Thursday, July 1, 2010

Sinking


This week I attended a class on the responsibilities of separating parents. It is required by the State of Kansas for any parent filing for divorce. It’s a two-hour class and it’s held every week and people file in and pay their fee and sit in a closed-in space in folding chairs, smile briefly at each other before retreating into their own world. It’s quite a cross-section of society, as you might imagine.

A woman comes in and approaches the front, introduces herself but no one remembers her name, at least I don’t. She starts talking fast as if she’s reading something or talking from rote, as if she’s done this a hundred times before and doesn’t want to be here. But then who does?

She starts reading through a booklet we’ve all been handed when we paid our fee. She starts with general divorce information, moves into the grief process and the stages of grief (this from Kubler-Ross) and talks about how it doesn’t end with the divorce, but can go on for years. There are PowerPoint slides to illustrate exactly what is in our book. We all shift in our seats.

She talks about communication and how we should treat our relationship with our ex-spouse as a business relationship, professional yet cordial. That if our communication was poor before we shouldn’t expect it to improve with divorce. That we will need to continue to negotiate for years and years over who will pay for sporting events, special healthcare needs, whether we can switch weekends when the in-laws are in town, etc, etc.

She moves into children’s response to divorce and what we can expect at different ages. She says that after the death of a parent or sibling, divorce is the single most stressful event in a child’s life. That we can expect them to be angry, hurt, sad, anxious, confused, depressed and afraid. They may regress. They will likely blame themselves. Children of Danny's age may become aggressive and throw tantrums, become suddenly clingy or have trouble sleeping at night. Anna may feel torn between her loyalty to each parent, may retreat into herself or sob uncontrollably.

There is more after this but I don’t remember what it is because this is where I stop taking in information.

At the end we sign a certificate and we are free to leave and return to our lives. I go back to work.

At the office my work piles up. I’ve got to revise our budget, make audit entries, close the books, complete a stack of grant reports. We are launching a new system-wide database next month and I’m supposed to be in charge of it.

Sometimes we'll be sitting in a meeting and someone will ask for my input and I'll look up and have no idea what's being discussed. None at all. Sometimes I go out at lunch but I'm not hungry so I just drive around for 30 minutes then come back to the office. Sometimes I close my office door until I think no one can tell I've been crying.

Two cousins had birthdays last week and I didn’t get gifts in the mail. Not even cards. My lawyer emails me and wants to know if I’ve completed the paperwork she’s waiting on. We need to have it before we meet next week to continue working out the settlement, dividing up assets, debts and children, the bounty and detritus of eight years of marriage.

I get a phone call from California. My elderly aunt has fallen in her apartment. She lives alone. She has no children or other close relatives, her brother (my father) having passed away years ago. The apartment manager wants her to move out. They don’t think she can live alone anymore, thinks she needs to be in a nursing home. The fire department has said her place is a fire hazard because they can’t get through the hallways, that she hoards stuff. Can I do something?

We are heading into a long weekend. I will turn another year older. A birthday will come and go. Our country will celebrate it's independence. We will buck up and strive to maintain some sense of normalcy for the sake of the kids. Go through the motions of family life.

For the longest time I was doing okay. I was feeling hopeful and looking forward to moving on. Sometimes I still do. Often I laugh and joke with my friends. Sometimes I feel light and I am doing okay. But more and more I am not. More and more, I'm just struggling to stay above water.



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53 comments:

  1. Everyday we have to tread water just some days we have to paddle harder. Some days too hard.
    One thing at a time. Take care of yourself and your kids first. Everything else when you get to it.
    And if you are truly sinking, get help.

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  2. Ah FARK - I hear you. Just keep swimming hun, you never really sink like you think you will, you just get tireder (!).
    So you have to get out and laugh your butt off in order to offset the burden.

    xoxoxoxo

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  3. Oh. Tears fro you, my friend.

    I only know divorce as I watched my parents go through the motions. I was 19 and it was still awful.
    I want to say that everything will be okay. I want to be the fix it person here but I know that sinking feeling, not through divorce but because of other things and I know that sometimes there is no fix and sometimes it is okay to let the water wash over you, to sink to the very bottom until you find your footing again, then push yourself to the surface once more but I hope you know, I hope you see that by writing this beautifully, painful, honest post that we can buoy you up, be your inflatable device. We can support you while you're treading water.

