According to most psychologists and as seen in the faded flashback scenes of pasty rebellious teens in clichéd movies, a divorce in a family wreaks havoc that extends far beyond the parents. The storm that ensues disrupts existing family dynamics and usually, most of the aftershock of this is absorbed by the unintended receiver of the pain: the child.
Dealing with a divorce is a lot like dealing with a loss, which in a way it is. Instead of dealing with the loss of a friend or family, you’re dealing with the loss of your family as you know it.
Much like an illness it has its initial symptoms: You hear the arguments that hush down as you enter the room. You feel the tension at dinner when your father asks you to pass a bowl next to your mother. You see the furrows on your parents’ foreheads, a permanent houseguest now. Your parents start visiting a doctor who diagnoses the problem, then they go to that doctor again and again and again and maybe things will finally start getting better. On the surface it does, the illness goes into remission till you hear the news, its been finalized.
Suddenly the world comes crashing down as you are sucked into the first stage of dealing with loss: denial and isolation.
A forced smile suddenly feels like the sound of laughter, you haven’t seen a shared smile in so long, you know there’s still hope. You make yourself believe your dad really is staying with your chacha because of the game tonight. The endless calls from your grandmother and aunts and uncles don’t help, you’re tired of the never-ending questions and you know no one “understands.” You seek seclusion, away from the probing aunties and teachers and friends, none of whom really know what you’re going through.
At a point the delicate façade you’ve put up begins to crack and as you withdraw from the addictive powers of denial you progress into the second stage: anger.
Slowly emerging feelings of anger partnered up with your isolation clears your vision. You’re not ready. This shouldn’t be happening to you. Fear and vulnerability from inside you boil and surface as rage and fury. This rage becomes a weapon directed at the ones responsible, at people trying to help, at inanimate objects and most dangerously, at yourself. Anger blinds people; your inner rationale knows anger is what caused your pain yet you see yourself resenting people around you; the anger morphs you into someone you know you’re not, but feeling so helpless and beaten down you begin to seek help.
You begin bargaining with yourself to bring back a shred of hope, hope being the only thing that can pull you through. You promise you’ll be a better person, you promise you’ll listen to Ammu and never make her angry, you promise your baba that you’ll take your studies seriously. No more going out. No more video games, nothing. You think to yourself, “I can fix this, I can help them.” You praise each parent to the other, you seek help from God, you plead a parent to reconsider, and promising him or her you’ll help placate the other’s mind. Your efforts may meet with anger, you reach a dead end.
Depression. You finally realise the magnitude of your loss. The older you are, the more difficult it is. This is the part when teachers, family and friends reach out to you. Sometimes it helps, usually it doesn’t. During depression you may find yourself succumbing to negative daily habits as the positive ones get harder to follow. This the hardest on teenagers whose malleable minds easily fall prey to the claws of depression, it really does feel like isolation alleviates the situation but in truth it does nothing but push you deeper and deeper into the hole. It changes you as a person, your friends remind you of how cheerful you were and how witty you were, you feel their impatience and irritability with you. You push them away hoping they’ll stick by you but you’ll come to realise that now, at the peak of their lives, some will decide you’re not worth it. Some days may be easier than others; it's important to understand this is a part of the grieving process and most importantly, it doesn’t last forever. This is not who you are.
Once you realise this, comes the final stage: acceptance.
Acceptance is the finish line and the past few stages were the track you were on.
Acceptance is finally making peace with things. Acceptance is understanding that yes, this was for the better. Acceptance is seeing the change in your parents’ lives and appreciating their happiness. And most importantly, acceptance is admitting the unhappiness your parents would have faced, regardless of whether they faced it together or not, wasn’t worth it.
Dealing with a divorce is hard; it’s very hard actually. It’s hard being caught in the middle of it, it's harder being a pawn in it. Hate and resentment can cloud your vision but believe me, it’s not the end of the world. You deal with pain like you deal with an injury. Give it time, let your wounds heal, you may leave with battle scars, but come on, battle scars aren’t evidence of being wounded, they’re evidence of your survival. Don’t let a few court dates and papers define you. Don’t let it be the justifications for your actions. You’re a warrior, not a stereotype.