One of the most supportive relationships I had during my divorce were my close Catholic friends. At the same time however, one of the most difficult relationships I had during my divorce were these same Catholic friends.
Truly, divorce is a difficult circumstance; one that morphs and changes as you go through the process of it. At the beginning, when I first began to tell my friends what was going on, they were tremendously supportive. I had women in the homeschool group that I had only met once or twice providing meals for me and my daughters. We were invited to numerous activities and friends called to check in.
After the initial shock of the circumstance began to wear off, people returned to their normal routines. My girls and I however, had to find new definitions of normal. In the beginning this happened monthly, weekly, and sometimes even daily. These were tumultuous times for my daughters and myself. I thank God still for the support and love of my parents and two of my mother’s dearest friends—Sue and Alene. These four wonderful souls helped me to put one foot in front of the other every single moment, even on the worst of days.
It was about this time that there was a big shift in my relationships with many of my Catholic friends. Being active members of an ever-growing Catholic homeschooling community, I began to worry about how my daughters would perceive themselves—being the only divorced family in the group. I also worried how others would perceive us.
Folks had started to whisper, just a little bit—“I wish that the girls wouldn’t be so outspoken about the situation with their father.” I was devastated. Truly. Here were a group of Catholics—people that were supposed to be my friends—asking me to ask my girls to censor what they were sharing with their friends about our difficult situation. Things change when the messy world starts seeping in through the cracks.
I had a decision to make. As a parent myself, I completely understand the desire to shield our children from some of the world’s more difficult truths. As a parent who was now living one of the world’s more difficult truths, I could never, ever ask my children not to speak about what defined their entire life. Since I had started back at school to occupy some of my time alone, I began using the “schoolwork” excuse on a more regular basis and we moved to the very periphery of our homeschool community.
During this time of separation, I tried to pray as often as I could for the families in the group that I felt were alienating us the most. Besides praying for my former husband, this was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done in my life. My daughters cried often—between choosing to be less involved and the lack of ongoing invitations to events, it was a tremendously difficult time for them.
I worked hard to move outside of this group—to find new friends—friends who were still Catholic but were more open to our new circumstances. I met some pretty incredible people during this time. All of them were folks who were single or married but had no children or children who were too young to appreciate what was going on. I found many new friends, but my daughters were still struggling.
We kept a toe in the water at the homeschool community and when my youngest daughter was set to begin high school, I asked her directly how much involvement she wanted to have with the group. I explained that I was open to taking her to any of the activities she wanted to attend, but that she needed to understand that we were no longer part of the inner circle—there would be no invitations to parties and so on. She listed the activities that she was interested in and we began our journey back.
Two years have passed since we began attending the group on a regular basis again and many of the people I had counted as friends before I count as friends again. I can’t say they were with me through the whole thing, but now that all of our children have matured there is much more of a natural delicacy that exists in those relationships and I feel much less responsible for what the kids talk about.
If you are feeling alienated from the people that you thought would be the closest to you, I want to let you know that you are not alone. As charitable as we think our Catholic friends should be, they are still just people who struggle with making sense of the same situations we do. I encourage you to branch out—try a Catholic singles event in your area, attend Mass at a different parish and introduce yourself to a family with children the same age as yours, keep searching and God will lead you down the path to the people he wants you to know during this most difficult time. And eventually, you may be led right back to where you started—just like we were.