“When My Parents Split Up” is a HuffPost series that explores what it’s like to have your parents divorce at all ages, from infancy to adulthood. Want to share your experience as a child of divorce? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
When she was 28, Raquelle E. learned that her parents were splitting up after 40 years of marriage. Two years later, the sixth grade teacher from Chicago is still trying to make her peace with the divorce.
“Given my job, I constantly have to put on a happy face,” she told The Huffington Post. “It was extremely difficult but it also forced me to move on, whether I liked it or not.”
Below, the 30-year-old tells us more of her story.
Breaking The News:
“My mom told me and my siblings without my dad present and it became very difficult for us to ‘choose sides’ as their kids. We got caught in the middle of a lot of back-and-forth. We tried to make the most rational decisions possible and made vows to each other that we would never disband as siblings. No matter what, we were going to stick together on all of our decisions. That was probably the biggest testament to my parents’ love and the work they did with us as children: We refused to let divorce break our bond. Even when my parents wanted nothing to do with each other, we have refused to allow anything between us because we are family. And we will always be family.”
The First Few Years:
“It still feels raw, especially during the holidays. It’s been two years since finding out and it’s still a struggle but I am trying. I’m navigating new relationships with my family and it feels like a lot of maintaining individual relationships — it’s no longer the ‘unit’ I had. The first few years were a blur. At an age where everyone was talking about marriage, everything I thought I knew about relationships blew up in my face. I didn’t know where to start. I spent a lot of my time cursing my way through weddings and celebrating other people’s happiness while I felt like I was dying inside. I felt selfish for my feelings; here it was the best time of their lives and the worst time of mine. How could we possibly help each other? I learned that it was best to deal with things on my own. A lot of people don’t want to hear your sob story so it’s important to find people who will be that shoulder to lean on, no matter what. If that person isn’t there, have faith in yourself. You are strong and right in all that you feel. It’s OK to lose your shit. You’re losing your shit because it mattered. Because it’s important.”
“I was a 28-year-old woman with a sense of family, relationships and security all well-established; it was traumatizing to have my world flipped upside down and having to figure out a new normal. What I once relied on as my safety net was no longer there. It felt like a death in a lot of ways. It may sound dramatic but it was the death of my family as I knew it. At the same time, I was in and out of relationships of my own and I felt like I was constantly grasping for a sense of stability. I still feel that way, but have learned to become more sound in being on my own and finding peace within myself.”
Her Relationship With Her Parents Today:
“My parents are two absolutely incredible people and I feel very lucky to be their daughter. I try as hard as I can to stay focused on the type of parents they are to me. I cannot agonize over the messy details of their divorce because I cannot control that. No matter what happens, I will never have all the answers. I will never know exactly what happened or didn’t happen but I know that they both love me dearly and are amazing parents. I try to let go of any resentment I have and be the best daughter I can be. I love them both with all of my heart.”
“If you’re an adult child of divorce, don’t let anyone tell you how to handle your pain or accept the idea that it’s somehow ‘easier’ if you’re grown up. Feel what you feel and don’t feel sorry about it. Don’t ever let anyone tell you when it’s time to be positive and move on. Don’t let anyone dismiss your pain. You are strong and you are going through something that not many people understand. Divorce is never easy but I would argue that’s it’s much more difficult when you fully understand what’s going on. Know that you will have an advantageous outlook and better understanding on life and relationships because of this experience. You will never get over it but you will learn how to cope. And that’s OK.”
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