Perhaps the most important advice I can give someone going through a divorce is to keep the long view in mind. Although it is easy to be swamped by the immediate emotions, the years after the divorce are where you see the impact of your decisions on your entire family. And nothing brings it to the forefront like a milestone event for your child, which I am currently experiencing.
My daughter Sarah graduated from high school and will soon be heading off to Wellesley College. This summer has been marked by a graduation weekend with extended family, and soon I will join my fiancé and Sarah’s dad to move Sarah into her dorm.
Bringing together the extended family for graduation post-divorce could have been painful and awkward. But it was a wonderful, celebratory weekend filled with love for Sarah and our love and respect for all members of the family.
Sarah was in grade school when her dad, John, and I divorced. Divorce is always painful, but we were blessed with a team of collaborative professionals to assist us in the process. I have known for years that a collaborative divorce launched our excellent co-parenting relationship. What really resonated on graduation weekend was the impact on the extended family.
My mom flew in from Arizona and John’s mom flew in from New York. These grandmothers had not seen each other since Sarah’s baptism. John’s brother came from Pennsylvania, and he had not seen my mom since our wedding 24 years ago. Also in the mix was my fiancé, Josh, his daughter Lily and his parents.
I admit I was a bit nervous about seeing my former mother-in-law and brother-in-law, but it was incredible. We all worked together setting up for Sarah’s graduation party, had multiple meals together, carpooled to the ceremony and sat together cheering for Sarah as she collected her diploma. The love was abundant in all these events, which was priceless.
Here’s what collaborative practice allowed for our family: we began to forgive each other and start healing. If we had litigated, the resentments would have become entrenched. By forgiving each other for our failures in the marriage, we could open up to respect and even love towards each other as parents of our amazing daughter. Our tone set the tone for our families – no one needs to choose sides or hold resentments. We can celebrate with full hearts.
When we wave goodbye to Sarah at Wellesley this month, she can feel secure knowing her crazy, blended family is behind her, laughing, hugging and linking arms. I am looking forward to the next milestone, when we can all gather again. I know that wouldn’t be possible if we had litigated our divorce.
I hope every parent going through a divorce strives for more than just being civil to each other. My hope is that you can celebrate the gifts each parent and family member brings to the life of your child. It starts with your divorce process – collaborative practice allows you to transform your relationship.
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