I Didn't Realize How Lonely My Marriage Was Until I Camped Alone In The Woods With My Kids

I was so used to my needs coming second that being alone with kids in the woods felt normal.

mom having campfire with kids MNStudio / Shutterstock

Last month, I took the kids camping by myself for the first time since the divorce.

Right now, all of me wishes I was still deep in those peaceful Redwoods with the warm-reaching sunshine on my skin, holding on for dear life to every hour in the hammock with them.

Tonight I long to be back in the place where we were, hours away from our town, in a little cabin with bunk beds, sitting around a campfire with fresh new faces we didn’t know. The place where, even though we were a family of three instead of four, strangely, it still felt like home.


But togetherness doesn’t last long after a divorce.

Come to think of it — it lasts only half as long as it used to.

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For four days straight, our view of the lake took my breath away, and so did those noose-like ropes hanging from the branches above.

At first, it occurred to me how jaw-droppingly low the water level must be compared to last summer.

Then, after the day was done, we had our fun, and everyone laid quietly in their cabins at night listening to the crickets chirp — the rest of life’s deficits hit me as hard as a hurricane. 


I thought of this song by Brandi Carlile: 

It really breaks my heart to see a dear old friend
Go down to the worn-out place again
Do you know the sound
Of a closing door
Have you heard that sound before
Do you wonder if she knows you anymore
I wrapped your love around me like a chain
But I never was afraid that it would die
You can dance in a hurricane
But only if you’re standing in the eye
. — Brandi Carlile, “The Eye”

I wrapped my ex-husband’s love around me like a chain.

He and my kids were my world, my why, and like water to my soul when it ran dry. I lived every day for them, tending to their needs and comfortably ignoring mine.

On our “Family Camp 2021” trip, I blissfully devoted my time and energy to the same vital cause — ensuring that my kids were safe, happy, and healthy. Of course, this time, with the added scents of sunscreen, hot pine needles, dirt, and that oh-so-refreshing grassy lake water.


It wasn’t until nightfall, when my ex naturally would have been there with us, that I realized I bore most of the weight of that love, i.e., that chain, on my shoulders.

When it came to the intense emotional labor it takes to keep a family afloat; I did most of the heavy lifting in our relationship.

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My goal every day was to meet the basic (and not-so-basic) needs of the family.

I was so used to my needs coming second that camping alone in the Redwoods with my kids felt like I never left home.

I need to know that I am also loved, valued, and safe.

I need to know that I am respected, understood, and have an equal voice in a relationship with the man I married.


I don’t know when my ex and I became so disconnected — if things went to crap somewhere along the way or if my basic needs were never truly met. But one thing is unmistakably undeniable: Hindsight is 20/20.

The most powerful storms known to man: Divorces and Hurricanes.

Today, I learned the five main elements of a hurricane, and that number four, the ‘eye,’ is the calmest place to be.

Going through a divorce and slowly severing the family is as devastating as a natural disaster; the only difference is getting through a divorce can take years instead of a few weeks. I learned one more thing today: Divorce is a complex storm, to put it lightly, but the ‘eye’ of it for me was camping alone in the Redwoods with my kids.


Today I asked Google: Is it bad to be in the eye of a hurricane?

“It’s not entirely uncommon for people in the eye of a hurricane to assume the storm has passed and think it’s safe to go outside. People caught in the eye need to continue sheltering in place and, if anything, prepare for the worst. Circling the center eye are the eyewall winds, the strongest in the hurricane.”

While everyone snuggled up with their significant others around the campfire, I was alone, in the Redwoods, with my kids.


Then, when the cool mornings came, bacon sizzled, and hot coffee flowed — I was still alone in the Redwoods with my kids. 

Suffice to say; it’s a weird time in my life to find where I belong all over again at thirty-nine. But as I reminisce tonight on “Family Camp 2021," I am trembling with heartache and gratitude for standing strong in the eye of the hurricane for four days straight and learning how to dance in the sh*tstorm that is my life.

I am a sturdy soul
And there ain’t no shame
In lying down in the bed you made
Can you fight the urge to run for another day
You might make it further if you learn to stay
I wrapped your love around me like a chain
But I never was afraid that it would die
You can dance in a hurricane
But only if you’re standing in the eye.
— Brandi Carlile, “The Eye”

Déjà you, but better.


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Divina Grey is a writer and mother. Follow her on Medium for more.