The Story of the Survival of Family After Divorce


by Jontie Hays~I was sitting in the ICU today where my husband’s brother Jack laid with only hours to days to live. He just turned 45.  I came with my husband who I have been separated from for 8 months after 21 years of marriage. We have two children, Jackson 17 and Jade 14.

My ex- brother- in- law Shawn, drove with us to see Jack. Shawn was married to my husband’s sister Jennifer for 10 years. They have been divorced about 4 years and have two children, Jason 18 and Jasmine, 11.  Jack and his wife Tami divorced after 22 years together about 3 years ago. They share a daughter Zoe, who is 14.

Last night my husband was at the hospital with Jennifer and Jade. Today before we left, Tami, Zoe, Jennifer and Jason came.
I looked around the room reflecting on the history we all shared. All of the adults there were in their mid to late 40’s. Almost a quarter of a century together as a family. We grew up together, we had our children together, we divorced together. Our family changed but it did not end.

All of our children have been fortunate enough to grow up in the same town and have always been close and although their interaction on a daily basis has ebbed and flowed over the last several years they still remain close as they have come into their own.

Death has shown me that while divorce and separation has it’s tensions, somehow the history we all share allows us to have grace with one another.  My husband and Shawn, still ride bikes together, They have even gone on cycling trips together. Jennifer and Tami became good friends after Tami and Jack divorced.  Jennifer and I may not be as close as we once were but we still have love and honor with each other. I go to Jennifer’s fitness contests to support her.

We are still aunts and uncles even though we are not related by marriage anymore. We still carve out time to spend time together as a family.  Anger, misunderstandings and resentment rises and falls as our family evolves but here we are.

Death is not an end but only energy in transition. As I sat there today, I realized divorce is not an end to a family but is itself a type of energy in transition. Energy consisting of history and love; Memories of happiness, sadness, anger… It never ceases to exist regardless of changes is marital status, geographic locations in life or death.

As I watched our children watching us, I felt blessed beyond belief. In the grief of losing Jack, our children were able to see that family bonds extend far beyond the labels humans place on each other. Our children are able to witness that although relationships do not always remain the same, they can still be a part of our life and what really makes a relationship beautiful does not have to disappear.  Over the past 5 years with divorce and separation going on in our family, our children are able to witness how our own belief systems are what truly define what family is.

On his last day, immediate family filtered in and out. Throughout the day Jack’s ex-wife Tami and his daughter Zoe kept Vigil.
John, a paternal uncle came from California. He sat by his nephew’s bedside all day, holding his hand and talking to him. It was the first time he ever met his nephew Jack. But he knew what is was to be in recovery. Jack did not make it to that point but John told him it was okay; He was still a wonderful man who was surrounded by people who loved him.

Yesterday Jack died with Tami and Zoe by his bedside. I came with Jade and Jasmine as soon as I could. Jim and Jennifer arrived with their mom. Shawn made sure Jasmine stayed with Jennifer for the night even though it was “his night”.
It was a time of heartache and will be for a long time to come for those who loved Jack. But in his death Jack gave all of us a beautiful gift; An opportunity to change our beliefs about endings…a chance to show our children that love is energy itself; It cannot be contained in anything that is defined my mere labels, roles or change in circumstances. In his death Jack has shown us TRUTH; Love and acceptance are unconditional and a choice we can make every day, every hour and every minute.

Through this experience it has made me proud to be human with all of our flaws, mistakes and imperfections for that is what makes us truly beautiful.

Family life is full of major and minor crises — the ups and downs of health, success and failure in career, marriage, and divorce — and all kinds of characters. It is tied to places and events and histories. With all of these felt details, life etches itself into memory and personality. It’s difficult to imagine anything more nourishing to the soul“~Thomas Moore

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About Jontie Hays

Jontie Hays  is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. She graduated from Florida State University in 1993. As a private practitioner, she specializes in many areas including: Child sexual abuse, trauma, depression, anxiety, women’s health, couples and family counseling. She also is Supreme Court certified in family mediation and serves as a consultant to an international company, which provides onsite crisis response to the corporate community. She has served as an expert witness in family litigation involving children. She is a dedicated to assisting others in reaching their highest and most authentic selves. Through the use of integrative approach, Jontie embraces an attitude towards the practice of psychotherapy that affirms the inherent value of each individual. It is a unifying psychotherapy that responds appropriately and effectively to the person at the affective, behavioral, cognitive, and physiological levels of functioning, and addresses as well the spiritual dimension of life  St. Augustine, Florida is home to Jontie and her family. She has been married to her wonderful, handsome husband Jim for 22 years. They share two beautiful children Jackson and Jade.

7 thoughts on “The Story of the Survival of Family After Divorce

  1. Paula Susan

    How heartening. This is how life should be lived – could be lived, if we were able to rise above anger and hurt and remember we are all human beings just trying to make it through. Thank you for the inspirational article.


  2. Jen Hays

    Thank you Jontie. This is a beautiful expression of our family during a time of great sadness. It is a blessing that our love does not disappear as we change.

  3. Virginia Colin

    My family has had similar experiences.
    I happened to arrive at the home of my ex-husband and his wife about an hour after he died from cancer. It was many years after he had remarried. I had come to pick up my young adult daughter. I knew my ex was in home hospice care, but I had not known that death would come so soon. His wife, his mother, and some of his siblings were in the house and had been there for a while. They had already said their good-byes. I just sat by his bed, where has body lay quietly, for a long time. It felt right to be there. I guess his relatives had similar feelings about my being there. No one intruded. After a while I joined them in another room.
    At his memorial service those who spoke from the podium included his wife, his son from his first marriage, and my daughter, from his second marriage. All three women he had married were present, along with many friends and relatives. There were a couple of awkward moments, but the strongly prevailing feeling was that the bonds of connection and caring were what mattered.

  4. Tami Hays

    Thank you Jontie. What has always made this family special is that we love each other for who we are. Unconditionally. I am proud to still be considered part of it. My wonderful 14 year old baby is spending this week with her Mimi, keeping her company and cleaning and cooking and of course making coffee. She loves her cousins and her aunts and uncles and was looking forward to visiting. Zoe and I are lucky to have all of you.


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