Winter-Sorrowful, Spring Is Coming

Last week I went to my birth fathers funeral.  He died of complications of dementia.  I hadn’t seen him in years.  My parents divorced when I was four years old.  Despite all of my wanting him to be a part of my life, it just never happened.  Many reasons, excuses and stories – too many to go into here.  What I wanted to talk about from my own experience is the feelings of being a child of divorced parents.

For me it was very painful because I blamed myself for the divorce.  I thought it was something I did.  Since 50% of marriages end in divorce, there are probably a lot of people in the world who grew up like me, thinking that they somehow caused the divorce.  I didn’t realize that I believed this until I had kids of my own.  Lots of self analyzing and trying to figure out where my self sabotage patterns originated revealed it to me.  My adult self knows that it isn’t true.

My dad like a lot of fathers remarried another women with children.  They became his family as is right.  Unfortunately, my stepmother didn’t return the favor and the few times I went to their home it was clear I wasn’t wanted.  It was clear as a child, as a teenager and as an adult when I visited with what should have been her grand-kids, we were not welcome.

So my dad and I became completely estranged.  It broke my heart.  For me at least, I always wanted my dad to say he wanted me in his life, and then to try to make that happen.  I had the fantasy that once I was an adult and he didn’t have to deal with my mom, that he would show up and be the dad I always wanted.  I didn’t realize how much of that fantasy was lying beneath the surface until I found out he had died.

Wintercearig is a Norwegian word meaning winter-sorrowful describing that feeling of deep sadness comparable to the cold of winter.  I think that the death of the fantasy was harder than his physical death.  I solaced my heart that he had dementia, so there were probably close to 10 years that he didn’t remember me.  Grief is a slippery animal though.  It comes and goes when you least expect it.  I know he wasn’t a happy man, and I know how hard my mother could be for him.  I just wish it could have been different, and that they could have put aside their own pain for my sake.

In the depth of winter I finally learned that there was in me an invincible summer.

  – Albert Camus

I am working my way through winter of my loss.  Part of that process is to pull out the gold from the dross.  To find the invincible summer in my story.  To make Lemonade from the lemons.  My disappointments in my childhood and the letting go of the fantasy as an adult are part of who I am.  I can talk to this with total compassion, because I have been there.  I learned to appreciate the good qualities that my mom and dad had, and let go of the expectations that they would ever become who I wanted them to be.

To appreciate the beauty of a snowflake it is necessary to stand out in the cold.

  – Aristotle

Pain has a lot of lessons to teach us.  I remember years ago I was talking with one of my sister in-laws about forgiveness.  She stated that if her husband ever had an affair that she would never forgive him.  That she would divorce him.  I told her that with big decisions in life, we think we know what we would do.  But until that moment arrives it is all speculation. The reason for that is how connected everything is.

It isn’t just that someone had an affair.  You would have to look at all of the circumstances around what happened.  There are so many things in your relationship with your partner, what is going on at work, with the larger family – what are the stresses of life that weighed in on someone so that would do something that would destroy their life?  When something this devasting happens and you look at all of the possible choices you have to face, many times we do not do what we thought we would.  You have to stand out in the cold, and really look at every single crystal of the snowflake to make a decision.  Like the snowflake, the breaking of the marriage bond is different for every couple with no two alike.

The future lies before you, like a field of fallen snow;  Be careful how you tread it, for every step will show.

  – Unknown

My experiences in life gave me a little bit of a soapbox in regards to fathers who don’t see their children.  The damage it causes those children affects them every day of their life.  Many of us don’t realize how much, until something happens that brings it to the surface.  I had thought I had given up the fantasy of my dad showing up on my doorstep one day, saying “I love you and I want you to be part of my life”.  It was still apparently a running program in the background, taking up energy.

So if you are divorced and you aren’t connected with your children, make the sacrifice to do whatever it takes to be a part of their lives.  Just show up, with no excuses.  With no blame, except to say “I’m sorry”.  It may take awhile before they trust you again, because even if you didn’t mean to, you broke their heart.  But if you put in the effort and keep trying, eventually they will open the door.

And once the storm is over you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive.  You won’t even be sure, in fact, whether the storm is really over.  But one thing is certain.  When you come out of the storm you won’t be the same person who walked in.  that’s what this storm’s all about.

  – Haruki Murakami

When I am processing pain, grief, sadness, I write.  This is something I am still working on, but I wanted to share the work in progress.

Maybe you are like me, a daughter or son, who just wanted to be told that they were loved, that they weren’t a mistake that could just be thrown away, that they were proud of who you became.

Maybe like me you just wanted them to show up at your door and say Hi.

A note for my Dad

I learned to say goodbye at an early age

To hear “love you, see you soon” knowing in my heart it wasn’t true

Looking out of the back window of the car as mom drove me away

Silent tears wishing I was still with you

 

It’s a broken road my mom and dad have made

I’m tired of feeling disloyal loving you both, being torn between you two,

I feel my frailness crumble as you both pull me apart

My heart is torn, broken with your hammers beating it to pieces

 

Years go by with a few hours here and there

Visits so short they can’t even be remembered

How many times I reached out to you

Only to hear the deafening silence.

 

The sharp thunder of glaciers breaking up and falling into the ocean

The cold became the color of blinding whiteness

I waited for the your presence, the phone call, the letter, anything

To hear you say “I’m here and I love you.”

 

Deep sadness covers me like a layer of snow

Leaving my heart cold, pain frozen into arctic ice

Daddy why did you die and leave me alone

Never to hear those words, “love you, see you soon” fulfilled?

 

I think I will miss you forever, since we never got to say goodbye

Wishing you had been a constant presence in my life didn’t make it happen.

The gift you gave me in passing me by in forgetfulness,

Is seen daily in my being a part of my own children’s lives

 

Sheryl Silbaugh

I am married with 4 grown children who are all married and currently have 14 grandchildren and two great granddaughters. I work fulltime as a Director at Bank of America and I am the founder of LemonadeMakers.org, which is a website and Facebook page dedicated to personal transformation and growth. We all have life's lemons show up in our life, this website helps us to make them into lemonade.

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