"I have never had such clarity, drive, and genuine zest for life! My entire world has shifted..."
Have you ever felt so isolated that you didn't notice there were people standing right beside you? Or felt so ashamed you wanted to melt away into nothingness? Have you ever felt so exhausted with nothing left to give that you couldn't roll over in bed, or even lift one little finger off your mattress? Or so helpless with all hope completely depleted that you were plotting how to end the pain?
If you answered "yes" to any of these questions...it's okay! ...and I get it!
My story began in Saskatchewan longer ago than I'd like to admit. Although I'd like to say I had a glorious childhood, I did not. During the first several years of my life, I was witness to my mother being physically abused by my father. After she finally had the courage to end the marriage, my brother felt it necessary to carry on my father's torch with me being the target of his frustrations. Needless to say, I seized the first opportunity to leave home right after high school in search of a higher education in beautiful British Columbia.
For the first time in my life, I felt free and in charge of my life. What I didn't realize is that my childhood set me up for a series of decisions that only led to more abuse, more of feeling trapped in an inescapable situation, and a more ingrained sense of unworthiness.
I met my first husband in first year university...and he doted on me like no one had before. I became the center of his affections, and felt truly special for the first time in my life! He was incredibly charming, and quite handsome. He was the man every girl couldn't wait to introduce to her mother...until I REALLY got to know him.
Over time, his affections turned to criticisms, his "love" to blame, and his pride to spite. I became caught in a cycle of not feeling like I was ever enough, regardless of how much I tried. My insecurities led to me marrying the man whom I could never placate, and within a year my son was born.
Our relationship continued to crumble, all the while my son bore witness to our dysfunctional relationship. After completing university (in which I spent all of my time with my ex), we moved to find jobs in the same small city in the interior of BC. For the first time in years, I was spending more waking hours away from home than in it. Slowly and surely, I began to view myself differently.
I finally made the decision to leave my marriage; however, this decision did not come easily to me. Although I felt I deserved better, I was incredibly insecure and concerned there was something mentally wrong with me. This stemmed from the fact that my view on reality was always very different than the "facts" presented to me by my ex.
Regardless, for the second time in my life, I felt free! ...but I was not prepared for the emotional turmoil yet to come.
Let's be real for a moment...regardless of the circumstances, divorce is painful! BUT...honestly, nothing prepared me for the anguish of losing my child. You see, after my divorce, my son became a pawn...the rope in a decade-long tug of war...and my relationship with him slowly and methodically eroded away from me "being the best mom in the world" to me losing all contact with him.
For years, I found myself caught in the revolving door to the courtroom. I was stuck in a never-ending convince and resist cycle of pleading to the court, all while defending myself against false claims made simply for wanting to spend time with my son. I struggled to find a lawyer who could actually help. I found myself at the mercy of three different psychologists hoping that one of them would acknowledge what was happening to my family. I was literally fighting to remain a part of my son's life...and it was costing me my life savings.
All the while, I witnessed the destruction of my son's innocence. He began to fear spending time with me. He became disrespectful and made disparaging remarks. He struggled with stomach pain for years. Ultimately, he was brainwashed to hate me...all because my ex was determined to "win". My son was reduced to a possession...a trophy.
I spent many years feeling alone, hopeless and ashamed. Going out in public became painful, as I was forced to watch other parents enjoy time with their children. I was constantly reminded of milestones missed. I had to endure acquaintances asking me how my son was doing when just trying to buy a half dozen apples from the grocery store. Over time, I came to the painful realization that no one was really all that interested in my story. So...I learned to cleverly craft and steer conversations away from my son to avoid the awkwardness that inevitably followed my honest answer.
...but there is more to my story than just me...
MY JOURNEY AS A STEP-PARENT
I am grateful to say that my 18 plus years of turmoil since leaving my ex-husband haven't been spent completely alone. I met my second husband shortly after ending my first marriage, and he has remained my pillar of strength, although he has had his own struggles.
He also experienced the same fate as me with his own daughter...and being a step-parent is no easier. Not only was I forced to struggle with my own emotional instability, I also felt completely helpless in supporting my own spouse. It's one thing to watch your own child slip away, but now I was a spectator to my spouse's suffering, as well.
He endured almost 15 years of having no contact with his daughter. Luckily, she slowly slipped back into our lives. The relationship was precarious at best to start. We walked a fine line of respecting her boundaries while not relinquishing our parental role. After a short while, she ended up living with us, and it was during this time that all of us were able to heal the most.
We learned to communicate about the past, and continually move forward toward a brighter future. My husband shares a closer bond with his daughter than he ever thought possible. I developed a profoundly deep relationship with her, as well. I attribute this to the deep level of understanding about divorce and its impact on the children that I have developed over the past couple of decades.
ABOUT PATHWAYS FAMILY COACHING
So, why did Pathways Family Coaching Ltd. come to be?
It all started with a coffee and a new friend. Anyone who knows me knows that I like a challenge. Well, during a visit my friend said to me, "Monique, you should be thanking your ex!" I'm sure you can imagine my horror and the expletives that escaped my mouth at the time. She then explained, "It is the greatest challenges in life that offer us the greatest opportunities for growth. I'm sure you would agree that your ex presented you with one of your greatest challenges. Therefore, you really should be thanking him." I grumbled back at her, but her comment stuck with me.
At the time, I felt a bit lost. I had been laid off from my job five years previous and had operated a couple of small businesses since; however, neither offered a secure income, nor did they fulfill me in any way.
It was at this time that I started doing some serious soul searching on what direction I wanted to head in my life. After digging deeper than I ever had before and asking myself some extremely difficult questions, the answer became obvious. It was like there were dozens of neon signs with flashing arrows all pointing in the same direction...to make my (and my family’s) suffering mean something. I am now on a mission, and am committed to ending the unnecessary suffering of rejected parents and their children that are entangled in high-conflict divorce, and am now very proud to be a Certified Conscious Co-Parenting Coach, trained personally by Dorcy Pruter.
Before I embarked on this journey, I was always on edge and wound tight as a top ready to explode at any time. I was filled with anxiety and anger...anger towards my ex AND anger towards my son. I viewed the world pessimistically and often found myself discouraged at the injustices around me. The work I have done since has been truly transformational for me!
My anger has turned into compassion and understanding. I have never felt so calm on the inside. I have never had such clarity, drive, and genuine zest for life! My entire world has shifted, including not only my family and friends, but also complete strangers. People wait to hold doors open for me instead of letting them go to close in my face. I've even had complete strangers seek me out in stores to ask me how I am doing...several times! Life is full of color, I am grateful for so many things in my life, and I look forward to each and every day!
I am healing my own childhood traumas, resulting in me making very different decisions in my life, and I am attracting positive energy...and you know what else? I found the courage to travel to see my son! I now have his phone number, which I haven't had in YEARS. I stood before him and had a conversation with him. There is still much healing to do, but I am optimistic that my son and I will get there...together.