Divorced Parents Take a Trip to the ER

divorced parents

By Jackie Pilossoph, Founder, Divorced Girl Smiling, the place to find trusted, vetted divorce professionals, a podcast, website and mobile app.

When divorced parents interact, they typically act like this: cold, impersonal, cordial, angry and/or annoyed. At least at the beginning of the divorce. We all have to hope that as time goes by, divorced parents can be genuine friends.

I want to share a story about two divorced parents–me and my ex, who ended up in the ER with our son shortly after we were separated, and how it changed our relationship and my perspective on divorce.

I will probably remember the day for the rest of my life. Here is the story:

I was lying on a lawn chair on my back patio stealing some of the bright sunshine while on a conference call for work. Ah…the life. I’m catching some serious rays while landing a pretty big deal for my business.

I hung up and started walking back into the house when I got another call, a number I didn’t recognize.

“Hello, this is Jackie,” I answered.


Juli Walton, Divorce Therapist, North Shore Reach


“Hi Mrs. So and So, this is So and So from your son’s camp. Uh…” She starts nervously stuttering and that’s when my heart began to pound.

“What happened?!”

“Well, there was an accident. Your son’s head is bleeding pretty badly. We have an ambulance on its way. You should go to the hospital.”

Now I was frantic. I seriously was out the door within 3 seconds.

Just before I pulled out of the driveway, I called my ex husband. He didn’t pick up. “Call me. It’s an emergency,” I texted. He called back a couple minutes later, as I’m flying to the ER.

Through tears, I said, “Go to the emergency now. There was an accident at camp. That’s all I know.”

“Be right there,” he said.

My heart continued to pound. I couldn’t stop shaking, and tears were streaming down my face as I kept repeating, “Please, God, let him be okay, Please, God, let him be okay…” over and over.

I waited at the hospital for the ambulance and when it got there, I got to go to his room, where I saw my sweet little boy sitting there, (he was about 10 at the time) brave as you can be.


Cherie Morris, J.D. - Divorce Coach and
Founder, Dear Divorce Coach


I had stopped crying because the lady at the front desk told me to. She said if I cried in front of my boy, it would scare him.

So, I smiled and hugged and kissed him and held his hand. I was told pretty immediately that he needed 4 stitches in his head, but all in all, he was going to be fine.

A couple minutes later, in walks my ex, his eyes red, the most worried look I think I’ve ever seen on his face.

At that moment, we weren’t our ordinary divorced parents who were cold and distant, who talked to each other with disgust and bitterness. Rather, we were divorced parents with a common prayer: let our son be OK. We were humble and compromising our negative feelings for each other with desperate prayer.

No arguing, not yelling, no dirty looks, no blame game, nothing. Just two divorced parents desperate for their child to be OK.

Despite all the ugliness we’d been through in the past few years, at this moment, I wanted to hug my ex husband. I wanted to tell him he didn’t have to worry because everything was fine. I wanted to tell him that nothing on earth really matters except for our children, and that the divorce seemed so minimal and stupid and meaningless. I’ll go so far as to say for a minute, I even wanted him back. I wanted to erase the past and pretend it didn’t happen. I wanted my family back together.

What’s funny (and very sad) is that the minute we knew our son was going to be OK, those feelings vanished instantly. BUT, they had been there and some of it stuck. I’m not sure if that’s a natural reaction, or if I’m unique. But I think when something like this happens, the resentment, hostility, and coldness you feel for an ex is replaced by the fragility of life–of the people you love most–the kids. Being there in that ER made me realize that the pettiness and the hate and the anger of divorce really are a waste. Because if God forbid the day would have turned out differently, nothing else would have mattered.



After that day, I remember thinking maybe this was the start of a friendship for me and my ex. Sadly, I was wrong. He went back to being his cold, distant, angry self for many more years, and who knows? Maybe I did, too. But the ER trip really did make me think and that is what I hope for divorced parents reading this.

