The Night My Divorce Tried To Kill Me

January 18, 2019 by Jeremy Lanning

This is the story of the night my divorce tried to kill me. After 18 years and 3 children I found myself on the other side of a divorce. My wife was pursuing other interests and I got served with papers and a date for a temporary hearing. I was a full time dad, student, and caregiver to my family’s special needs. I was hands on.

I was asked to leave the house and I refused. That’s when my fight began. I stayed home with my children through the temporary hearing as I withstood false accusations, slander, and prolific mistreatment.

I moved out. I got an apartment nearby and with help from church folk I had a mattress, a vacuum, some kitchen supplies, a bunk bed, and a toddler bed. I got to keep a non-working crock pot and a broken television from 20 years of family life. These orders were temporary and I was going to see my kids in 7 days. In a decade I hadn’t gone more than 1 day without seeing them. I could do it. I had to.

I spent the week getting ready. I planned 9 hours of activities for 2 hours of Thursday “visitation.” You could say I was still stunned. To my shock, I was denied visitation. I was told that I had it wrong. “You can come back next Thursday, unless you have to work.” The door shut. I guess she didn’t hear me ask if I could just see them really quick.

I went 14 days without seeing my children. No contact at all. I was a shell of myself. My only salve was the hope of seeing them for two hours on a Thursday. Surely I can’t be expected to live and parent this way.

The following Thursday came and my apartment was in order. I was excited. I had new carpet. The kids had never lived with carpet. I know my kids. They were going to flip for the carpet. They were sharing a room and they had a bathroom to themselves. I decorated it with years of father’s day drawings.

I picked them up and I could hear a man in the background say something as the door shut. I was so excited. The children were like a pile of exploding firecrackers. All I could think of was two hours. We got to the apartment complex. I wanted them to know that I was okay, that they had a home with me too. I wanted the two hours to be as normal as possible. I showed them the pool on site. They went nuts. We got to the apartment. The clock was ticking. I had them take off their shoes. I opened the door and they saw the carpet and went stomping in. I was forgetful of the misery and the dread. For a moment I was hopeful.

I was shocked how hard it was to manage this two-hour period. It felt like I was on a game show. My plan evaporated and I decided to head back slowly and go for ice cream. I gathered my children as they waved by to the apartment and we headed back. As we sat at the ice cream shop I watched the clock. Still do it to this day. I had to cry a little in secret, over my shoulder.

I dropped them off to complaints that they were dirty. I drove home well under the speed limit. It was after 8pm and I decided to walk around Target until closing. My apartment didn’t seem so hopeful anymore.

When I finally entered my apartment the first thing I noticed was the inside of their bedroom. Once so full of life. Once a sign of what’s to come, now a sign of what has left. I started to sob. I ran to their bedroom and shut the door. 9 years later and it’s a practice I continue. When my kids are gone the door stays shut, except when I mistakenly check on them in the middle of the night. That’s rough.

It was then I noticed that I tracked some dirt onto the carpet. Still crying I got out my vacuum and went to work. As I was feverishly going back and forth I noticed a pristine footprint in the carpet. A child’s bare footprint. My hand was still moving the vacuum and in a fit of slow motion I noticed the vacuum rolling over the footprint before I could stop. It was gone.

I collapsed to the ground hitting my head on the wall. Trying to yell “no.” I couldn’t breathe. Couldn’t move. I crawled around searching for another footprint, any sign that would prove they were there. I couldn’t open the bedroom door. I couldn’t think. The vacuum was running, still devouring the footprint. I yanked the cord out of the wall and stood up. I was one decision away from being pain free.  

It was a long, lonely, and scary night. At sun up I awoke a survivor and the father I am today.  Those nights continue to this day but I wake up and take it because that’s what daddy’s do.

Jeremy J. Lanning is a Licensed Professional Counselor and Psychotherapist practicing in Fort Worth, TX and abroad, specializing in trauma, critical response, suicidality, addictions, and divorce recovery. Mr. Lanning has a BA and BS in Psychology and a Master’s Degree in Counseling Psychology. In addition, Mr. Lanning served 8 years’ active duty military in the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps as a Hospital Corpsman. Jeremy is a father of four with extensive personal experience in divorce recovery and the fight for sensible, data driven, family court reform. 

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