Not feeling like a failure

It's tough not feeling like a failure after divorce. I was watching Kathy Griffin on My Life on The D-List. This comedienne is brash, tough, saucy, and irreverent. Yet when she spoke about her divorce, her eyes teared up, her voice thickened, and I could hear her anguish when she admitted, "I feel like such a failure." It was the one serious moment in an otherwise hilarious show.
Those words resonate with me to the extent that I can't get Kathy's statement out of my head. My family is Roman Catholic, and yet my parents divorced when I was 3 years old. My entire childhood felt like a stigma. Everyone else's parents were married, but mine were not. Being a child, I felt that if I was just a little bit better, if I was good enough and behaved, then Mom and Dad would get back together again.

In addition, my grandmother, who was a staunch, old-fashioned Catholic, just wouldn't leave the divorce alone. She kept discussing it whenever my brother and I came to visit. We would lurk in a corner as she harangued us about my mother and the situation. We came away feeling that the divorce was all our fault, and it affected our relationship with our grandmother, who we never quite learned to love.

Fast forward to when I chose my husband. I fell in love with his stable family almost as much as I fell in love with him. His mom and dad had been married all his life. Better yet, he had grown up in the town he'd been born in. I mixed his family up with Donna Reed and Father Knows Best - the two families I craved most - and being so full of Catholic guilt, and so young and naive, I just didn't know any better.

This child of divorce was so determined not to get divorced herself, that when the worst thing that could possibly happen did, my jerry-rigged world shattered. Since then I've dealt with the loss; but I am still dealing with not feeling like a failure.

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FI0NA said...

Much the same story here. But I grew up in the archetypal model christian family. I spent so much of my married life revelling in the rightness, of being married and staying married, I can't really let it go, and when I do I feel a failure.

Anonymous said...

I was in my early 50's, had moved with my family to the mid-west and returned to graduate school in preparation to return to my career when my husband walked out without any warning, taking all money and abandoning the children. After legal settlements, graduating, and getting children off to college, one of my younger children became psychotic and has had serious mental health problems that fall through the cracks of the school and treatment systems.
It has been overwhelming. How do I pull this together and move into career mode (difficult enough in mid my 50's) without "abandoning" this needy child, now a high risk teen? The father remains an undermining influence, but I am insisting that he take in his child for at least a few weeks so that I have a chance to gather my resources. What words of wisdom can you share? I am "trashed" by all this.

Vics Still Standing said...

This is such an immediate crisis, anonymous. Your child needs you, and yet you are personally going through hell. You are having to make decisions when your brain is not functioning as sharply as normal.

You need the support of someone you trust. If you cannot afford a counselor, or don't have the time to see one because you are working or looking for work, then turn to one or two people who can guide you.

I chose two friends: One who had gone through a divorce, and another who knew me well. I or they, would call regularly. I discussed the situation with them and expressed my fears. They could think "straight" for me and they gave me sound advice.

Relatives are too emotionally close to the situation to provide neutral guidance. Choose someone who doesn't have an agenda; someone who doesn't add to the drama, but who truly wants to help. Do not make these friends choose sides. Just trust them to listen to you and give you good advice.

Be open to all the possibilities.

Your situation is extremely difficult because, as we all know, the mental health system is not set up to help parents.

You might want to talk to another parent who is in a similar situation. (My sister in law is struggling with helping her oldest daughter through her psychotic episodes, but she has the luxury of having the funds to see things through. Even so, she has had an extremely difficult time finding help for a daughter who is rejecting the help.)

Your life is a hell right now. Of course you are trashed. Again, do NOT be afraid to ask your friends and family for help, if even to come and visit you,

Tell them that you simply need to talk out your fears and that you need them to just listen without giving judgment. Be kind to yourself. Your ex is doing all the trashing, so please don't trash yourself.

If you cannot see a therapist, join a group at church or in your community. If you want to get away from the emotional trauma, then find an exercise group. I found that exercise helped to relieve me of the stress.

My thoughts are with you.

Please. Anyone out there. Do you have any other thoughts to contribute?

Anonymous said...

I know I did all I could to keep our dysfunctional marriage alive...so much so, I compromised myself. With separation and counseling, my rational side could see the positive of splitting up (he drinks, he has anger issues)...the irony is the emotional side of me mourns the loss! Loss of what?? Unhappiness? In any event, your blog strikes a chord once again and certainly makes me (and many others) feel not so alone.

Peace and smiles,
Peggy Ann

Vic's Still Standing said...

Peggy Ann,

Thank you for your kind words. Your last statement resonates with me: We are not alone. We just have to be brave enough to ask for help.

Thank you for writing.