Nothing can prepare you for the moment your parents tell you they're separating or getting divorced. Even if you know things between them aren't going well, it's still a completely different experience to hear the words.
We're getting a divorce.
When I heard those words, I also heard this:
We're breaking up the family you've been apart of for 20+ years. Your life will never be the same.
It was absolutely devastating. Even though I knew my parents were unhappy, I still thought life would continue on as it always had. I never actually thought they'd get divorced, especially since they had been together for so long (now I know there is no expiration date for divorce risk).
So how do you react after the words have been spoken? How do you take that first step over the threshold into your new life - a life you didn't ask for?
The answer is...there is no right answer.
All situations are different. We're all going to experience different emotions. Sadness, anger, depression, grief, you name it. And sometimes we experience all of those emotions at once.
And you know what? That's okay.
The important thing is to let yourself feel what you're doing to feel. Don't try to censor your emotions. Because we're adults, people may expect us to pull ourselves together and act like the news isn't completely devastating. We may be expected to jump immediately on board with this life-changing decision, but who can really do that? After living 20+ years with your family of origin, it's very difficult to suddenly switch gears and start thinking about a new way of life.
These new changes are overwhelming and it's going to take time to process it all. Maybe even years. And you've got to be patient with yourself throughout the process. Surround yourself with people you can lean on and who will support you. Seek counseling. Do what you have to do for you. While it may not seem like it, now is the time to be selfish and focus on getting through one of the most difficult times you may ever face.
With time, you'll begin to see that it is possible to move forward. That it's possible to be happy. And most importantly, you'll realize:
There is life after a parents' divorce.
How did you handle your parents' announcement that they were getting divorced? What tips do you have for other ACODs out there? Leave a comment below or shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.