Of Losses & Gains

It is funny because part of the thing I decided to due to grieve the losses of the past few months was to write a list of all the things I lost.  And in writing it, I found the list was much shorter than imagined and even many of the things I had thought of as losses were not actually losses. I am not going to go into detail on everything I wrote, but it was interesting because the more I wrote the less I felt the loss.

The first thing I listed was the loss of my best friend and the more I thought about it, the more clarity has come regarding our relationship.  A best friend doesn’t repeatedly lie to and about you. A best friend is honest about problems in the relationship.  A best friend doesn’t tell everyone who will listen how lucky you are that he puts up with you.  A best friend doesn’t walk out of your life without looking back.

As I look through the list of everything, I see nothing about these losses is irreplaceable, except maybe the loss of a co-parent.  Considering he only responds to about 10% of what I email and has not continued to same standards in his house, that we had for our sons together, I can honestly say that is an irreplaceable loss.  No longer do I have anyone to consult about issues our sons are facing or have a partner to help parent or give me a break.  And no longer do my sons have a day-to-day father that watches tv with them or coaches soccer.

Every other loss is one that can be replaced.  I didn’t lose my future, but rather the one I imagined, and I am okay with that.  The more I wrote the list, the more I see what I have gained…

  • My self-confidence – as a woman and as a parent. I had spent years hearing how much I needed him and, surprisingly, I don’t.
  • My future – it was never set in stone, so I realized it was never there to be lost, but only to be gained.
  • Freedom – to make decisions without worrying about what he thinks or wishes.
  • A relationship with my sons – he had always been the “good cop” in our parenting relationship, so now I get to learn to be both good and bad cop. It is hard, but it is good.
  • Quiet – I used to feel the need to fill silences with talking…now I am content to sit silent with myself and my thoughts.
  • Potential relationships – I spent years hearing how lucky I was that he put up with me. I watched friends with husbands who treated them like queens.  I assumed our relationship was different, but now I see that I settled for feeling like I was not equal to him, so therefore I couldn’t expect to be treated better.  Now, in any relationship, friendship or romantic, I have clearer expectations of what I need and what I am willing to give.  I can also say that I deserve so much better than what I experienced.

As hard has the holiday season was, I feel like it was one of the big hurdles that I needed to survive before I could really start to move forward.  I have started the new year with a calmness and peace, as have the boys.  As I sat in church today, I was reminded that the faith I profess to follow is based in resurrection.  Last year, I experienced the death of my marriage, but I do serve a God who is very comfortable with loss and death, but also in re-birth.  So, this is my year of renaissance…of rebirth and finding beauty in ashes.


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Jigsaw Puzzles

As a kid, I would occasionally do jigsaw puzzles.  As one gets older, the challenge becomes doing more challenging puzzles with lots of pieces.  The worst was when someone (or some tail) would destroy your progress or spill the pieces everywhere.  Right now, my heart feels like that.

I keep gathering up my million-piece jigsaw puzzle, picking out the edge pieces, and whoosh, something scatters them again – a “miracle” pregnancy, a quick remarriage, now Christmas without my kids.  So, right now, I am sitting here trying to gather the pieces again.  I also suspect that when I do gather all the pieces there will be some missing. After all, you can’t give your heart to someone for 14 years and expect them not to take a few pieces with them.

What does it look like to piece your heart back together?  I wish I knew.  Some things have helped…safe spaces at home…pets…candles…new traditions.  I need to get back into exercise because it helps focus some energy and makes me feel better.  I also need to find a manageable way to process the grief.  A few people have suggested the process of writing down what I lost.  I will be doing that over the next few weeks.  I have also ordered a few books on grief and healing…the divorce books just weren’t helpful, but a therapist said what I am going through is more like a trauma and grief, so I am going to try and go down that path.

I finished my grad school classes until March, so I am going to prioritize some of my energy into healing (again).  Christmas is nearly the last of the “firsts”.  Tomorrow it will be 9 months.  Nine months of pain, nine months of yelling and tears.  It has been also nine months of finding that I am stronger than I knew and that my heart has a bigger capacity for love and pain than I thought possible.  I cling to the hope that one day I will look back and see that this jigsaw puzzle is finally put back together…maybe sans a few pieces, but more beautiful because of how hard I worked to recreate the beauty.

