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Saturday, August 9, 2014

single & stronger - Hannah Contella

Thanks to Hannah Contella for sharing her story of being Single & Stronger after her recent divorce. I appreciate her sincere honesty in how difficult this situation has been, as well as her advice to keep the kids' routine and structure up and answer their questions as they come up. Getting back to being her real self was what she was aiming for, and it looks to me like she's well on her way toward happiness. 

Thanks, Hannah. 

Photos from Hannah Contella 

1. When did you know that you needed to get a divorce? What signs did you know it was the right time?
Our relationship was never "good" but I was trying to stick it out for my kids. Then one Saturday my son had a friend over and they were playing a game at the kitchen table. 

My ex and I were arguing and my son said to his friend " It's ok, they fight all the time." At that moment I knew it was time.
2. How long ago did you get divorced, and how old were your kids?
It's been a little over a year since we filed. The divorce is final, however things are being contested that are in the decree. The court process is very long and exhausting.
My son was 8 when it started and my daughter was 6.

3. What were you hoping for when you decided to get divorced? What did you want for your kids in this process?

I was hoping for peace. I was hoping to be able to make it a day without being belittled. To be proud of the Mom I am and the person I have become without negative comments being made. I wanted to be happy again. 

My kids of course make me happy daily but I was always sad. I wanted to be treated with respect and have some appreciation for everything I did and I never received it. It really wears a person down after awhile. 

I wanted a peaceful home for my children. Without the arguing, tension and disrespect. In December 2013 I remember sitting down at dinner with my kids and asked them how they were doing with everything. It started a good conversation and my daughter said "I like our house now because it is peaceful." At that time I knew I made the right choice and I was able to give my kids what I knew they needed and what they deserved.
4. How did you tell the children? How did they react?
We talked to our son first since he was older. He was upset but knew that we didn't get along anymore so understood why it was happening. We told our daughter the following day. She took it hard but was really worried about where the animals were going to live. (She has a soft spot for all her animals) We all cried together but ensured them that it was all going to be ok and that everything was going to work out for the best.
5. What is your advice to other parents going through this in how they should work with their kids through it? 
Keep the line of communication open with your kids. There will be lots of questions, try to answer the best you can. I noticed the days I was stressed or very emotional my kids picked up on it. They would try to comfort me and be there, but I have to remember it is not their jobs to do that. They are kids and should have no "grown up worries." 

Counseling has been a big help for my kids. Talking and playing with someone that is a neutral party has helped them work through their emotions.
6. What is your advice to someone contemplating divorce? 

Listen to your heart. You can't really follow anyone's advice as they haven't lived your situation 24/7. Get support, but at the end of the day you know what you have to do and what is best for you. 

Also have a good lawyer. Honestly, the process is SO overwhelming. Even if your ex and you are on good terms there are so many little details to understand and go through. Having someone on your side with the legal knowledge will only benefit you. Also document EVERYTHING. From phone calls, to arguments in front of the kids, activities the kids have attended or missed, to money that you are spending. I keep a notebook with me at all times. Unfortunately my divorce is a nightmare so it's something that I need to do.

7. What helped your kids get through this situation? What were some challenges for them?
I made sure that their normal routine didn't get changed that much. I felt routine and structure made them feel safe and secure. We did the same sports, school activities and the same traditions (Adding our own little new twist to them). We talked when they asked questions, sought out counseling, and relied on family and friends to give us all strength and support when we needed it the most.

8. What helped YOU get through this, and what were some challenges you experienced?
Family and friends. They never let me down. They would call, text, stop in, send encouraging emails, stop to give me a hug, help with my kids, give me advice, kicked my ass when I needed it, and just listen to me when nothing seemed to be going right. Their endless love and support has been the reason I made it through this. 

Anything you can imagine bad has been thrown at me. My ex has gone above and beyond to try to break me down. There have been times when he was close to succeeding and I wanted to just give up. I didn't think I could do this any longer. I had to dig deep and remind myself I had 4 eyes watching me, 2 little people that needed me in the present time, 2 people that knew the truth and knew what kind of Mom I was, the 2 people who I wanted to make proud. 

I had to put on a brave/strong face and push through. I did it, I did it with all the support I have, and at the end of the day I can go to bed and know that I have done all I can to help my kids, to give them the life they deserve and to be a positive influence in their lives.

9. How are things now currently - are you civil with your ex, do you have a routine, schedule, communication, etc.? If things aren't great, how do you wish it was?
It has been a very messy divorce from the beginning. Only communication we have is through lawyers still. Any time I have reached out regarding activities, medical, school it gets completely turned around is thrown back in my face.

I have come to terms with knowing that we will probably never be able to have a civil conversation. Not because I haven't tried but because when dealing with a pathological liar it is impossible. It is his way or no way. Putting energy toward something so toxic isn't worth it to me.

10. If you find yourself in a relationship again, what will you be looking for in a partner and a helper to raise your children?
I will be looking for someone who is respectful, mature, responsible, supportive, and a good role model. Someone who my kids can look up to for advice and guidance.  Also someone who treats me with respect so my kids have an example of what a good, healthy relationship should be.
11. What do you hope your kids understand someday about why you chose to separate from their other parent? 

I hope they understand that I did this to give them a better life. That things are so much better when Mom and Dad are not living under the same roof.

12. What have you learned about yourself in this process?
My goal when I started this journey was to actually love myself again. To be happy with me, where I am going with life, love the life I have created for myself and my kids. I knew that if I was still unhappy on the inside that it would show and I would just continue on the miserable path I was on. 

I have learned to accept where I am with my life, enjoy the person I am today, laugh at the silly things we do as a family, regain my self confidence and breathe freely because I am in control now, not someone else. I know that I am a much better person today than I was 1 year ago!

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