Why did it take a trip to the ER to wake me up to the fact that life is precious and the divorce is a very small bump in the road of life? And that without health you have nothing. Nothing. My wish is that divorced parents can think this way even during those times when hate seems to consume you.

Accidents and tragedies and deaths change people’s perspectives drastically. Unfortunately, it’s usually temporary. The perspective switches back after the hard time ends.

I want to end with this: Keep that in mind next time your ex does something that really bugs you, and you feel that hatred, anger, resentment, and/or annoyance, think to yourself: ‘Health, life, happiness.’Going back to the basics–which is everything that matters, will help you realize that life is soooo much larger than your divorce.

Like this article? Check out, “Change is a Bitch. Why We Fear Change and How to Cope”

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    Jackie Pilossoph

    Editor-in-chief: Jackie Pilossoph

    Jackie Pilossoph is the Founder of Divorced Girl Smiling, the media company that connects people facing with divorce to trusted, vetted divorce professionals. Pilossoph is a former NBC affiliate television journalist and Chicago Tribune/Pioneer Press features reporter. Her syndicated column, Love Essentially was published in the Chicago Tribune/Pioneer Press and Tribune owned publications for 7 1/2 years. Pilossoph holds a Masters degree in journalism from Boston University. Learn more at: DivorcedGirlSmiling.com

    3 Responses to “Divorced Parents Take a Trip to the ER”

    1. Liberated Mama

      My kids and I lived in Skokie back in 2007 and I was driving both kids to school the morning of May 8th (this would have been our 8 year wedding anniversary). We stopped at the Dunkin Donuts on Dempster Street because it was Pajama Day for my daughter at Elizabeth Meyer and we were bringing Munchkins. It was a gorgeous morning the sun was shining and life couldn’t have been any better.

      We lived close to DD so I drove through our neighborhood passed our street on our way to Keeler. As I was driving West approaching Kedvale I saw a Jeep Cherokee driving North on Kedvale and it didn’t look like we were going to clear the intersection, she had a Yield sign and we had the right of way.

      What happened next still haunts me to this day and I find myself having flashbacks out of the blue. I knew we were going to get hit and also realized that slamming on my breaks wasn’t going to lessen the impact because the other driver wasn’t slowing down. My heart felt like it was going to explode and I was scared. I just pressed on the horn and held it hoping the driver would realize what was about to happen due to her negligence. My kids started to cry and scream, “mommy!, mommy!, mommy!”…………

      The next thing I remember is being hit at full force on the drivers side of our Toyota Sienna minivan and feeling the car tipping over on it’s side and coming to a crashing stop on the curb. I can’t tell you how petrified I was to turn around to look at my precious jewels. My daughter was in the seat right behind so she felt the impact just like I did and I noticed that she was bleeding from her head. My son was sitting right behind her in the third row and he was stuck and couldn’t unbuckle his seatbelt.

      I was in shock and followed the instructions from all of the neighbors, paramedics, policeman and firefighters who came to help, I will never forget their generosity and how they helped us.

      Because our car flipped on it’s side, we all needed help getting out through the sunroof as the drivers window was badly damaged. I realized I was barefoot and felt the pieces of glass while I was moving away from the car. I remember begging for a cell phone, I needed to call my ex-husband.

      He had just started a new job so it took me a few tries to reach him on his cell phone. I was so relieved when he answered and started crying and screaming in pain. You see, when I stepped away from the car and looked back I saw each of our children on separate gurney’s being attended to by the paramedics, they were each strapped to keep their little toddler bodies still. I looked to the left of them and saw our car on it’s side with glass everywhere as well as the munchkins and all of our stuff covering the intersection.

      It was at that moment while on the phone that I realized how terrified my ex-husband must be and begged him to drive safely to the scene. To this day I can’t imagine what he must have felt when he arrived, seeing our car on it’s side and our children being treated by the paramedics.

      We spent the rest of the day together as a family, at the hospital and then back at my in-laws to rest and recuperate. It is very comforting to know that even though our marriage ended, the commitment to our children and each other will continue as long as both shall live.


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