Grief and Joy?

   So, I have tried to fight it, ignore it, and deny it, but the reality is that I have been living in a fog of despair.  In survival mode; going through the motions but feeling a weight of sadness pulling me down.  Doing everything I need to do, making sure the kids are taken care of, but just not being me.  Feeling like the world was spinning around me, but I was standing still.  Not feeling the joy I used to.  My heart wouldn’t be tickled with joy the way it used to be when Caleb told me about his silly school adventures or when Noah told me one of his cute jokes.  Each week I would give myself a pep talk, that this would be the week I would snap out of it.  That surely, if people say you can choose happiness that I can choose to just get over this.  But I couldn’t, and that just made me feel worse.  And the light at the end of the tunnel seemed to get further and further away with each court date.

Lately, life has been a whirlwind of court dates, attorney visits, and counseling appointments.  I kept busy and I convinced myself I wasn’t sad because that would just make everything worse.  The boys need me to be strong.  So, I ignored the sadness I felt.  I convinced myself that the tears on my pillow were just a result of me being overly dramatic.  That the feeling in the pit of my stomach was a result of me just making things worse.   How could I be so pathetic, when so many others have been through so much worse??  But pushing it all away or trying to talk myself out of it didn’t make it any better, it didn’t make any of it go away.  It only made it worse.

A few weeks ago I took the all day parenting class that is required for divorcing parents.  And to my surprise the class consisted of all of us sharing our situations.  And with each story the instructors would ask questions and point out what could be worked on to help the kids with the situation.  I struggled to hold back tears and breathe while I gave a quick synopsis of our situation.  And I was confused when the instructor did not offer any constructive criticism as he had done for everyone else, but instead went through the stages of grief.  I was so confused as to how he could think I was grieving when I tried so hard to hide it.  I was even kind of mad about it because I convinced myself it wasn’t true.

Last week we went to court for an attempt at mediation.  Our mediator explained that if this didn’t work,  that we would be referred for the next level of intervention, where we would lose all say in when we would see our own children and that our lives would be turned upside down for 4-5 months while they question our children, their teachers, doctors, etc.  And as she asked us questions, he lied as usual, making ridiculous accusations.  But I was surprised as he said he wants 50/50 custody, this is a change from him previous saying he wanted sole custody.  Whenever I spoke he interrupted to tell her that all I try to do is make him look bad.  And as she began to stress how we need to work together for the boys, and as she seemed not to see how much I just want what is best for them, I couldn’t hold back my emotions anymore.  And as I started crying, she also started explaining the cycle of grief.  And she explained how it can be hard for divorcing parents to co-parent when one is still grieving more than the other.  She explained to me that when I bring up affairs or concerns over parenting in the past it is only going to make things harder in the present.  But how can I talk about our divorce and just forget about everything that got us here or why I have concerns for the future??  She asked if we had a picture of the boys.  And after she admired it for a couple of minutes, it was obvious she was holding back tears herself as she asked us not to take away their beautiful smiles.  She said that we both seem like wonderful people and surely that must be why we ended up together to begin with.  Surely, once upon a time.

This morning we go back to court to try again and see if mediation can work for us.  I now realize this divorce has nothing to do with what is right.  As they told us in the parenting class, the court doesn’t care what has happened in the past, they just want us to come to an agreement.  Do I fight for what I believe is best and put my children through a custody study?  Or do I continue to try and give him what he wants to avoid more conflict?  As usual, it appears the latter is the best option.  I keep thinking about what the instructor at the parenting class told us, that the courts almost always want 50/50 custody, even in cases of past abuse, and I realize that somehow I have to accept this.  But, I think about missing out on 50% of my children’s childhood and it feels like someone is stomping on my heart.  It’s so unfair.  I didn’t want this.  I gave up so much just to try and prevent this.  I have been the one caring for them, making decisions for them, and protecting them since they were born.  I am the one who knows them best.   But it seems none of that matters now.

Despite all of this, or maybe because of it, I have noticed changes in myself over the past couple of weeks.  Despite him discouraging me and despite my own doubts and worries, I have been doing more for myself. I researched lots of career programs and found one that seemed promising and I enrolled..  I signed up to be a consultant so I could sell a product I love.   I started applying to more jobs.  When it is his time with the boys I have been going for long walks, and really enjoying them.  And a teensy bit at a time I feel better about myself and about the future.

Saturday was Aron’s day with the boys and so as usual I made plans with my brother so I would be out of his way and so I would be distracted.  Usually during these times I am pretty miserable.  I worry about the boys and I miss them.  And when I see other families it serves as a reminder of what we could have been, or at least what I wanted us to be.    But, on Saturday as I was driving to pick up my brother, all of a sudden I realized the fog was gone.  Somehow that feeling of sadness that had been hanging over me for so long had disappeared.  I was singing along to the radio and I felt like myself.  But, not the me I have gotten to know over the past few years.  The part of me that I lost – happy and hopeful and dreaming of the future.

Yesterday as Caleb told me silly stories about his class pet Gilly the tadpole, and Noah and I danced around the living room, my heart felt tickled with joy again.  Only, now it felt even better than I had ever remembered.

Now, sometimes, I feel like I can do this.   I don’t know how I will, it seems that I have so much stacked against me.  But God loves me, my boys love me, and I am even starting to love myself.   And maybe if I just keep putting one foot in front of the other, somehow I’ll get to where I am meant to be.  Maybe the label of single mother doesn’t have to be so terrible,  maybe it can be something I am proud of.  And I am starting to accept that some days I am going to be filled with grief, and that’s okay, but as long as I keep going it’s going to be okay.  Maybe it will be even better than okay.

I realize now that true joy doesn’t happen because we have what we want or because we are comfortable.  It doesn’t happen simply because we choose it.  And it doesn’t happen despite sadness.  While I don’t totally understand why, I think it takes some sadness to allow us to find true joy in our lives.

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