What My Elderly Mother is Teaching Me About Divorce

Karen BigmanDivorce Process

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Many of us are at a time in life when our kids are finally independent, yet we are now faced with the responsibility of caring for elderly parents. Those of us who are divorced and single often have the added challenge of facing all the stress alone. Where before we were able to turn to our partner and vent about our frustrations or bounce ideas off of them about what they think is best, now we must face these difficulties alone.

A few weeks ago my mother and I spent the weekend trying to organize for her first winter pilgrimage down south in two years (we live in different cities). She couldn’t remember whether she already forwarded the mail, what the receipt for $120 was for, and why she kept it, or what I told her 20 minutes before. I suppose the good news is that she remembered her medications and doctor appointments. I’m sure I’m not alone in watching this struggle, but what has been particularly heart wrenching is watching it from afar when I’m going through my own evolution as a single, divorced woman.

My mother traveled south alone. I worried she would try to carry her own suitcases or would forget to tell security she has a pacemaker at the airport, among other things. I worried she would try to drive somewhere and get in an accident, or she would fall and break her hip and there would be no one there to help her.

She arrived in Florida safely. Her ride never showed but somehow she made it to our reunion. I spent the week organizing her and trying to get her familiar with her new surroundings. It was one of the most stressful experiences of my life. I was incredibly concerned about her being completely disoriented. She seemed helpless and fragile. After a while, I realized I couldn’t control what happens. I think that’s when I finally drew the parallel to my life and my clients’.

I’ve learned a lot from my mother. I saw how resourceful and resilient she could be when life threw her off balance. She survived wars, was a refugee, lived in six countries, was married and widowed twice, and has lived on her own for the past four years. She is strong and incredibly resilient. She accepted she was in control of her own life and found a way to make things work. From her I’ve learned I can take care of myself. I learned to be independent and strong, leaving home at 17. I see how she goes on each day despite all the difficulties in her life and it shows me I can survive just fine by myself.

As a divorce coach, I teach my clients to draw from their inner strength. I teach them the only thing they truly have any control over in life is themselves. There are bumps in the road, sometimes there are even mountains in the road, but we endure because we know at the end of the day these experiences help shape us into who we’re supposed to be. We learn we are stronger than we ever imagined and each experience and each person who comes into our lives helps us to deal with the next one.

My mom is happy in her temporary digs in Florida, and I’m back home continuing to pursue my dreams and letting my new life evolve. I know there will be more challenges along the way but I also know, like my mother, I will overcome them.