Parenting is a Journey
An Adventure of Discovery Not Only of our Children But of Ourselves as Well
I remember exactly where I was when I realized I needed some professional help processing my divorce. I was standing at the back door of my house, looking out over the garden I loved. I usually spent countless hours weeding and cultivating plants I’d carefully select each spring. I knew there was something I should be doing out there, but I didn’t know what or how or where to begin. It was a watershed moment. I realized that not only was I stuck—glued to that spot physically—but I was not moving forward emotionally.
I had been divorced for a couple of years at that time, and I was not making any progress in building a new life for myself or my children. On a previous day, I’d run into a friend at CVS, and when she asked me how I was, I burst into tears. She responded by saying, “I can’t believe you’re not over this yet.”
I was 42 when we began divorce proceedings. Interestingly, my mother was 48 when my father died. After an appropriate period of mourning, she sold the house, traveled abroad and even remarried (although that did not last long.) Two years after my husband moved out, I had not even taken down his picture or put away the few things he left behind.
I needed help. First I called the pastor of the church we attended. He knew both my ex-husband and me. His counsel was wise, but ineffective. He ended our conversation by saying, “You need to take some of the blame for what happened.” Those were words I did not want to hear.
I found Dori Rhodes, LMFT, a therapist in private practice in Lexington, Massachusetts, through another friend who was seeing her weekly. I was not about to open my heart and my life to someone I knew nothing about. The referral from the treasured friend was an important first step for me.
I was fortunate that Dori had time in her schedule to take another patient. Is that what you are when you see an LMFT? To me, Dori was a professional friend. Her easygoing manner and welcoming demeanor put me at ease right away; that and the soft, comfortable couch I sat on in her homey office.
Is There a Cure for This?
I had never been in therapy before and did not know what to expect. I knew that unlike a medical doctor’s prescription of an antibiotic for an infection, therapy would not cure me. “A therapist provides a safe place to share emotions with confidentiality, so that one isn’t worried that it will be shared or leaked to someone else,” explains Dori.
I wasn’t too worried about that. I’m pretty much an open book when it comes to how I feel, but when Dori says, “When one is overwhelmed with grief, depression and anxiety, one may have a loss of functioning. Grief consumes so much energy,” I recognize myself, and I understand how effective therapy might be for me.
From the moment we began, the tears flowed. Dori told me I needed to mourn the end of my marriage: “It’s one of the early steps in recovery, because the end of a marriage is a death.”
I cried through several sessions. How long was this recovery going to take? “Time for recovery is different for each person,” says Dori. “Recovery that is too quick may be a sign that someone hasn’t processed their grief. If so, pain and hurt may just be submerged. The person may be seeking a quick fix without taking time to process the emotion of grief and the lessons learned.”
I was so sad that Dori decided an antidepressant might be a good option for me. “Some people find ways to care for themselves, like reading a helpful book, taking a retreat, journaling or joining a support group. A therapist is able to process whether a person may be in need of an antidepressant or antianxiety medication that might be helpful,” Dori says.
The antidepressant, Celexa, was not an instant remedy. In fact, I did not feel that much different when I took it. It did cause me to lose some weight, and that boosted my self-esteem, but I know that wasn’t the purpose of the prescription.
I visited Dori every other week for 18 months. During that time, I stopped crying. I set some goals for myself, and I weaned myself off the Celexa. I still have days when I am sad and still grieve the end of my marriage. I even have days when I am still stuck. Dori explains, “Usually, within a year, we would hope for some hope to begin to emerge.”
I feel stronger than I did before. As I look back over the past few years, I see that I have made some movement. I sold my house, moved across the country and took a new job. Some days are better than others, but now I can look back and see that finding Dori was how I got unstuck.
Susan Solomon Yem is singleminded about raising her five children to adulthood. She’d like to hear your stories about single parenting. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org