Six Years Later: What I Wish I’d Known
The night before April 26, I blew up six fat balloons and hid them in Mom’s closet. Birthday season had officially begun! My youngest son Nathan and I, and my dad have birthdays within less than a week of one another. Mom gets the whiteboard out, writes Happy Birthday in pretty letters, adds the appropriate name, and keeps the eraser handy.
In case you haven’t guessed, Nathan and I live with my parents; we have since November 2012.
This year, Nathan turned 15. Four days later, I had a milestone birthday. For me, the milestone was about more than entering a new decade. This was the first year in several when memories of other not-so-happy birthdays didn’t threaten to put a damper on the fun. Not that the flashbacks didn’t come, because they did, but they didn’t come as often or as intensely, and I didn’t have to work very hard at asking them to please leave the party because they were acting inappropriately.
My husband moved out the day after Nathan’s birthday in 2011. A year before that—also around birthday season—I’d started discovering things that made this move necessary. Moving out was supposed to be a wake-up call—temporary if everything went as hoped. Everything didn’t. Three months later, my husband expressed his desire for a divorce and left town.
It’s probably a good thing I didn’t know temporary would become permanent. I might have allowed some destructive things to continue. It also helped that I didn’t know Nathan and I would eventually have to move, and that his older brother Christian, who was almost 21 when his dad left, would choose to stay behind where his job and his friends were.
God has reasons for not allowing us to see into the future.
As I celebrate this new beginning, I can think of some things that I do wish I’d known as a newly-single mom. Since I can’t go back to 2011, I will share a few of them with you, in case you need to know…
Life will be good again. The day I realized, like it or not, I would be going through a divorce after 22 ½ years of marriage, I felt like I was living a bad movie. How would I survive as a visually impaired mom who couldn’t drive? (Oh, yeah, did I mention that?) Six years later, Nathan and I live in the city where I grew up. Nathan has his grandpa as a father figure, and cousins that double as friends. I love our church and have great friends. I not only survived, I grew in independence and strength. I’m not happy that my husband left, and I will never be the same person again, but I love the life I have now.
Someday, you will like your life too.
Be careful who you listen to. I am terrified of sharks. I’m talking phobia-level fear. It would be stupid of me to tune into Shark Week. I had to apply the same wisdom when it came to grim statistics and judgmental statements about single moms and their children. I wish I’d ignored them sooner. I’m thankful for the much more hopeful stories about successful men raised by single mothers, and women who experienced their greatest triumphs afterlife fell apart. I did not need any more reasons to fear that my kids would be messed up; I needed evidence that my kids would be okay.
I also learned to be selective about who I shared details of my situation with, I took advice from and asked to drive me to difficult appointments.
The more supportive friends and messages you fill your life with, the better.
“Handling this SO well” doesn’t mean you aren’t allowed to grieve. One Sunday morning I slumped in the pew and fought back tears through the entire service. As soon as my friend Lindy said hi and gave me a hug the levy broke. Friends had praised me for handling things so well, and here I was weeping where everyone in our small congregation could see me. Lindy was sweet enough to let that be okay. A few months after I moved, every emotion that I’d stuffed so I could get through my divorce, move, and start over, began to surface. Once again, God sent friends who reminded me that grief was called for.
Losing a lot calls for a lot of tears.
One 14-week support group is not a healing process. I felt so frustrated with myself when, five years after my husband left, I reacting to a conflict in a way that pushed me to find a counselor before one person suggested it. I’d been through Divorce Care, Betrayal Care, worked one-on-one with a Steven Minister… When would I get over this?
I now know that there are some things we never get over, which is why we need to deal with them so we don’t end up in another bad situation or drive a really nice person crazy. It’s hard to fully do that in a room full of people while watching a video series.
Someday, someone will need you. When a friend’s divorce was final and the emotions caught up with her, I cried right along with her. If I see an overwhelmed single mom in tears, I can’t not hug her. In March 2016, my book Suddenly Single Mom hit the shelves. Writing it required reliving every painful detail. But each time a woman lets me “Your book encouraged me,” I thank God for the opportunity to tell her, “You aren’t doing this alone.”
Someday God will use your story too, maybe not in a book, but definitely through how you respond to women who are in the same “I can’t believe this is my life” place that you are.
Until then, pay attention to what God is teaching you, know He sees you, and know you are loved.
You can find Jeanette’s book here:
And check this fantastic interview on the Easy Wife with Jeanette!