Lawyer. Law scales on table in front black background. Symbol of
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No Longer a “We”

I got married at the ripe old age of 21.  Granted, I was a pretty mature 21-year-old, but I was still very young.  I had gone from living with my parents to college, where I had two roommates, then I met my ex-husband and we married the summer before our senior year of college.  I don’t regret any of that.  However, because I married so young and never lived alone, I never really developed my own identity.  I was always part of a “we” as an adult.  There are wonderful things about that.  I didn’t flounder in dating land for years.  I didn’t get my heart broken by boys and men.  I learned early to make sacrifices for the happiness of another person.  Essentially, we grew up together.  We really began our adulthood as a couple.  We made our first major financial decisions together.  We experienced some of our greatest sorrows together.  We became parents together.  My adult life has relished being part of a “we”.

Overnight, the man who felt like half of me, vanished.  I honestly felt like someone had cut off all my limbs and I didn’t know how to walk or even move without him at my side.  That is the beauty of marriage, the whole “two becoming one”.  But when that one becomes two again, it is messy and it is like learning to swim without any limbs.  I missed the comfort of waking up next to the comfort of my best friend.  I had never made any major decisions as an adult without his input and suddenly I found myself having to make decisions for myself and my sons without him.  While I was trying to figure this out alone, he was planning his new life with her and her kids.  He jumped from one we to another we.  Even now, months later, I still talk about my life and my parenting as “we” …I suspect I will get better taking individual ownership over time, but I am not there yet.

Despite the grief over losing my partner in crime, I am finding some freedom in it.  Suddenly the future is the great unknown.  I get to do things I find fun, plan events that interest me, and spend my evenings focusing on my priorities. Other than my sons, I don’t have to consider another person when making decisions.  In just a few short years my sons will probably be on their own life adventure.  One may live with me for a while, but for the most part I get to start planning my own future.  I resume graduate school for public health at the end of the month and by the time I graduate, both of my sons will be in high school.  I feel like in some ways, suddenly the sky is the limit.  I don’t know what the future holds, but maybe, for the first time in my life, I am learning to embrace the adventure known as life.

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The Present Parent

I often find myself wondering how I ended up alone raising two nearly teen boys.  I know the logistics, of course, but seriously!  I wouldn’t say that I am a girly-girl, but I am not a tomboy either and I often look at my sons in complete confusion.  They laugh at farting and wear their clothes to bed and argue about the benefits of deodorant while falling out of their chairs in hysteria over The Simpsons.  I love Anne of Green Gables, collect teacups, enjoy sewing, and watching Gilmore Girls.  Of course, we have things we enjoy doing together like going to the Jersey Shore and boogie boarding or soccer (them playing, me watching), and eating great food, but often the male mind is a complete mystery to me and here I am raising two young men without the benefit of a male voice in their daily lives.  I know many single moms do it, but none of them are me!  I also think the timing of their father leaving us is just so perplexing.  I feel they are at such an age where they need a father and theirs moved across the country.  Sure, they talk to him on the phone and he buys cool gifts, like a new BMX bike for Bolt, or plays Playstation 4 with them online, but the day-to-day dad they have known and loved for the past 8 years is gone.  I find myself having to still be the mom they know while having to take over some of the roles their dad used to do.

Messi and I spent all day Saturday building a birdhouse from scratch.  Many failed attempts later, we completed it, but it looks just a little off.  Not that I felt like a failure, but I just sat on the floor in frustration wishing I knew how to help him with the project better and wondering if he was thinking “I wish dad was here”.  I know there were moments I thought it, but those same moments are followed by the crushing reality that his dad chose to leave them.  So, yes, the birdhouse is complete, but then Amazon delivered 2 precut kits that he put together while I worked today…and they look much better!


Then, I knew Bolt had his first crush on a girl and Messi has been teasing him mercilessly.  So, I let the teasing go because that is what brothers do, but when it is just Bolt and I driving in the car, I try to talk to him about different things.  So, I finally found out that they are boyfriend and girlfriend (whatever that means at this age)!  They text funny things like “how is your day?”.  I will admit I am approaching this news with equal parts terror and excitement.  I am excited because my socially awkward 8th grader actually likes a girl and talks to her.  I am terrified for those exact reasons.  Not to mention, I am trying to teach him about healthy relationships and sexuality and purity and everything, all while his dad is demonstrating exactly the opposite.  Such a hard place to be.  At the same time, I encouraged him because this girl he runs track with and I am so happy he likes someone who enjoys the same activity he does.  Don’t we all want relationships with people who share our passions?

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I sat on the phone last night talking about this all with a friend and with my dad.  It is so frustrating to be the only “present” parent.  I am the only one here every day to help my sons navigate becoming young men.  It is scary place to be, but also an honor and a privilege to walk this journey with them.  I know it is going to be full of false starts and detours and mistakes, but I need to trust that God will give me wisdom and guidance along the way.