Stories of Divorce Survival 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.
Divorce can be defined as the legal dissolution of a marriage by court. Emotionally and realistically, divorce can be defined by chaos, pain, change, struggle and sacrifice. I have not been divorced myself, but I have watched my mother divorce three times. Each divorce was harder to swallow since I grew older as each one occurred.
Seeing my mother experience the divorce process time after time was confusing, then heartbreaking. It gave me the same feel as watching someone snatch the fairy tale ending from right under the princess. My mother married my father at the young age of 19 years old, which coincidentally was shortly after my birth. They were young and in love, but the love just wore off.
They divorced at the time I was just turning 1 year old and I was left at home with a single mother. Most would say since I was only 1 year old, the divorce did not affect me. Yet, I disagree because there is something about seeing my mother’s tears that will just never leave my heart or mind.
A few years after my mom’s first divorce, she found her new-found happiness in the father of my youngest brother. He gave her pieces of happiness in each gift that eventually grew from bracelets to homes to her son.
He was the military man of her dreams but he eventually turned into her worst nightmare. I remember them yelling, seeing them pace the house screaming, and I remember chaos. I remember seeing him punch a hole in the door because he was so angry, and I remember that being the moment before we were on the path to another not-so-fairy-tale ending.
I was eight when this divorce broke my mother’s heart and I helped her pick up the pieces this time. We moved in with my aunt following the second divorce, bringing home a beautiful baby boy. My mother took a break from dating and we got used to just having her and my aunt around. Those were the golden years, in my opinion. I had to grow up very quickly due to the divorces and those single years for my mother gave me a chance to just be a kid.
By the time I had reached the fifth grade, my mother started dating again. It all started out as innocent fun, but it led to the most destructive love spell she had ever been under. She had rekindled an old high school flame and within a year, she was married and we were swept off to Texas. This marriage was different, probably because I was old enough to understand everything this time. I saw all the arguments, laughter, good times and especially bad times.
They had four good, somewhat rocky years together before it went downhill. He started gambling, which led to him cheating on my mother as well. I think the only thing that hurt me more than my mother’s tears was seeing what would make her cry before it happened. I saw him with another woman, in broad daylight at the store, they kissed and my heart broke for my mother. At that moment, I had to find whatever strength I could as a young woman.
The following six weeks were the hardest of my life to this day. All I can remember are countless talks, secret packing with my mother, arguments, slamming doors, fading family dinners and a long drive back to my aunt’s house in California.
Divorces had become a permanent part of my life, as you can see. But each divorce gave me strength and knowledge I wouldn’t have had otherwise. I survived the divorces by finding something that kept me sane and helped me remain myself. I survived the divorces by feeding off of my mother’s strength.
Not matter how hurt she was, she smiled as bright as ever, each morning. The third divorce did discourage me more than the others because I was older. Yet, I feel that is the divorce that made me stronger and closer to my mother.
I’d say a key part to surviving a divorce as the child is to remain humble, stay true to yourself and be vocal. Do not bottle your feelings if you feel like you need to reach out. Divorces can seem like a really bad breakup, but you just cannot let it break you.