The bravest thing you can do for yourself and for your kids today is just pick yourself up and keep going.
Today I read a post from one of my favorite authors about the messy middle.
You know the middle I’m talking about.
You’re in it and so are your kids.
It’s not the beginning hopeful fun part and not the hallelujah-we-made-it end.
It’s the part that’s sticky and heavy, where you can’t see the light on either side.
The writer said,
“It’s okay to not know.
And it’s okay to hate the not knowing sometimes.
Just keep going.
And let prayer be your safe harbor in the storm.”
Beneath it, she wrote about how her family and so many people in her life were going through some tough transitions: deaths, job losses, family transitions.
She said, “I prefer the bright shiny beginning, or the ending where all the plot lines resolve. We are not there. We’re right in the messy, wild, unruly middle, smack dab in the not knowing. And maybe you are, too. The middle is hard, especially for those of us who prefer control… specifically, all of us.”
So, we’ve identified it. For your family. This time you’re in. It’s the messy middle.
What if there’s only enough light for you to see the very next step you’re on?
I think what Shauna was saying and what to do is this: keep taking the next very best step for yourself and your family.
We write a lot about specific things to do for specific scenarios here at What About Me.
We’ve written guides on anxiety and communication. We’ve talked about resilience and loyalty and several of the internal fights your children are having.
All of those things are important, super important. In fact, we’ll continue writing many specific guides and resources and how-to’s. I hope they are helpful for you time and time again.
If you are in that place where those resources are exactly what you need, I am so glad and so thankful.
Sometimes, when you’re in the messy middle, what you need isn’t a specific guide.
You may be in a place where you feel defeated, where everything seems like a disaster, where you don’t know where to turn next.
On those days, a little encouragement beats a guide every time.
Divorce is a mess. For your family, for your kids, for your very soul.
Maybe all you need to be reminded of today is to just keep going. Keep choosing one next best decision.
Moment by moment.
This moment? Maybe it’s choosing to feed them lunch or get them a backpack for school or let their school counselor know what’s going on.
The next moment? Maybe it’s choosing a nap and a meal for yourself.
Maybe after that, it’s calling a friend and telling them you feel defeated and asking them to help you see the next step you need to take today.
Moment by moment, minute by minute, together with people we love can get us through anything. Transitions and changes are huge shifts. In life, your world, your heart. A divorce is more like a seismic shift, an earthquake for your family. When everything feels shifty and the ground is shaking under your feet, find a few things or people who are stable to hold onto. Maybe that’s a higher power of some kind or your very best friend.
The bravest thing you can do for yourself and for your kids today is just pick yourself up and keep going. Keep choosing love, even when your heart is broken.
I can assure you, your children will notice. They’ll notice you kept choosing you and kept choosing them and kept choosing love.
Also, keep your eyes on your own path. Your family’s own path.
You may have a friend who is divorced or a parent who is divorced who did things a certain way that was best for them. That’s great.
Your next best decisions for your family may not be the same as theirs.
Maybe it feels like your progress is slower or your family should be somewhere different.
Watch for those “shoulds”, those comparison games.
Your family’s journey, your family’s grieving, your family’s healing will likely not look identical to ANYONE else’s.
Your next step may be the actual opposite of someone else’s. The comparison game makes us all fools. No one grieves and heals just like you and your kids. No one family is exactly like yours.
As we learned in elementary school and all forget one million times since, keep your eyes on your own paper. Do what’s next right in your own gut.
What I’m not saying is shut people out or don’t ask for help. Definitely do that.
Then take it home, sit with it by yourself, and make it your own for you and your little people.
You can only take the next best step for your family.
The beauty of it is this: If you keep taking one little step at a time, each right in its own moment, after some time you’ll look back and see a journey, your journey, and it will be magnificent.
We want recovery and healing and grieving to be linear. We want control. I know I do.
What if it looks more like this picture I found on Pinterest that so often describes my life?
Each plot, each loop is a step.
Sometimes the steps after divorce are huge, you change jobs for your kids, move to a new home or school or you take your little family to therapy for the first time. Big steps.
Sometimes your steps are small: you get out of bed when you didn’t want to, you look your child in the eye and love them well when you’re tired, or you feed everyone a meal when you didn’t have anything left to give.
Each step matters. Each step takes enormous courage right now.
For me and my little family, it wasn’t divorce I waded through, but depression.
I remember choosing those steps and just giving my best.
I remember days I did it well and days I didn’t. You will too.
Be kind to yourself and your children in every step. This is likely the most difficult thing you and your children have ever done, maybe the most difficult you’ll ever do.
Remember this: this part you’re in right now, where each step seems to take all you’ve got, it won’t last forever. The middle never does.
Another author I love sent these two phrases out in her monthly newsletter this month and it made me think this message may be all around us, needing to be shared.
She said, “Keep not quitting” followed by “Don’t underestimate faithfulness.”
It hit me in the gut.
I think she’s right on the same journey as the rest of us, though I often think my favorite authors and speakers are leaps ahead of me.
I think she’s talking to those of us in the middle. In the messy middle of a divorce, a job change, a family restructuring, a home seemingly ruled by the teenager or toddler with the temper tantrum.
Faithfulness looks like remembering why started what we’re doing with these kids we love so much.
Faithfulness looks like not giving up when the battle is raging all around.
Faithfulness looks like taking that one next step toward healing for your family.
Faithfulness looks like hanging on tight, no matter how messy the middle is.
Don’t worry. Your kids already know it’s messy. It’s messy for them right now too. They’re in the middle of the family restructuring too. They’re reforming pictures of what they believe about family, and about what’s going and what’s not in the world. They’re still shaking as the earthquake subsides or maybe as it rages on.
They’ve seen you cry when you didn’t think they were looking. They’ve overheard phone calls when you didn’t think they were listening.
They’re also going to know if you give up or if you choose the next best step for your family and for them.
There will be an end to the stormy part, mostly.
There will always be some damage from the middle, the worst part of the earthquake, especially for your kids.
There will be a day when the ground feels more stable for you and for them.
For now, what I want you to do is this:
I want you to go back through and read this blog not for yourself but for them. Read it thinking about their messy middle, their current transitions, their worldview right now.
Then stop and think of how you can encourage them today in their own childhood language to just keep going, just keep taking that one next best step too.
If you’re willing, stop and send us a comment about how you chose to encourage them today.
We’re glad to be with you in this, even the messy middle.
- Making Order of Their Needs - December 1, 2017
- From Bah-Humbug to Christmas Cheer: How to Handle the Holidays after Divorce - December 1, 2017
- What Your Son Needs When The Ground is Shaking: Specifics for Mom and Dad - December 1, 2017