How to Survive A Post-Divorce College Graduation

When you are divorced, family events, like a graduation, can be a stressful time for everyone involved.   Will my parents get along or will they make a scene?  Will they sit together or on opposite sides of the auditorium?  Who will be in the ‘family’ photo?  Will we all be able to go out for dinner afterward?  Will it be awkward?

Like many families this month, our family attended my youngest daughter’s college graduation in Rhode Island.   Our ‘family’ consisted of myself and my fiancé, my ex-husband and his wife, my oldest daughter, her boyfriend and my youngest daughter’s boyfriend.  It was a beautiful day and all that mattered was that our youngest was graduating and we were all there to celebrate her accomplishments of the past four years.  She was graduating cum laude, had a great job lined up and we were all so proud of her.   This was her amazing day and everything else would be put aside.

My fiancé and I were tasked with saving seats for everyone – including my ex and his  wife.  We all sat together and I’m happy to say that there was no awkwardness at all.  We even exchanged the obligatory kisses and hugs!  Boy, had we come a long way.  The day went smoothly, we got a lot of nice photos, even posted the ‘family’ photo on Facebook.  We had a very nice late lunch in Providence and now, all the kids were proud of us!

But it wasn’t always like this. I remember feeling very anxious leading up to our first family event, our oldest daughter’s high school graduation in 2009.  It was less than a year after our divorce was final.  My daughter was very concerned about how we would handle it and quite frankly, so was I.

We got through it though, but I remember it being very awkward and forced for everyone.  The conversations were limited, my heart raced and I was very uncomfortable.  I was just waiting for it to end so I could get the hell out of there.

Put Aside Your Differences 

This is not how I wanted things to be.  When I got married 28 years ago, I never imagined I would be sharing my kids with an ex-spouse and dealing with situations like this. But if you have kids, you will be connected with your ex-spouse for the rest of your life.  At some point, you have to let go of the past and move on.  I’m not saying to forget what happened or to even forgive, but life is too short to hold onto the pain and anger forever.  Before you know it, your kids will be having kids of their own.  Your actions and your relationship with your ex will directly impact them, the grandkids and the rest of the extended family.  You don’t want everyone worrying and stressing out every time there is something like a birthday, wedding, birth or even a death in the family. It’s up to you whether you want it to be a positive impact or a negative one.

It takes a lot to put aside your differences and take the high road, but I promise you, that it is in the best interest of your children, if you do just that.  Would my youngest have done so well in college had my ex and I continued to be at odds?  Who knows, but I do believe that because things have improved between their father and I, our kids are happier and adjusting well to this ‘new’ life.

My wish for the future, is that my ex and I are able to enjoy our children and their families together, as one big happy family.  I even mentioned to my daughter that maybe some day, we could all go to Disney with the grandkids.  She said, “Mom, we’re not even married yet!”  I said, “I know”… but I have to start psyching myself up for that one.





2 thoughts on “How to Survive A Post-Divorce College Graduation

  1. Oscar the Grouch says:

    I’m having two college graduations this month, and really am unhappy that my ex-wife has attended one and that she will attend the second next week.

    I don’t think she deserves to be there.

    I haven’t seen her or spoken to her since she left me and the kids behind in a mad rage, giving me 3 hours notice. She ordered me to communicate only through lawyers. The kids found out from their aunt that she was moving 4 hours and never coming back.

    She hasn’t visited them, and calls them only on their birthdays. They can call or visit her, but rarely have. Her trip to my son’s college was the first time she saw his school.

    I’ve paid for everything, taken care of the discipline, the car accidents, the medical problems, and tried to work as best I could (she hasn’t worked since she left).

    I didn’t see her at the first graduation (there were probably 10,000 people there), but might see her at the second graduation. I’ll have to hold back everything I can not to explode at her for what she did to the kids and to me.

    I wish these events weren’t taking place; I’d prefer not to go, but am going, begrudgingly. These are not celebrations when a parent who abandoned his or her kids decides to finally make an appearance.


    • Untying The Financial Knot says:

      I totally get where you are coming from, but for the kids sake, you do have to take the high road and not ‘explode at her’. The kids know who has taken care of them and who will continue to love and support them regardless of whether their mother attends their graduations. Your kids may feel the same way you do, so it’s hard on them too. At some point, you do have to let go of ‘what she did to you and the kids’ so you can move on and not let these types of events get to you, because this is just the beginning. You’re giving her the power to affect you this way and while it’s hard to let it go, you will feel better and lighter and then you can get back to enjoying your children and sharing in their lives, because before you know it, they will be gone. I am so much closer with my daughters (26 and 24), now that I have let go of my issues with my ex and his wife. My 26 year old is getting married in August and while planning this wedding has been challenging, I know the wedding day will be awesome because my ex and I are on much better terms now, which makes my kids happy.
      Hang in there Oscar the Grouch, take the next step….and maybe you won’t be grouchy anymore.


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