Divorce just as difficult for adults

Natalie Gray

Let someone stand an inch in front of you and throw rocks repeatedly at your face. That’s a sample of how it felt to hear my parents say “divorce.” The memory still makes me cringe. Divorce is a harsh reality for everyone involved, but if you’re like me and only pictured divorce in a family with young kids, you probably never fathomed how people in their 20s cope.

Divorce. It happens in 36 percent of families in America according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Children across the country are traveling between moms and dads house, often living out of suitcases and hearing parents fight and argue over custody. It’s tragic, but what about couples with no children or kids who are grown?

What comes to mind when thinking about divorce? Divorce always looked like a (relatively) young couple going their separate ways, dividing the money and belongings, seeking counsel to perhaps salvage the relationship. But in the end, it’s no use. It doesn’t stop there. My mind visualizes children. Young, vulnerable and helpless children forced to stand by and watch their family fall apart.

I don’t know why I always pictured divorce like this or why it never occurred to me couples of all ages and in all stages of life (with or without children) go through the hardship of ending a marriage. It wasn’t until I was 20 years old that I realized how narrowly I saw divorce, when my own parents decided to call it quits.

No more going back home for a nice weekend and some home-cooked meals, holidays with everyone together, family vacations or movie nights. It seemed so insane. No one believed my parents would ever split.

They waited to get married, waited to have children, made it through the honeymoon phase, the 25-year anniversary and the emptying of the nest. Was their marriage perfect? I laugh at the thought. But they held it together and made it through every rough patch. Well, almost every rough patch. Making sense of it was a losing battle.

Is it harder for an adult to see parents divorce, or for a 9-year-old? While my sister and I don’t have to jump around between homes, we struggled with not placing blame on ourselves. Who dwells on the divorce more, a child or an adult? Some believe adults dwell on divorce less, due to dealing with their own life, struggles and responsibilities and not seeing the aftermath of the divorce on a daily basis. In some ways, however, it makes it worse.

So yes, divorce is a trauma to family, without question, but it is not the death of a family.

Some people find comfort in counseling while some just want to scream at their parents for therapy. I rather enjoyed giving the silent treatment.

The reality is divorce splits a couple, not a family. Did we all sit around the table for a lovely Thanksgiving meal? Get real. What it did do was bring my sister and I closer (this was a big deal), and my parents are doing things that make them happy.

Thanks to my parents’ impeccable timing, I had to return to school and real life immediately after hearing the news. Carrying that emotional weight was too much and every couple made me sick. I had to get control of my thoughts before I became the most cynical anti-marriage being on the planet.

Today, as I sit in my favorite coffee shop and type this I still have questions and emotions not dealt with, but I am coping. Everyone who experiences divorce can cope – it’s just a matter of taking the initiative to get there.

Natalie Gray can be reached at [email protected]