Stories of Surviving Divorce From Real People

Editor’s Note: This year, Modern Law began offering a scholarship to people who have survived divorce. We asked applicants to tell us in an essay how divorce had made them better or stronger. This series is the result of the stories we received. We’ve changed names and locations when appropriate. 

Surviving is one thing, living is something else entirely.

Surviving divorce was easy. As a seven-year-old child of parents who divorced, that may sound like an exaggeration, but granted my age, it’s nearly impossible to do anything else. They say children depend on their parents—I think that’s the other way around.

Parents can heal through their children, and even learn from them. Now, I’m not trying to make a grandeur statement by that. What I mean is, at the core of it, children are taught by their parents. In my case, I was taught by my mom. My mom was strong—she still is one of the strongest people I know—and I modeled that behavior.

I loved my dad, but did I dread going to his house? Absolutely. I can’t recount how many nights I lost sleep, wishing I was back at home in my bed—my first bed. But I never let any of that show. I stayed strong for both my parents, because I knew the dam would break if I didn’t, and a flood of emotion would come rushing out. It sounds ridiculous now, but that kind of thing really taught me self-control, which came in handy when I was teased in middle school around the same time as my parents divorce

People could say whatever they wanted, and yeah, it hurt, but I never said anything back (okay, maybe once, and I don’t remember what it was, but it was worth it, trust me). In other words, I survived. High school was a little harder, as I struggled with coming to terms with the reality of the divorce, and along with it came identity issues that, on the surface, seemed fairly simple to solve by someone just telling me, “You’re not him.” However, that became increasingly harder when more and more things about myself—my eyes, my nose, my hair, even just the way I look when I listen to people—looked more and more like my father. I thought, high school was supposed to be a journey of self-discovery, well into my college years, and here I was, seven years after my parents divorce, still trying to decipher the face in the mirror.

However, as the years progressed, I realized, in everything I did, every decision I made would be part of throughout my four years of high school, to just debating between a burrito or a slice of pizza on lunch break—was my decision. I finally had control over something in my life, and I used those decisions to shape who I am today, for better or worse.

Soon, my morals developed (the word dreaded by most parents of a teenager). I learned not just what I stand for, but what I actively fight against. I learned how to be a friend. I learned how to love, and love myself. I learned how to live. So, I guess you could say I survived divorce, but that would be an understatement. If it weren’t for that singular event, I wouldn’t be half the person I am today—and that’s a token that can’t be traded for all the double Christmases in the world.

Click here to read another divorce survival story.