Updated: Jul 5, 2022
In 2014 we traveled to Denmark, just me with our kids, to promote connection with relatives before our divorce was finalized in 2015. We stayed for one month, to celebrate the holidays in December, bring in the New Year and taste together the Danish hygge of the culture. During our visit, one friend said "You have such courage to make this trip on your own". I felt more overwhelmed with sorrow than anything else at this time in my life, delivered by the 'heartbreak for dreams lost'.
To follow was a strange rollercoaster ride of emotions, unhinged from the chaos of change. A mixed bag really. I experienced a paralysis post-divorce, something that had me walking in circles as I was afraid to release myself into the abyss. It was inevitable, I just believed I might be able to slow the process. I stayed quiet, in private, as I gathered my strength. Maintaining just enough momentum to make decisions and support our children. I wondered for years what could have been done differently to maintain relationship with family so far away and even at home. It seems we first needed to identify ourselves, who we were in this place after and how we wanted to grow, by ourselves and together, as a family.
We all have our own ways of interpreting life. Fractures can divide as well as make room for more. Turns out I was not alone in my feeling disconnected. Everyone involved felt loss, as I have come to understand. Most of us hid behind a veil of respect that, in our minds, politely prevented us from making the first move. Others made gestures that were not received as invitations, so the space between us stayed vacant.
Almost seven years later, our triad returned to Denmark. I got the idea a few months ago, to revisit the land from which our children's father was born. I vocalized: "We are ready to explore what Copenhagen has to offer." Without much contact between then and now, it appears we have landed in the heart of family. To a sense of belonging that was in fact only missed, not lost. Some of us are taller, a few are shorter, and we are thrilled to be with each other. We share an interest to grow with each other forward. We gained a Farmor (father's mother), Moster (father's mother's sister), Faster (father's sister), two Kusine (girl cousins), one Faetter (boy cousin), Farfar (father's father) and Bedstemor (grandma). In many gentle conversations we uncovered the heart sadness we carried together in our own ways. In sharing them, we found understanding and appreciation, a space filled with loving interest. Wonderful to experience this truth with a camaraderie of sorts, a refreshing alternative to blame and criticism.
Our children lost contact with their Danish father years ago, due to a complicated whirlwind of hurt and confusion following our divorce, his remarriage and eventual move to Brazil. I learned for myself in the aftermath, that the details are not important. Choices made have (hopefully) temporary consequences and valuable learnings. Every moment of recognition is a perspective that can be altered, when desired, when sought. We are not holding onto the past, we are discovering our present, the love we have now.
Yesterday, while walking through a small beach town, exploring different shops our 15-year-old son, Zander, tells me he has plans to see his dad, who is also visiting Denmark, in two days, after his sister and I travel home to America. I turn to Ocean, our 14-year-old daughter, and ask: "Do you want to see your dad?" She says yes. So we make arrangements for both our children to meet their father for dinner at a local restaurant in Hornbaek. Hours later, the three of them travel by train back to Copenhagen to spend the night together. Another trio has formed in our family. While they are enjoying breakfast and a garden stroll, I get to reflect.
This place of choosing our children is easy. Giving to him, my ex-husband, in the wake of so much pain is a bit more challenging. I am sensitive to my generosity, decide to see it as an important gesture for a greater good instead of one set on protecting an old wound from further hurt. I can hear the whisper of another dream: the best of both worlds.
At dinner last night, a new acquaintance says to me, "You are so courageous." Is this courage? Maybe. And here I am, letting go of what I know to perhaps discover anew, what might be possible for this family of ours. I have told our children over the years that my relationship with their dad is mine to carry, with him. I do not need them to protect or defend on my behalf, this I can do for myself. They get to have their own connection with their father and it need not involve me. They get to design it on their terms, make their own choices. Perhaps this is an opportunity for all of us to feel into that possibility. Easy to say the words. My thinking is clear. Quite another thing to breathe it in, taste it, live it. Letting Go becomes an act of grace, survival and hope. I come back to me, how do I want to show up? This is a great motivator. And the truth cannot prevent my emotions from swirling, seeking pockets in my body to root. The heaviness is intense, weighted like cement.
Both Zander and Ocean have their own memories and perspectives. Their details and views may very well be different, as is often the case. We spent years holding all of it, together. Now they too have the courage and the curiosity to seek out their dad, to experience him, as it happens, on Danish soil. Our children do not currently speak Danish. Zander will stay in Denmark for three weeks to attend Summer School, to tour the country and have his first in-person language lessons.
I set two goals for this trip, to reconnect with family and to invite our children to feel their Danish heritage. This has happened. A third joy arrived, unexpected and unplanned, a love expression in person with their Far.
Happy New Year in June 2022.