Confession time – I’m a huge fan of the show “This Is Us”. I love the interwoven story lines, and I have a bit of a crush on Milo Ventimiglia. However, as someone in a helping profession who deals with people going through one of the most emotional and difficult times in their lives, I appreciate that the show doesn’t shy away from big emotions or sensitive topics. I’ve watched as they examined alcoholism, eating disorders and body image, racism, losing a child, and losing a parent. I’ve loved watching all of the characters face challenges, figure themselves out and become better versions of themselves. But what hit home and had me at full attention were the most recent episodes showing the unraveling of Kate and Toby’s relationship.
We watched Kate and Toby fall in love. We watched them grow as individuals, as a couple, and then as parents. We rooted for them. Then we watched them start to crack, and it was heart breaking. We could see where Toby was going wrong and what he could do to be a better partner and parent. We watched Kate make mistakes and could see where she could have changed. We watched them try, watched them try to balance what was best for them as individuals and what was best for their marriage. We saw how difficult it was for their family and appreciated it because it was just as hard for us to watch. We saw them go to therapy and could feel that it wasn’t working. We watched as their kids picked up on it all and wanted to protect them. And finally, we watched as their marriage ended and Toby tearfully said to Kate, “This can’t be how our story ends”.
But then, this is where “This Is Us” really shined. Kate and Toby went through mediation. They showed up to work out the details of their divorce and they put their children first. They were hurt and angry, but they stayed respectful during the process. On the day they signed their divorce paperwork, Kate told Toby that she knew he couldn’t see it, but that this wasn’t how their story would end. Flash forward to both Kate and Toby figuring out how to heal and finding love again. Flash forward to both parents and stepparents being at their son Jack’s concert, socializing with each other and supporting their child. Flash forward to scenes of happy, well-adjusted grown-up children. And finally, flash forward to Toby calling Kate on her wedding day to tell her, “I see it now”.
When a couple has children, the story doesn’t end when they get divorced. They will always be the parents to their children. Even if they remarry, Mom is Mom and Dad is Dad. When two people come to the table for mediation, when they sit down together to restructure their family so that they can move forward, they are able to write the outline for the rest of their story. I’m often blown away by the ability of people who are angry and hurting to put their kids first, to look ahead and see that they can create the future they want, even if it is different than they had previously imagined. And lastly, I’m grateful. I’m grateful that I get to facilitate this process. I’m grateful that my career path has brought me to a vocation I love. I’m grateful that my clients allow me to help them write their story.