easy to love your parent. While you didn't get to choose your parent, there is a natural love that you will always have for them. However, the person that your parent chooses to be with after a divorce might not be a person that you like, you might not be drawn to their personality...you might even be strongly repelled by their personality. That's where acceptance vs. affection comes in. You can accept this person into your life because you can't change it, but you nobody in this situation should expect affection and a bond to be formed between the adult children and the parent's new partner. If affection and a bond form, that's fantastic. But it can't be expected from either the children or the new partner. 

4. Be respectful. All of these things sort of tie into respect, but respect alone is definitely important. Respect that your parent deserves to be happy, deserves to find love again, and deserves to continue on with their life. At times it might be hard to find positive things about the new person in your parent's life, but you have to put in the effort and make it happen. What made me realize this was recognizing that, "Holy shit. I'm sharing my mum with this man now." My entire life my mum was my dad's, my siblings', and my own. Once the divorce happened, she was mine and my siblings. On her wedding day, my brother walked her down the aisle and when he was asked, "Who gives this woman?" he responded with "Me and my sisters". That's when I lost it during the ceremony by the way, tears were pretty much impossible to hold back. That's when I realized that's what was going on. My brother, my sister and I were giving my mum to her husband. We were telling him that we were accepting him into our lives and sharing our mother with him. The woman who raised us, whom I love more than anything in the world. That's respect. From that moment on, my siblings and I were trusting this man with my mother's health, her heart, and her happiness.

Anyways! My mum got married in Hawaii this January and the trip to the islands was so much more than a trip for a wedding in my eyes. Yes the wedding was the focus as it should be, but I got to spend a week on Maui with my siblings (who I don't get to spend a lot of time with anymore), my mum and her husband, my grandparents, and my aunt. I only see my aunt on major holidays and maybe a few times a year when it's not a holiday. Same with my grandparents. Spending a week with them I got to learn so much more about each of them and I got the chance to strengthen our relationships. Ever since the trip I've made more of an effort to make use of, and appreciate, the time that I have with them...meaning more visits to see them, which I love! My older brother lives with my dad and we both have such different schedules so it's rare that I get to see him for more than a few minutes at a time. My little sister lives across the state where she's going to school so I only get to see her every few months. So, this trip meant a lot to me. I hadn't been on a vacation with my sister since I was 17. Laying by the pool, watching stupid videos on Vine, laying in the bed making silly videos and laughing...all those silly moments with her that week made me infinitely happy. Especially because I didn't know when I'd get to see her again. Which I still haven't.

I love both of my parents more than words can say. I don't resent either of them for what happened. I understand why sometimes these things happen. I accept it. I'm proud of both of them. I'm thankful for both of them. And I'm excited for both of their futures and what's in store.

The wedding was very tiny, with more people in the wedding party than in the audience, and my mum made a beautiful bride. Once we get the finished professional photos of her wedding I'll be posting some. But for now, here are some pictures of our trip (: 






                    



                 

The one time I get my brother to smile for a picture and I'm making a stupid face

               












She couldn't have looked more beautiful

4 comments:

  1. LOVE the pics tuesday. I actually got teary eyed at the whole post. :)

    ReplyDelete
  2. Aw thank you Christina! That means a lot! Most the stuff I write about is really personal to a certain degree but this was probably the most difficult one to write. Very emotional to me still, BUT I'm so thankful for my family. And "broken" or not, I know I can always count on them. My siblings are incredible<3

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  3. Your feelings about your parent’s divorce is very understandable, because children are the most affected with the change. It wasn’t easy to deal with, but I guess seeing your mom and dad being happy on their separate lives somehow helped you to accept things. And thanks for sharing some insights on how to recover in a healthy way. It will surely be helpful to those who are currently in the same situation as you were.

    Sammy Jackson @ Ken Phillips

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you so much for the feedback! It means a lot.

      It's a day to day process but it does get easier with time, I never thought it would but it does!

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