Today’s story of perseverance comes from Chelsey Burghardt and her experience navigating divorce, and eventually blending families!
Mom to: Mason (10), Reese (8), Bentley (6), & Bonus mom to- Nathan (16), Sydney (14).
Briefly describe your experience with motherhood and raising children through and after divorcing. Along with the struggles and successes you've had:
I separated and started the road of Divorce in January 2017. My 3 kids were just babies- ages, 4, 3, and almost 1 year. I will first start by saying I am not an advocate for divorce, nor am I trying to glorify it. But, sometimes divorce is THE only option and in the end, a far better life for you and your children. That was my scenario, divorce comes after exhausting every other option and especially when there are unhealthy behaviors that cannot or will not be resolved. Addiction took over our life, to the point of my spouse overdosing and winding up on life support in the ICU. After the road of recovery was not chosen, I knew there was a different path for my children and I. It was the most terrifying decision, but I knew it was the right one.
It is a loss of a family you had imagined for your children and it is a heavy grief. But as I took this leap- I saw changes in my children. They were progressing and making such positive steps forward, that was my answer that I had made the right choice. A frustrating phrase that is often said about divorce, “oh I just feel so bad for the kids” whenever someone would say that, I would directly say, “well they are actually doing SO much better”. Kids are so resilient, that is something I learned. And they are very sensitive to their environment, even at young ages. My kids started to progress and thrive, even through the hardships and chaos that comes with divorce. They just need a healthy, stable parent. It took me leaving to be able to give that to them.
Who or what helped keep you grounded when you initially went through your divorce? What about currently?
The first year was all legal work, hearings, no financial support and having three babies at home. We were trying to navigate the system of supervised visitation. Some things that helped keep me going were: having uplifting music playing in my car. Buckling my babies up in their car seats and listening to the CD “Love Your Life” by Hilary Weeks. Listening to uplifting audio books or podcasts. My two favorite books- “Rising Strong” by Brene Brown and “Rebuilding After the Storm” by Tina Swithin. What you do and who you surround yourself with in these times makes the difference.
How did you balance the needs of your children and yourself while still allowing room for coping?
I was fortunate enough to have amazing parents who have also been through divorce, they were so supportive and helped me more than I can say. I know that's not always the circumstance for everyone. But, I did learn - there are so many resources available, that is what they are there for. Even if it's a temporary need, such as medicaid, food stamps etc. that is what it's for! It does take effort to apply and follow through but there are so many options available to help.
My favorite quote that my dad typed up for me- and I still having it printed on my mirror
“ Accept what is. Let go of what was. Have faith in what will be.”
If I could bold print that and have it be the title headline for divorce - I Would! I find so much solace in that even now, as I am blending a family and working on a second marriage. There is peace in acceptance, and letting go. Also, in knowing your future is still bright and so much in store for you.
What advice would you give to mothers, or parents, in a similar situation (or really any parent who is dealing with uncertain challenges)?
My biggest piece of advice is to get yourself and your kids into therapy. I know therapy can be expensive, there are so many routes to be able to afford it. I applied through the state to get my kids therapy and they were evaluated and approved. It takes effort, but there are so many options. My children still see a therapist. It's a safe middle ground. The biggest help for me was EMDR therapy. I had severe anxiety and at times was unable to function. I did weekly EMDR therapy for my anxiety and it saved me. It basically reprocesses trauma and helps you be content with it. My children did play therapy with their therapist- teaching them about their emotions and how to process those. I wanted my children to have “tools'' to be able to use and work through their emotions. You can’t take away the hardships that come from divorce, but you can give them tools to help manage their emotions.
Having open communication and talking through emotions with my children even still, has been so helpful. It is heartbreaking to know you can’t give your children that “perfect” family. But I do think in being open and honest with them and explaining that life is hard, everyone has their different hardships, they come in different shapes and sizes. Focusing on all the good they do have, and all the people they have in their life that love them.
Update on you and your kids (you may want to include details about divorce shapes your life or even how it affects parenting)
I ended up being a single mom for three years. It was exhausting but also such special times and memories with my three littles. I knew my ultimate goal was to still have a family. Everyone's story looks different and has different timelines. For me, I knew I still wanted marriage. So, three years later, after many first dates, I went on the first date that changed everything. We hiked up Angels Landing, and a few months later, we were married in February 2020. I feel very lucky this is my story, but also it comes with different hard parts. We are now full time parents to five kids and busy trying to put our marriage as the priority and balance all the emotions that come with it. But the bottom line is, if you find someone who wants to put forth the effort, that is the key. Because it takes a lot of effort to blend a family and a second marriage. I am so proud of the things we have done in these 2 1/2 years. We now live in St George Utah, and are loving the outdoor adventures and time spent with our family of 7!