One of the Worst Parts About Getting a Divorce: Telling Children

a column about love

Telling people about the divorce was excruciating.

Even after it was no longer 'new' news to me, it was still sad to tell people who were hearing it for the first time.  A year later, some people still hadn't heard---perhaps they were old friends returning to Brooklyn for a visit.  And then I'd have to tell them.  It was heartbreaking every time.

But nothing compared to telling children about the divorce.

Nothing broke my heart more throughout the entire thing.

We had some nieces and nephews.  We had close relationships with many of the youth in Brooklyn---mainly through church.  And we knew my boss's sweet children very well, too.  I hated telling them all.

Soon after the divorce, I went to St. Barth's with my boss and his family.  My ex-husband normally would accompany me on those trips, as well.  But this time it was just me.  The children (and all their friends) were very confused about why he wasn't there.  One of the children's parents had told them that we had "broken up."  I guess this was the best way to explain it to a 5-year old girl.  Another little girl said to me, "Mara, my friend told me that I wasn't supposed to ask you something . . . but is it ok if I still ask you?  Is it true that you broke up?  It just can't be true and I don't believe it, so I had to ask you."  She was the saddest, sweetest little 5-year old ever as she asked me this question.

I told her that it was true.  But that I was doing really well and that I was still really happy and that I was going to carry on and still have a good and happy life.

The youth in Brooklyn that we knew were teenagers.  They looked up to us a lot---and I hated having them see a divorce firsthand when they needed as many good examples of marriage as they could get.  But I decided that I would do everything I could to show them that marriage and living a good life were still as important as ever to me.  They often heard me talking about how much I valued marriage and how important it was to be a good spouse.  And they were very much on my mind as I moved forward and decided how I was going to live my life.

And now a lot of them read my blog :)

What has it been like for you to explain divorce to kids?  Do you have any tips for others?

(photo:  Jeanloup Sieffe, 1963, via Mignonette)