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Giving Up the Story: A Journey to Mindful Divorced Parenting

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Mindful divorced parenting requires you to start anew with yourself: dropping the pre-divorce story of 'what happened' and being open to the possibility of a new way. "Are you ready to create a new experience for your child --  one filled with love, compassion, and peace?" The process begins by saying "Yes."

But when the question of "how?" is weighed, the answer becomes less convincing: "Are you ready to give up the pre-divorce story that led you to this point in relationship with your ex?"

While most parents do not articulate a direct answer of "No," the "no" resounds through actions.  Continual confrontation with the ex swirls around the child as the parent clutches on to the story of "I was wronged."  It contradicts the soul to drop the story while still craving recognition for the pain endured, the torment felt, or the heartbreak unconsoled.  You can't be still and seek at the same time.

One of these motivators will win, and until you are at peace in dropping the story, the contentious loops will continue to play out. Meanwhile, your child will continue to wait, feeling the effects.

So even though I knew I wanted a better way for my child, a way filled with compassion, thoughtfulness, and love -- and even though I was able to extend this peace to so many others -- why was it that I stumbled when dealing with my ex? Why was I, and so many other warring parents, choosing to continue down a path away from what is desired for the child?

I asked myself, "What is so scary about giving up the pre-divorce story? What could possibly happen that could be so bad?"

I was afraid that if I gave up the story -- the story of why I was in a divorce -- I would be denying the pain, hurt, injustice, and years of anguish.  I didn't want the details -- and there were so many details --  to slip away into insignificant nothingness.  I was wronged and my story comforted me, even though it clouded my ability to focus on my child.

Giving up the story -- whether it's the story of an abusive marriage, the story of a traumatic childhood, or the story of loss -- can be terrifying. It takes real bravery to ask yourself, "What would happen if I gave up my story?" and then to start contemplating the effects.

I've seen parents trapped for years, for their child's entire school experience, caught in the paralyzing grip of the looping story. These parents move from the story of the failed marriage to the story of the failed divorce. 

In listing the many fearful things that could happen in giving up the story, there is one antidote: validation. In being validated, the need to be heard fades away.

While wrestling with my fear of letting go of the story, I would imagine my ex listening to me and apologizing for the wrongs. He would say how sorry he was for each detail that hit again and again as the failed years ticked on. With him finally hearing my story, and receiving my pain, I would imagine the relief I would feel. With this validation, I thought, I could lay my burden down.

But he didn't ask, and he didn't hear. I would never receive this acknowledgment from my ex.  How about your ex, is your ex ready to take away your heavy story?

I didn't think so.

When I really allowed myself to understand that THIS is what I wanted: validation that my experience was real, understanding, and an apology from my ex; and, I faced the reality that it wasn't going to happen, something shifted. I realized that what I wanted was for my ex to do something, and the failing to do that something was causing my suffering. After going through the difficult steps of a divorce, I was no further than I was the day before the life-changing decision: I was placing my happiness and my suffering in the hands of another person.

In realizing that your ex won't be coming today with a heart of understanding, how long are you willing to hold your story of suffering?  Another day? Another birthday for your child? Your child's whole life?

Once awake as to why my story kept me from creating a new way for my child, it was surprisingly easy to drop it. With gentleness and with grace, I realized that I didn't need my ex's acknowledgment for my suffering to be real. I knew. I knew what I went through. I knew what transpired behind those walls. And just as my ex could never take that experience away from me, I didn't need my ex to validate that it really happened. It did happen, with outside acknowledgment or without it. I, after holding the hurt for too long, validated the experience for myself in sweet tenderness.

I gave myself permission to acknowledge the validity of my own story. And once known -- deeply, truly known and felt in my soul -- I didn't need anyone, including my ex -- to hear me.

I dropped my story. And in that space, a new way emerged. I was now able to begin life anew focused on my child in mindful divorced parenting.

So when I hear parents desperately trying to tell me the story of a failed relationship and a failed divorce, I understand. I understand they really want to be heard, and I listen. In time, they will come to understand that the validation they seek comes from within. In a moment of swift grace, they too will be open to a new way of being within divorce, allowing the focus to shift, creating a new experience for their child.

Until then the questions remain, "Are you ready to create a new moment for your child?" and to do that, "Are you ready to give up the story?"