*After spending 15 years as a couple and raising a child together, my partner and I decided to go our separate ways. It was not an easy decision, but life takes unforeseen turns.
In my grief, I was ashamed to admit to myself and others that we were no longer a family. Slowly but surely, I managed to tell those most important to me.
Telling my parents was the most difficult. It was seven months before I could utter the words without sobbing, but I became stronger with each disclosure.
I was relieved when I could finally end one of those calls with laughter and not tears. I braced myself as I called one of our older, straight friends. She loves us as individuals as much as she loved us as a couple. After getting over the shock, she said, “Well damn! Y’all doing it like the white people! Ain’t nobody fighting, stealing money, or tearing up the house?” We laughed out loud.
I said, “Girl, no. We love each other too much for that. The sadness is enough to deal with it. We don’t need this to be ugly. That’s not who we are. We’ve raised a child together. We have to show him that you can still treat each other with love and kindness while grieving.” I willed myself to stay true to that ideal as cried myself to sleep.
Yet, one of my biggest concerns is for my son. How can I reassure him that love can still exist after a separation? Emotionally, it feels as though he is 10 years old again and not 25. I want to show him – and myself – that although the two mothers who loved and nurtured him are no longer together, we are still family. We are determined to show him by example that separations don’t have to be ugly. Still, as a mother I wince at the thought that this is a pain I cannot shield him from. His relationship with his “other mother” is just that, his. I hold back from trying to manage the grief felt by both my son and my ex, as I endure my own. I love them enough to allow them to adjust to this new chapter in our lives in their own way and their own time. Still, coming to terms with our decision to separate and maintaining harmony was difficult.
I am in awe at how God will send you what you need when you need it! A trip home to receive the wisdom of my elders brought me some advice and closure. My mother said she wanted to go home to Asbury Park, New Jersey, for a visit. I hadn’t been home since my father’s passing two years earlier. I didn’t want to fall into the habit of only scheduling my trips home around funerals, plus I had promised my grandmother that I would come home more often, so I agreed to go with her. We were lost in our own thoughts during our road trip along 95 North.
When we arrived, my spirit was lifted as my family members hugged me a little bit tighter and were excited to celebrate my newfound title of “author.” They were also tender when asking how I, my son and my ex-partner were doing. I told them that we loved each other very much and we would be fine … in time.
After a couple of days of visiting with family, I was summoned by two different groups of my mother’s high school girlfriends to visit. It felt good to have them love up on me as we shared childhood stories about Asbury Park and Neptune. I signed their books and blushed as they told me how proud they were. My mother was preparing for my cousin’s anniversary cookout, so I went to the second gathering of her friends alone. One of the ladies there was the mother of my childhood best friend, who was absent due to a prior commitment, the second was my friend’s aunt, and the third was a family friend. I remembered how fabulous these ladies were when I was a little girl. I studied the lines etched on their faces. I imagined the stories behind each one. We sat at the kitchen table with glasses of wine after I signed their books and took pictures. At 68, 70, and 71 years of age, these three were still full of life.
My friend’s mother marveled at how, I, her daughter’s best friend, was sitting at the table relating with a group of 70-year-old straight women. I couldn’t help but ask her a burning question. “How do you do it? “I asked. “I see your family gatherings on FaceBook and everyone is there, including ex-spouses. How do you remain friends after the divorce?” She said, “Our stories are no different. Love is love and pain is pain. Time heals all wounds.”
I spent the next two hours listening to those ladies talk about how other women, including my grandmother, gave them strength and support as they went through divorces. Their experiences were as heart-wrenching as mine. And yet, they survived.
My thoughts drifted to another one of my best friends, who had gone through a painful divorce and loss of primary custody. I recalled listening as she spoke of the anguish of not being able to see the daughter she loved and nurtured. I asked her, “What do you miss most about not seeing the baby?” She exhaled before answering. “Everything. I miss taking her to the park and watching her play. I bought her an easel. I wonder if she thinks of me when she uses it. I wonder if she remembers me?”
My friend’s sadness made me grateful that our family dynamics changed when our son was an adult and not a child. We are blessed to have raised a beautiful, kind and college-educated man. We are committed to loving and respecting each other as we continue to guide and support him, together. And yes, with love and God’s grace, time will heal all our wounds.
Monika M. Pickett is a veteran of the United States Army. Her debut novel, PRETTY BOY BLUE is available on Amazon. Pickett is an advocate and activist for the LGBTQ community. For more information on Monika M. Pickett, please visit, www.MonikaMPickett.com. For other inquiries email [email protected]