My adolescence was marked by a father leaving. The news came in the mail, in a letter that said my father had a daughter and a son by another woman. We had been replaced.
This knowledge—this replacement—gouged a big, thick crater in me. And there were other things to solidify what it spoke to my heart: Not good enough.
My mother told us over dinner that she’d be divorcing my father. My brother ran. I was too numb to move. My sister was 8 and had never really known our dad, so she kept eating her dinner as though the whole world had not just fallen apart.
I’ve written this experience over and over again. A father leaving. A child coming to terms with the leaving.
My father left in totality. He was not a frequent communicator at the best of times, even when he and my mother were still married, but after the divorce we would go months that stretched into years without hearing from him. The longest time between calls was four years. I was in high school. He had, essentially, disappeared.
The loss of a parent is difficult for children at any stage, but particularly for adolescents. Your brain is undergoing significant changes at this stage of life. Your body is metamorphosing, your thoughts and emotions are a brainstorm.
This is one of the reasons I wrote THE COLORS OF THE RAIN: to show those who have been left behind by a parent that they are seen, they are loved, they are still significant. And, most importantly: They will survive.
The problem is that when you’re going through a situation like this, you’re not talking to other people. You become very insular, trying to figure out what you did wrong, why he left, what you can do to bring him back.
I wanted to start #TheColorsOfTheRain because life’s circumstances—whether it’s a parent leaving or an unexpected sickness or lack of financial resources—can seem particularly overwhelming to adolescents, who are already overwhelmed at this stage of life. But those of us who have been through such circumstances know that there is an end to that story. There is The Other Side. We can point to the color in the rain.
Sometimes the rain has to quench the land’s thirst to produce a beautiful garden. Let’s help adolescents through that rain.
What I’d like you to do is share your own wisdom and encouragement using #TheColorsOfTheRain; I’ll collect them and put them in a central place so when young people need help finding color in their rain, they will find it.
Here’s what I would tell that little girl struggling through her parents’ divorce:
This is not your fault.
You are loved.
There is nothing you did to make him go away and nothing you can do to bring him back.
You are worthy of every good thing that comes your way.
What would you say to a child wading through your childhood circumstances?
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Have something to add to the conversation? Share your wisdom for kids enduring difficult circumstances using the #TheColorsOfTheRain hashtag.
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Rachel Toalson is an author, essayist, and poet who regularly contributes to adult and children’s print and online publications around the world. She lives in San Antonio, Texas, with her husband and six boys. The Colors of the Rain is her first traditionally published novel. You can visit her online at www.rltoalson.com.