    Many hugs for you.

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  4. I know that sometimes life can just throw shit bomb after shit bomb. And these days will pass - but until then thinking of you everyday.
    Mrs Woog
    xoxox

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  5. One foot, one foot in front of the other and remember to breathe. The little things will get lost in the fray and that's okay, even as you blame yourself that you should have remembered them, you've always remembered them (are we out of milk again? where did my week go?).

    Divorce looks a lot like death from this perspective. And it is a death, of a marriage, of a life.

    One foot. In front of the other.

    And remember to breathe.

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  6. All this and a Power Point Presso as well. Sorry that you are feeling down. All you can do is keep going. Sad but true. And if you keep walking you'll get there one day. Agree with Kristin - get some help if you can.

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  7. I don't pretend to understand what you're dealing with, but I do know what it feels like to have your world falling down around you. Like Veronica said, it's one foot in front of the other, one day at a time. And you know that you have our support.

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  8. That's a huge amount to cope with... any of us would be overwhelmed.
    Keep going, however you can, step by step.
    I'm a child of divorced parents and it was tough - but I survived. Kids are amazingly resillent, as long as they know they are loved. Yours are truly loved and you'll all come through together.

    Thinking of you.
    x

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  9. Hang in there honey. You can do it. I know you can! Massive hugs.xxxxxx

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  10. I'm sorry you're going through a rough time:( As others have said, all you can do is take it slow, go through the motions until one day you realise things have gotten that little bit better

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  11. Just - *hugs*
    Thinking of you xx

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  12. I know in the midst of my greatest confusion, writing offered immense comfort. To put my thoughts and feelings outside my own head and heart, and give them a voice of their own, changed what I knew and understood about myself.

    I wouldn't know what to say that could help. I'm guessing that the words that actually make a difference - actually change things - are the very ones you are writing.

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  13. Oh Kristin. This is a raw transition. Hang on in there what else is there to do? It will not be like this forever.

    (And what is this bullshit course they have y'all doing????)

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  14. Hard for one to be dignified when one is piled, en masse, into a lecture like that :( As if it isn't difficult enough, it sounds like it might have been the drop that broke the banks. It may be strange of me to say, but I am glad you cry - let it out, let your tears be your messengers - far better this way than do as my mother did after she kicked my father out when I was 11: try to pretend she didn't care and he didn't matter, indignant chin in the air and all that.

    You're being real. Butt I'm so sorry real is sometimes so hellish and hard xxxx

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  15. OMG..... how did the double 't' get into my last line? Of course, I just meant "but"!

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  16. Beautifully expressed, as ever, Kristin. Your eloquence and thoughtfulness will get you through this awful time. Take care of the kids and yourself and worry about the rest some other time. Love the things you can and put one step in front of the other. Seek help if you're going under, but sinking a little is natural at this time. Thinking of you. xxx

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  17. All the wonderful advice I have to give you, just sounds stupid.
    What would I know anyway?
    When I fell apart, I didn't have little people to think of.

    But of course, that's not going to stop me from trying to offer something that might help just the teensiest bit.


    Give the children to the fella with instructions for no interruptions and for quietness in the house.
    Lay your head on your pillow, close your eyes and turn off your brain (some chemical assistance might be required-don't fight it-you need help).
    SHUT the door.
    Do it early - 7pm.
    Don't read, don't write, don't touch anything electronic, don't watch tv - don't do anything. Just lay there.
    Like a vegetable.
    Everything can wait - the world won't stop turning without you.
    Let sleep do some healing.

    I know that's what my Mum would tell me to do - and I know your Mum isn't here to tell you - so you can borrow mine at the moment.

    (And at some point - sooner rather than later - ask your doctor for a vitamin B injection in the bum - they help you weather the storm.)

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  18. If you're going through hell keep going.....
    I came to think of all of the overwhelming bad stuff as payments into my karmic account. Think of all the good stuff that will come your way (and it truly does!) when you can say "I remember when it was so hard..."
    Hug your kids a lot, be honest with them and yourself, and know when to say help. You are dealing with far more than anyone imagines.
    Do one thing just for yourself every day. It might just be painting your toes, but it helps you remember that you are worth spoiling.
    Mother Theresa actually said "God doesn't give us anymore than we can handle. I just wish he didn't have so much faith in me!"
    You're in my thoughts....

