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  • Writer's pictureDawn Neufeld

Life is Hard…

I’m a 47-year-old single mom of two teens - one has autism; the other is excelling at sports and school and wants to be a veterinarian someday. I’m a lawyer - licensed in two states. I’ve had a bit of a television career and fulfilled lifelong dreams of hosting television shows, covering an NBA team during a championship season, and even had a speaking part in an action movie. I’ve lived the life of a pro-athlete wife - while not always easy, it provided opportunities that I will always treasure, like watching a championship American football game in Germany to being able to devote countless hours to charity bettering the lives of others. I was able to be home with my kids for a significant amount of their childhoods. It’s been a good life - one I will never take for granted.

Everything changed a couple of years ago when I found myself in a high-conflict divorce. We almost hit 20 years. A marriage that ended up being rife with betrayal, abandonment, neglect and disbelief - I’m still in weekly therapy for complex PTSD because of it. It changed every aspect of my life and starting over has been difficult. Almost two years after the divorce was finalized, litigation over various issues is ongoing. While I look forward to closing that chapter of my life (finally), I know that I am vulnerable to more conflict and continued issues unless I shrink myself and quietly reboot my life without rippling the waters. Waiting for the next shoe to drop is pervasive and creates crippling anxiety at times. Depression has made it difficult to get out of bed some days. But for therapy and a doctor who recognized my anxiety and depression, I’d likely be in a much darker place. It’s all come at great cost too - emotionally, financially, physically, spiritually. So much has changed.

Like many others, I’ve used social media over the years to connect with others and share all aspects of my life. I’ve shared the good and the bad. Triumphs and disappointments. I’ve always been transparent - sometimes to a fault.

I’ve used social media to do research when life presents new challenges - outlets like TikTok and Instagram have provided phenomenal information and insight when I‘ve needed validation, to be heard, to be seen when I’ve felt invisible and lost. They’ve provided a safe space… a refuge. Connecting with others who understand what I’m going though has often provided hope and just enough motivation to keep going some days.

But goodness - there is a dark side to this. When you’re connecting with others who’ve experienced trauma, and if you have any ability to empathize with people, it can be devastating. I recently watched a mom who uprooted her east coast life for domestic bliss in Colorado, only to find herself in the middle of a divorce, and she can’t afford to rent a home for her family. She’s been a stay-at-home mom and will need to show proof of income three times the amount of her rent to even be considered. She did the math - to rent a modest three-bedroom home she’ll need to show $12,000/month in income as a single, stay-at-home mom trying to start over and get back on her feet. She was hopeless. Numb. Defeated. I bet she never, ever thought this would be the situation she would find herself in. Stories like hers abound on the dark side of social media - and it’s heartbreaking.

The advice she was given wasn’t great either… ‘Just rent a double wide. Go get a job. Other single moms do it all the time. I don’t feel sorry for you.’ If only it were that simple. How does she ‘just go get a job’ if she’s been a stay at home mom for years, let alone one that will bring in $12,000/month? Who is going to provide and/or pay for childcare while she’s at said job she’s supposed to just walk outside and find? While she’s going through this transition she’s likely to uncover trauma that she may have ignored or suppressed for years - so while dealing with the emotionally exhausting turbulence of her new situation she’s having to relearn how to do life as a single parent and ‘just go get a job.’ If only it were that easy…

You know what is simple? Recognizing that life, in general, is hard. Everyone, and I mean EVERYONE, is likely enduring some sort of hardship, heartbreak, or trial. It isn’t a competition. I’ve been disheartened over the last couple of years to realize how quickly people quantify and qualify people’s pain and suffering, quick to determine if their feelings are valid. If someone is fortunate enough to have financial resources, then she should just be grateful for that because there are people out there who have it ‘way worse’ than she does, right? If someone has a roof over his head, he should suck up the pain and grief because it’s not cancer, right? The expectation that people should get over their grief, fear, and sadness based upon how we feel about their situation is unreal. This is such flawed thinking - we often don’t know what people are experiencing in their lives and shouldn’t invalidate their feelings simply because they perceive someone else’s struggles as worse. A single mother with a home, good job, and even a 401k may be getting battered and dragged emotionally by her ex-husband on a day-to-day basis, so much so that she doesn’t know how she’s going to make it. But you wouldn’t know it because she stays quiet - her feelings invalidated and minimized because she should be grateful for everything she does have. You’ve heard the phrase ‘more money, more problems’ right? Sure, resources can make some things easier… but it sure can complicate things as well, like the compassion people are willing to extend to those who are perceived to have it better off than others.

Actress Sandra Bullock once said something in an interview that has resonated with me ever since I read it - ‘When people are like, 'Life is good,' I go, 'No, life is a series of disastrous moments, painful moments, unexpected moments, and things that will break your heart. And in between those moments, that's when you savor, savor, savor.'’ Life is hard. Period. Everyone is going through something. Everyone experiences pain, grief and heartbreak. It’s exactly when you feel peace and calm in your life that it has a tendency to be shaken up by something unexpected and you’ll find yourself on the other side of struggle validation. So…

Please… be kind.

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