I’ve done very little personal writing the last few years. I used to blog about being a mom to two spirited children. I wrote about moving home to my small town, about my own mental health. But since my divorce in 2018, it’s been harder to know what to say.
I haven’t wanted to write just to vent or throw a pity party. I haven’t wanted to share the anger and frustration publicly. I have, more than anything, wanted to make it seem like everything is ok.
But getting divorced broke me. Even though it was amicable. Even though we’re still great friends. Even though… even though… it still broke me.
I grew up with parents each divorced multiple times. Divorce wasn’t weird to me or abnormal. It was my life. It was my childhood.
And I didn’t/don’t want my kids to have the childhood I did. Mine was fraught with anger, tension, disdain. Always feeling pulled in opposite directions. Always feeling responsible for making my parents happy, or at least for keeping them from breaking down – yelling, crying, silent treatment, all the things.
My divorce broke me because I’d failed at my biggest goal: saving my children from my childhood.
The shame I’ve carried the last five years has been heavier than anything I’ve known yet in this life. So heavy that it was easy to bury, to simply pretend it didn’t exist. Because we were still a happy family. There are still holiday photos with the four of us. Birthdays, Father’s Day, Mother’s Day – we still do them altogether. We still cooperate and coordinate and support each other. We are, as many have told me, the “divorce dream”.
And in that scenario, it was easy to pretend it wasn’t devastating. Easier than facing the complexity of emotions that come with divorcing a great man who wasn’t enough, of maintaining such a close friendship with an ex, of putting my children’s needs before my own so they didn’t feel like they came from a “broken” family. It was easier to smile and keep going, ignoring the grief, pretending it had no place here in our happy family, now living in separate homes.
I lost myself in the divorce, and my words too. I couldn’t write because I couldn’t be honest, with myself or anyone else. My silence minimized the risk, and I could take no more risk.
Not writing kept me buried – in grief, in isolation. It kept me stuck. No way to move through me the waves of sometimes manageable, sometimes overwhelming, emotion. I wrote a whole master’s thesis on the power of self-expression and yet, I kept my truth safely tucked inside.
But now, sitting here, more than five years post-divorce, I know two things to be absolutely true:
- I need to write or I will never feel fulfilled.
- I saved my kids from my childhood.
Parrish Wilson is a writer and writing therapist. She supports her clients to process life and all it’s complexities through the written word. Check out her membership program, The Mental Health Creative, for monthly guided writing workshops and a creative, heart-centered community.