A woman reading to her children


Is Your Marriage Ending During COVID? You are Not Alone

Jan 18, 2021

Dear Fellow Parents,

Here I am, wobbling together through an enormous shift of family and self in the midst of a global pandemic; lurching through these changes, trying to do the best for my daughter, my emerging self, my future.

I carry an awareness that, at this moment, many in the world are suffering more than me. And I am cautious to share just how cumulative my own losses have felt. Just how hard this has been.

Perhaps, like me, you have a growing pile of library books on how to ease your child through this transition in a discarded heap beside your bed.

There are few precedents coaching us how to navigate this double whammy of a reconfiguration. We are making this up as we go, and it’s perplexing, exhausting and surreal.

The Pandemic and Separation

COVID struck hard, demanding complex and timely decision-making, giving us a crash course in co-parenting. Online school schedules, grocery protocol, socially distant birthdays and whether or not strangers should pet the family dog dominated our texts.

Unnecessarily pedantic handwashing videos may have arrived in the other parent’s inbox.

With loosening restrictions came a new roster of decisions; social bubbles, grandparents, playgrounds and returning safely to workplaces. And with the latest surge in cases, and added tumult in the world, we are anxious and wrought, and the co-parenting decisions keep rolling in.

Like Chidi in The Good Place, we stew and second-guess, and eventually string together a loose weave of evolving parameters that both parents can live with. But we are tired, and the fro-yo is getting old.

"There are other complexities, like parsing DivorceMate Software with lawyers over Zoom while my kid walks the dog or is in a Google Meet (maybe your kids are younger, and they are tuning in another episode of Paw Patrol)."

We hate to admit that without the distraction of their normally full lives, our kids have a front row seat to our grief. As Anne Lamott puts it: “I was terribly erratic: feeling so holy and serene some moments that I was sure I was going to end up dating the Dalai Lama. Then the grief and craziness would hit again, and I would be in Broken Mind, back in the howl.”

A self-conscious uncoupling. And enough layers of shame and guilt to pickaxe my way through several virtual counselling sessions still covered by my ex’s benefit plan.

My daughter is grieving, too. Her life is nearly unrecognizable, and the usual rafts of routines, friends, extracurriculars and extended family traditions are not in reach. Her social fuel is running on empty, and she has me for company. At least there is ping-pong in the dining room because I haven’t gotten around to replacing the table, and Ikea (and meatballs) are not going to happen anytime soon. And yet, my kid is finding remarkable, creative ways to connect and continue, and I am fiercely protecting her right to grieve it all.

With my support networks reeling from the impact of COVID in their own lives, our neediness can feel distasteful. Despite this, my community humbles us with care and concern. Ruby red sparkly slippers arrive in the mail and I wear them on the hardest days. Piping hot coffees appear on the windowsill. Well-timed texts, songs, walks, long calls into the night, a mimosa in the snow from my neighbours on Christmas morning.

I wonder if they know how much these kind gestures are helping me show up for my daughter, a little less alone and afraid.

Even those of you like me, with a large hula hoop of personal space, could use a hug, but asking your ex for one is probably a bad idea. So you cozy up on the couch with the family pet, or a shaggy blanket, and Netflix, and your tween sometimes leans in.

The truth is, the instinct to draw our kids into the protective nest feels almost overpowering during such unprecedented times — I know I sometimes wake in the dead of night scrambling to remember where my daughter is tucked in.

There are other complexities, like parsing DivorceMate Software with lawyers over Zoom while my kid walks the dog or is in a Google Meet (maybe your kids are younger, and they are tuning in another episode of Paw Patrol). Or dividing assets in unpredictable markets and job insecurity. Or six-foot dating (kudos to you, if you've taken this on). Or re-entry into the workforce delayed by lockdowns.

Never mind illness, isolation, geographical divides, financial hardship and the numerous, extra challenges some of us are facing.

Ever wonder what single and divorced parents want you to know? Check that out here.

Yet, we persist. We dredge for hope. We dig deeper than we thought possible, buoying our kids with fragments of their old life and hints of the new. Like Brené Brown, we are “embracing the suck” to get to the courage.

We are not strangers to self-care. We are trying to eat well (mostly), move our bodies, reach out, say "good enough" and "not now," throw axes and write gratitude journals, as we attend to the minutiae and magnitude of splitting a family in two.

Our holiday puzzles of pug dogs and hot sauces and Baby Yoda are spread across our tables. Some of us have edge pieces assembled, bits of our former lives framing the next, and others of us are reshaping a future — one colour, shape and hard-earned fit at a time.

We will get through this, one turtle step at a time, our kids by our sides, fortitude and gratitude and hope-seeking deep in their bones.

Article Author Krista Banks
Krista Banks

Krista Banks writes, draws, parents and square-foot gardens in Kitchener, Ontario, where she is slowly reading her way through the YA collection at her local library. Her poetry has been published in The New Quarterly.

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