Today our story comes from Brianna Cougill. She wrote to me of her parents divorce, her love for her sister, and survival. This is her story.
At age four or so, I remember pacing around the house, wondering what would happen if my parents divorced. Yes, that young. I remember weighing out the pros and the cons to living with one parent versus the other. I didn’t have a bad childhood really, I went to a good school, had parents that cared, grandparents that doted on me, but… something never felt right. My dad would sleep on the couch most nights. I never really saw my parents be sweet to each other. Getting permission consisted of asking the parents separately and making sure the answers coincided. Sleepovers had to be planned a week in advance, at least, no matter who was hosting them. But, to me, that was life.
When I was six, my sister was born. I was so excited, I was gonna have a baby sister! But… it got bad. I don’t remember too many details, but I took care of her… a lot. My dad started drinking around me, stopped doing school projects with me, and started going on business trips so he wasn’t home as much.
At age nine or ten, we moved into our new house. We built it ourselves on the back of our property, lovely large house with hardwood floors and a large living area for hosting parties. That’s when things started going downhill at an alarming rate.
We had people over all the time, and when we weren’t hosting parties, we went to them. I was pulled out of school to be homeschooled. The parents started fighting in front of us. Dad slept on the couch every night. Drank himself into oblivion. And I hid my sister from all of it I could. When the parents started fighting, I would bring her outside or turn the TV in her bedroom up so we couldn’t hear them. Tickle her until she screamed so their screams were drowned out. Slam the closet door to muffle the doors slamming in the living room. Of course, she knew what was going on. I told her it would be okay, and I would always be here, and that they were just dealing with their issues. It wasn’t our fault. Because we were just kids.
Around age twelve or thirteen is when they sat us down and told us they were getting divorced. I can’t completely remember because I disassociated most of that away. My sister started crying, she was only six or seven. Mom hugged me while I just sat there and stared into nothing. My dad kept asking if I was okay, but I couldn’t speak. My mom just held me while I faded away.
After that, it’s all kind of a blur. I went from having a few friends to nobody, I started therapy, my sister and I split the week with both parents. My dad remarried, my mom didn’t, life went on. I can’t remember ages 12-15 very well at all, I know some key events but most of it is very warped and patchy.
The one thing that never changed was my sister. Through everything, we remained close. It was all we could do to survive. We played together, rarely fought, and only remained angry at each other for a few brief hours before things calmed down again.
The divorce is never your fault. Regardless of what your emotions may be telling you, regardless of what your parents may tell you, regardless of what your friends and family may tell you. Find that person or those people in your life that make it bearable, and hang on to them. It may not be who you expect, or who you think you want. I had friends abandon me who told me they’d always be there, and while I hope that doesn’t happen to you… be aware that even if some leave, others come in their place that are immensely better.
I’m twenty years old now, and I never thought I would make it this far. Keep your fists up, and fight.