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My kids and I spent a few amazing days in the Red River Gorge area of Kentucky a few weeks ago. The weather was amazing! The scenery was unbelievably beautiful, and we were able to seclude ourselves and simply have lots of togetherness for a few days. We hiked, rock climbed, made s’mores, played euchre, decorated cookies, ate junk food, and just hung out. Pure, clean, easy fun.
I share custody of my three children with their Dad/my ex-husband. I’ve been divorced for five-and-one-half years meaning my kids have had two homes for five-and-one-half years. We have all worked hard to adjust and find balance with the back and forth, but vacations and times when we are out of our typical routine can still be challenging for me.
So, when we returned from our trip and they then returned to their Dad’s house for a few days, I emotionally crashed and burned. It was one of those days where I couldn’t truly articulate what I was feeling, I just knew I felt off. I felt sad. My heart hurt.
This happens every time they return to their Dad after they are with me for an extended period of time. Every. Single. Time. For five-and-one-half years now.
Week in and week out in our typical routine, I know how to take care of myself and even enjoy my time when my kids are not home. But these situations where we are out of routine and have a change in our normal schedule still leave me reeling. Every time it’s as though I’m living a new reality that my kids have two separate homes . . . the reality I do not get to spend every day with them and physically see them every day.
My emotional spiral after our trip was a reminder that this is a pattern of behavior and that time simply doesn’t heal all wounds.
Time helps, certainly. Time can dull the pain and sadness. Time can make the knife in my heart feel less sharp and stinging. But it’s still there. The wound is still open and not yet healed, in part because I’m still doing the same things in response to the hurt.
I can’t depend on time alone to heal the hurt. I must put in the work emotionally and behaviorally to create new patterns and mindsets allowing for the wound to fully heal.
If you want something to change, you have to change. You have to do something differently. I’m reminded of the old saying, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”
So, I’ve been thinking a lot about what I can do differently next time to avoid the spiral into negative emotions when this situation occurs.
Next time I will remind myself before we have an extended period of time together that I’ll need to make a plan for how to handle the first day or two when my kids go back to their Dad’s house.
I’ll also block out time to do some writing both leading up to their departure, the day of, and a few days following to help me process my feelings.
I might plan an extra therapy session or certainly give a dear friend a heads up that I need them on call to either talk, cry, or distract me in some way in that day or two.
The awareness of the behavior pattern and remembering I need to create a new pattern and figuring out step by step what that new pattern will be might be a challenge for me too. With the other 3,286,742 things running through my head, it’s sometimes challenging to remind myself of something before it has happened. So maybe I’ll also set a reminder in my calendar two weeks prior to a vacation with my kids to remind myself to create a new plan once we return.
Time can be a wonderful tool. And it is certainly helpful. But time by itself isn’t enough.
To truly initiate change in our lives, we must be willing to put in the work required. Sometimes it’s physical. Other times it’s mental or emotional. But to create and sustain true change, we have to be willing and capable of putting in some sort of true work. Work that on the other side likely will reward us far beyond anything time can provide on its own.
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Stevie Cromer is the Cultural and Enrichment Manager for LUNA Language Services. Stevie regularly provides engaging content to LUNA’s team to encourage a culture of care within our own LUNA family. For more suggestions and resources about how you might build a culture of care throughout your organization, please reach out to Stevie at stevie@LUNA360.com.