When I decided to get married, I struggled with an overwhelming amount of doubt. I would try to ease my worries by telling myself that if it didn't work out, I could get a divorce. Just over two years later, my marriage stopped working, but getting a divorce wasn't as simple as I thought.
It took me months to find the courage and clarity I needed to start the divorce process. I had to think about which decision would make room for me to be the best version of myself and the best mom to my son. It was difficult, but I concluded that leaving my marriage would allow me to be the person I needed to be for both of us.
When I was finally ready to start the divorce process, we were at the peak of an unprecedented pandemic. I asked myself if I could deal with COVID-19 and the stress associated with divorce simultaneously. I also considered the limited staff at courts, delayed processing, and the fact that I was unemployed at the time. In the end, I decided that sometimes the best time to start over is when your world is falling apart.
Getting divorced during COVID-19 has been a blessing and a curse. While it has given me time to unpack emotionally, the reality of single motherhood has hit me like a ton of bricks. Social distancing means having to heal while being a full-time mom and working with no break in sight. Some days I want to lie in bed all day, listen to sad songs, and process the ending of my marriage. But instead, I have to cook for my son and keep him engaged. Because of this, I compartmentalize my grief all day, leaving it to deal with right before bed or in the early hours of the morning.
The hardest thing about getting a divorce during the pandemic was that there was nobody to care for me or my son. I couldn't ask my dad, who lives 10 minutes away, to watch my son because he is elderly and high risk. Instead, I had to learn what self-care truly meant and give it to myself with all the intensity I could. I had to do everything the best I could as an isolated single mom. This was where the blessing was.
Because the world was at a standstill, I had to face my pre- and post-marriage trauma and do the inner work to heal. I would make the most of my biweekly therapy sessions, journal every day, work out, and replace junk with healthier foods when I'd comfort eat (most times). I would reach out to friends and family when I was lonely instead of trying to cope alone. I would allow myself to cry without telling myself "everything is going to be OK." Some days I felt like a broken piece of china, and I told myself that was fine.
I learned to give myself hugs and comfort myself through tough days and nights. Maybe most importantly, I learned how to honor my feelings and how to rest. Some days the motions of motherhood were so overbearing that I felt nothing at all. Other days I had to sit in the pain and grieve, which meant I couldn't be an engaged mom, and that was OK.
Better days came, bringing meaning to the saying "joy comes in the morning." On such days, I would wake up and celebrate new beginnings by baking cookies with my son or dancing with him to the demo music on his keyboard.
Although my son is 2 and has no understanding of what's happening, the guilt of raising him in a single-parent home sometimes pricks me. In moments of silence, I wonder what questions he'll ask when he's old enough to understand. I worry about whether I can provide answers that won't trigger trauma for him. I wonder how I'm going to survive the next 18 years doing this alone — how I'm going to make a "broken" home whole. The last thing I want is to perpetuate this struggling Black-single-mom narrative. But then I remember I survived yesterday, and I survived today, so that means I'm likely to thrive tomorrow.