The Last Child.

My daughter had been travelling Europe for six months. My youngest son and I decided to join her for Christmas and spent some time with her in London and Britain.

Over the course of the two weeks together we spoke of many things and inevitably did get on to speaking about “it” (ie: the break-up). In the beginning after the separation, my children had been tremendous emotional support to me and we had leaned on each other through the pain and shock of the abandonment. Then, as I began to heal, I attempted to shield my two younger children from further negative discussion. As much as I could, I tried to put it all behind me and to be the strong one for them, to behave as I would have behaved had the trauma never occurred. To a certain extent we were living a facade as I was far from complete recovery; and they were still very much in grief.

The separation had been hard on them and it is has been difficult for them to find someone that they can talk to. Who best to talk to, but their mother? So on this holiday, knowing that pain and bewilderment is best addressed, when a few comments came out I encouraged my daughter to talk about what was concerning her. I explained that if not worked through, it could eat at her for years. One has to come to a point of accepting what has happened and then let it go. I spoke of how I understood she could view that the abandonment of me by her father was also abandonment of her. I tried to explain that he had not abandoned her. He was still there for her, but he would just now be showing it in a different way.

‘Mum it is not Dad abandoning me that concerns me, it is me abandoning you that concerns me. I am the last child. I am leaving home, leaving the state and now you will be on your own. I feel as if I am abandoning you’.  

I could not change that I was alone, unpartnered, by myself. No matter how strong I behaved I could not change the fact that if my husband had not left me he would have been there with me, we would be together, we would be the rock of support for our children – not the other way round. My daughter would not feel this guilt she felt of abandoning me and the role that she felt someone should take on – that of looking after me.

Of course, I do not feel I need looking after and I told her so. Yet no words of mine could comfort her.   All I can do is to keep aiming for strength and courage, to become a strong independent woman for her, for all my children, to show them by example that I am OK; and to allow them to spread their wings as they would have done, and to be here for them, if they ever need me.

19 thoughts on “The Last Child.

  1. I could relate to this as I divorced the last year my daughter was in high school. It was so much change, for them and for me, that without leaning on each other we could never have gotten through. Embrace this new chapter in your life, the transition from mother and wife to single woman is a big one. You will need to learn what it is you want to do and enjoy doing, as you have spent your life doing for others up to this point. I promise, everything will be ok.

    • Yes, I believe that in time I will find my way as a single person – despite the fact that the road to get there was unexpected and is somewhat of a bumpy ride! 🙂
      Thanks for stopping by my blog and giving me such encouragement. It has uplifted me.

  2. Such wise insight Elisabeth. It is hard, this growing up in our child’s eyes. Yet, as you so beautiful said, here and on Ian’s blog — and mine, “vulnerability is a hidden strength.”

    when we allow ourselves to be vulnerable — to be real — with our children, we show them how to live authentically, completely, wildly passionate about life.

    I read your words and I see you doing just that.


  3. I can but only imagine how it would have been for you and your children to hold up during the divorce without being able to speak to each other about the emotions and feelings. It is extremely important to be able to sound out everything you are feeling for in a way this is therapeutic in itself. I am glad you were able to do so during the holiday for in sometime your daughter will find how liberating it feels and that will help her bloom in her life knowing that at every step you are there for her, supporting her, encouraging her and being the amazing mother you are.

  4. Your story reminds me of the process my family went through with the loss of my mother, I know that divorce is different with that betrayal and abandonment – but there is a grieving. I think I felt as though I had to shoulder all the things my father was feeling. At the end of a year my father started talking about dating – I was conflicted because I wanted to see him happy, but also because I had never had a chance to empty out my loss while carrying his. I think that when a parent leaves – for any reason – the roles and dynamic changes. It’s not the life we imagined for sure.

    • I understand what you mean; I was twenty when my father died. It certainly was not what we had imagined life would be. Instead of the supporting parents, we had a mother or her own; whom we needed to look out for. Still, in time, my mother found her wings and became a very strong single person, although I think it was some years before I could say that she became that new stronger person. Now I feel she copes much better with her old age than many of her contemporaries who have had their spouse all those years.
      Thanks for your comment. I really appreciate your thoughts and support.