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  19. *HUGS*
    Thinking of you and sending positive thoughts your way.

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  20. Oh, I could have written this post (well apart from the fact that you are in a different country, with different laws). But I am going through divorce, trying to struggle through custody battles, financial settlements etc, and watching the havoc all this carnage is having on my kids. I hate it. Like you, I am doing one step at a time. Hope things improve ...)

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  21. I know it won't help a single bit for me to say that these feelings pass (because I know from experience they do). But bloody hell, it's awful while you're waiting for that to happen. It's shitty, unfair and downright exhausting. I do hope you get a small piece of peace soon, wherever you can find it. Take care x

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  22. I have no words of wisdom and probably few that would actually bring any comfort. I cannot say I understand because it is happening to you, not me. What I can say and be truthful is this. I care and am praying for you. It may not be enough but it is all I have to offer. If you need it, it's here for you, as am I.

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  23. What can I say that everyone else hasn't said already.

    I hear ya my friend .. Just Keep Swimming !
    ( Don't fotget to take some ME time & breath )

    If all else fails, run away to Australia .. we would ALL have ya at teh drop of a pin !

    Big Cyber Hug from Down Under

    xoxoxoxoxo

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  24. Once you have learned to swim you can never drown. The end of my marriage and my divorce tried to suck me under many times but each time I struggled to the surface. Every time I popped up and took a deep breath and glimpsed the light I knew it was worthwhile treading water for another day, a week, a month. Eventually your feet touch bottom and you can drag yourself out, shake yourself and sit on the warm sand in the sun thinking ' well that wasn't so bad'. Trust me - this is true.

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  25. I am sorry you have to go through this phase and although we can speak wise words, we can't really do anything to help you. You need to take on one thing at a time... It's not important how hard you fall, the important thing is to bounce back. And you will, again and again.

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  26. Thank you everyone for your kind words. xoxo

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  27. Oh sweety. Like Veronica said, just keep putting one foot in front of the other. It's a HARD journey, but you will get there.

    (((((huge hugs))))) xx

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  28. I am so sorry to hear about this... what an awful, draining and stressful time for all of you. Lots of hugs and loads of warm and fuzzy thoughts.

    AND I am throwing you a pair of water wings - you're not drowning on my damn watch!

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  29. It's tough, I know. I got divorced after having been married 12 years when my boys were 6 and 7 and 1/2.

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  30. I like what Veronica has said. Just keep going. You are strong. I have faith and respect for you.
    I'm not sure what i think about the "divorce masterclass".....i can't imagine anything like that in the UK.

    http://marketingtomilk.wordpress.com

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  31. Please stay above water. It is so worth it.
    I'm very sorry for what you are going through.

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  32. I hope hugs will help keep you afloat. I am sending you many.

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  33. you got a lot going on for sure.
    i dig your detail in this piece, especially 'we all shift in our seats.'
    yeah, i know that feeling, being in a crowd in that moment. nice.
    and i like how you have no idea what's being discussed. 'none at all.'
    great universal moments.

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  34. Great post. I am sorry that you are going through such a difficult time. Sometimes just keeping your head above water is the only thing you can do, and that's okay. It may get worse but you will figure it out and eventually things will be okay again...even good. Pinky Swear.

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  35. This too shall pass. It always does, even when we think we're worn out, shredded, shattered. But it doesn't have to happen alone. Writing is good. We're all with you. Have coffee with friends and yes, seek professional help if you feel you are struggling too much. Sometimes, just talking to a neutral party - not a lawyer, not a government rep, not a friend - can be good, because you'll say things you wouldn't to anyone else. They won't care if you yell and scream. They will not take offence or talk to anyone else involved.

    I know it's a rough time and this may sound trite, but I really hope that you do have a happy birthday. Sending cheery thoughts and sunny days your way. X

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  36. i think as Celeste said, the words you have just written are the ones that will help bring you to a better place...and until then, i really hope all these comments give you some comfort in knowing that so many people around the world are sending good thoughts your way! As cheesey as it is to say, it is only time that heals..

