She carefully leaned into the microphone, her voice vulnerable with anticipation. Separated from her siblings, in and out of countless schools, she shared how she was packed up without warning and taken to a stranger’s house. How the second home, the one that followed the emergency one, was not a refuge but a haven for abuse. How she didn’t know if she would ever have a relationship with either of her parents again.
As I examined her tiny frame and dark eyes I couldn’t discern Angel’s age. She spoke of years of being of repeatedly losing the few new friends she had managed to make during the years of being shuffled by a string of social workers from one foster home to the next. Her matter of factness belied that she was only fourteen.
Oh but she was strong. And smart, having survived the incessant instability by being a hard working student. She boasted of the time she was just about to be named to the honor roll only to be robbed of her reward by the switch to yet another school.
And Angel was bold. Standing in the front of the ballroom filled with hundreds who had come to support the girls program that supported her. On this day, Angel understood there were people who cared, people willing to lend a hand to help her move forward, people who helped her remember her life was more than the events that had happened. She chose to hope, and to declare her dreams. She had her eye on college one day, perhaps becoming a scientist.
When our family experiences divorce, we agonize about our children’s change and losses. The little apartment instead of the big house. The heartbreak of losing their best friend living down the block. A new school classroom setting back their reading. The arrival of our spouse’s first new romantic partner, and the impact of their departure two months later.
We cannot protect our children from the changes and losses that accompany divorce. What we can do is to hold a vision of their resilience. We can remember that so long as they have us they will know that someone cared, someone was there to lend a hand to help them move forward, and someone knew that their life has a future, not just a past.