    • Thanks. It was very therapeutic and I think we all felt that much closer to each other after the time spent together.
      To tell you the truth, one of the hidden marvels of this divorce is that I am now able to spend some real quality time with each of my children. With four children and a frenetic husband, it was often difficult to get any one on one with any of them.
      Now I can.

      Thanks for your continued friendship

      • I am so glad that you are feeling connected to your children and getting some real quality time with them! And I thank you for your friendship too.

  5. When my mother abandoned my father for her affair partner, I also felt responsible for my father’s well being. My husband and I were still, at that time, childless so it was easy to pick up our lives and move them right into my father’s home for a little while… and it still impresses me that my husband was willing to do that. My own marriage ended only six months ago. It is my eldest that is kind of “taking care” of me… my youngest is a teen very impacted by autism, and my eldest is my primary support right now. But… I think we both do understand that in the very near future, his developmental task will be to head out on his own and mine will be to encourage that and let him know I will be OK.
    It sounds like you have very strong connections to your children… and that will be what helps you all take next steps. Good luck.

    • Thanks for taking the time to stop by my blog and write such a thoughtful helpful comment. It means a lot to me to know that there are others out there who understand what is happening in my life and all the up and down emotions.
      I had a similar situation in that my father died when I was twenty and so I empathise with my children as to how they feel they need to protect and care for me; and maybe for a while it is good that they feel like that. In time, they will see that I am OK and they can spread their wings and I will be OK on my own.

      Take care in your own journey. I admire your spirit and your strength.

  6. “One has to come to a point of accepting what has happened and then let it go.” This is so true. I am so happy that you have a relationship with your daughter where you can discuss your feelings openly. That is such a rare and wonderful thing. I send love and light to you and your family during this time of transition. I pray that you will find your own path that is filled with excitement, love and peace and I pray that your children will, too, find their way and be at peace as well and ” spread their wings.”

    • Thanks you so much. I find that I am at peace most of the time.
      I think that it is a state of mind.
      And one advantage of being single is that I now only have to be concerned about my own peace. I acnnot be blamed for anyone’s else not finding theirs and I cannot expect anyone else find mine.
      have a great day.

  7. Hi Elizabeth. I read this post some time ago and saved it in my active mail because I wanted to look at it again. I think it makes me recognize some of my shortcomings in terms of discussing my daughters’ feelings about the divorce. They are all adults, married with children of their own. I’ve watched them juggle schedules for birthdays, holidays, and other family gatherings. Much of it has been done to protect me. Now that the wounds are no longer gaping I am doing a better job of helping them deal with theirs.

    Thank you for sharing this post about your daughter. It helps me to recognize that my daughters don’t need another “child” to care for. They need to know that I’m recovering and doing fine and they don’t need to protect me any longer.

    • Hello. My posts tend to reflect my ‘aims’, not necessarily what I am actually achieving! I still lean on the kids a lot.
      I do not think you have any shortcomings because there is no right or wrong way of dealing with any of this. My soon-to-be-ex has recently returned from abroad and I am now dreading the juggling that will be needed navigating the various milestones and birthdays etc that will now have to either be split or worked around. So all this is a new thing to learn, with him having been away most of the time since he left me. All this juggling is stressing the kids somewhat and sometimes I feel that it would be SO much better if I could become an adult, take a deep breath and say ‘let us share this event” but I cannot.
      In regard to the time to take to recover that you mentioned in a recent post, I do not think there is an answer to that either. Some people never really get over it – even though they do go on to lead productive and happy lives – which you are doing.
      I have recently been reading Madeleine Albright’s autobiography and there was still pain there for her 20 years afterwards….. she just managed to hide it well beneath all her success!

      She credits her divorce for driving her to the white house. Just think what you and I could have done if only our husbands had left us when we were a bit earlier! 🙂

      Have a great day. It has been a perfect summer day here in Australia. Keep smiling and take care.

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