    Also wishing you lots of hugs as you turn another year older xo

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  37. Sorry for what you have to go through. I like the way you described the "mandatory" session--I could see such a session could really be useful, but when it gets reduced to a check-off, it's lost any relevance to real life. Hang in there.

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  38. I'm so sorry to hear of your heartbreak.

    You can only take it a day at a time and eventually it will get easier.

    Some days you're more capable than others and on the days that you're not so capable, it's okay.

    You are human and grief is something that takes time. Just take care of yourself and allow yourself to feel it. That's the quickest way.

    We have to have breakdowns to have breakthrough's and unfortunately the only way out is through.

    I will keep you in my thoughts and just remember on those really hard days if there's only one thing you can do, make your bed. ;)

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  39. I certainly hope the local Kansas bars offer the "I just went to my required divorce class"
    drink special.
    It's the LEAST they could do.

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  40. @ Katie, no kidding! They could call it a cup of condescension.

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  41. Thanks everyone. I so appreciate your support. It helps, it really does. xx

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  42. I started to write some wise words - I stopped. I have been there - I know what you are feeling and going through - You will survive - What doesn't kill you will make you stronger. I am thinking of you, Wendy

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  43. One day at a time, baby steps, it's the only thing you can do, really.

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  44. Cyberhugs from me to you. Everyone else has given you the advice I would write. Just know I am thinking of you, and I will send chocolate if needed, even if it is hot over there. Keep writing, sometimes it helps xxxx

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  45. It's hard, but everything you are going through is normal. And if you feel like you can't handle it anymore, please find help. A therapist, anti-depressants, some time to yourself, exercise, yoga- something- to help you find your way back on track.

    This feeling does NOT last forever. I promise.

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  46. I'm curious - do BOTH parents have to attend this class? What happens if a person does not attend?

    This is a very difficult time for you. You have to deal with it one day at a time. You will get through this.

    You are strong. This will make you stronger.

    My husband left me when I was 6 months pregnant with our daughter, and we had a 2 year old son who possibly needed open heart surgery. Talk about needing strength! But I made it through. So can you. Stay strong.

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  47. @ Pat, yes both parents. When you attend you sign a certificate that goes to the judge. No certificate, no divorce. It's all very warm and fuzzy and highly personal.

    And wow, that must have been devastating for you. I can't even begin to imagine. I'll stop whinging now. (Actually, I probably won't.)

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  48. I've sat in those chairs and gone through that class and got the certificate that I'm an educated co-parent. I would've written this same thing 6 years ago, just not as eloquently :)

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  49. Whenever you feel like you are sinking, just yell. I'll come a-running with a glass of champers. Ok? Oh, that, and a life bouy. hugs. x

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  50. I'm so very sorry I was on vacation from reading blogs back when you wrote this. I've been there, done that, survived, and come out on the other side--mostly. It's a cycle, that grief, and even when you aren't mourning the loss of the spouse anymore, you do feel the guilt for what you are putting your children through. I'm not going to lie about that, because that would be crueler than the truth.

    I don't have an answer for you, not really, not one that fixes it all. I can say, however, that even when you feel like all you're doing is treading water, there are always deeper wells of strength from which to pull than you ever imagined. Those breakdowns? Those tears? They aren't weakness. They're part of it all, and they will gradually grow less frequent and painful. The tears will dry, the laughter will return.

    And the obvious love that you have for your children will win in the end. I believe that, because I've seen it in other people's children, and I have to believe it for mine, but FUCK it's hard in the meantime.

    Hugs, lots, and I'll be thinking of you.

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  51. TM, thanks for your beautiful comment. It means a lot, regardless of when it arrives. And I'm terribly behind in my reading too, so please don't apologize for that, I'm glad you're out living life with your family. xoxo

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  52. Today, after a year of sometimes doing okay, but mostly finding myself bawling all the way to the office, I went to my dr and he has prescribe an anti-depressant. I tried valiantly to steer clear of this route, but after a year of walking the 'natural' route and not seeing the effects I had hoped for and still feeling as though my entire life is out of control, I needed something more. I wish you love and strength, it's not easy but doable.

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  53. Thank you Wendy. I wish you strength as well. xx

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