Can anything prepare you for the first time you see your parents together after their divorce?
I would venture to say no.
I'll never forget the anxiety I experienced the first time I saw my parents together after the divorce. It was at my sister's graduation from law school and I knew it was now or never. My parents had been divorced for over a year at this point and hadn't seen each other in just as long. My husband and I were traveling with my dad and would meet my mom at the graduation (she had the tickets).
As we approached my mom, I felt incredibly nervous. My palms were sweaty and my heart rate was up. What would my parents say? How would they react to one another? How would I deal with it all? Was it going to be strange the entire time or would I get used to it after a little while? Would I cry? Dear Lord, please do not let me cry in front of all these people.
In the end, my parents were polite and cordial (they even took pictures together with my sister) and while it was definitely awkward, it wasn't as awkward as I thought it would be. Maybe that's because I had spent the past few years preparing for this moment. And maybe, deep down, I knew this was my new reality and I dealt with it as best I could. Either way, it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. Sad? Absolutely. But horrible? Nope.
That first meeting also prepared me for my brother's college graduation a year later, when the entire family of five was together for the very first time in three years. We took pictures, we exchanged a few laughs, and then everyone went their separate ways. But nothing can change the sadness I felt and will continue to feel every time I see my parents together in the future. Having my whole family in one place brought back tons of memories for me. And it made me sad to think the five of us will never share those memories as a unit again. Yes, we'll make new ones. But it won't be the same.
I recognize that for some of you, this first meeting is still in the distant future. Maybe your parents just announced their divorce or maybe they're going through the process now and you can't imagine that they'll ever be able to be in the same room again. Shockingly, they will. And everyone will survive. Trust me.
And if you're reading this and you know you'll be seeing your parents together soon, here's my advice: breathe. Know that you will get through it. You're stronger than you realize. After all, your parents got divorced and you're still standing, right?
Right. You got this.
For those of you who experienced the dreaded first meeting, I'd love to hear your stories. How did you handle it? Were your parents civil to one another? What advice would you give to ACODs preparing to see their parents together for the first time after the divorce?