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What's in a Name

Is losing your name, losing yourself within a divorce?

When my 13 year marriage fell apart unexpectedly and swiftly, I had three children within the marriage and never even thought about switching my name at the time.

The marriage was a difficult one with toxicity and upheaval but I still wanted to be a connected family with my children. As I began to process all of the trauma and set onto a path of self-healing, I often felt that I myself, did not connect with my name and it began to feel like I was an imposter in my own skin. This discovery was a continual process through the years and being divorced in a small town was just a plain difficult period.

Fast forward several years when I had met a wonderful man that I loved and we had decided to add a child to our family (he has completely taken my three children as his and refers to them as his own). This brought up the identity of a name. It was such a raw feeling that began to come up in me, over and over.

Often I felt I was being torn between my old life and my new life. I so wanted to move on from the past and everything it represented. I respected my previous life but this was a new version of myself that had metamorphosed past that previous shell. To make matters more difficult, I live in a southern town in the bible belt where immediate judgment comes because you don’t “have the same last name” as your children.

I felt this attention often and would be referred to by my old name with an immediate, “I am sorry”, combined with a look of pity or judgment. I also received comments that are too many here to list but some such as…

“You, at least should have the name of one of your children…”

“Does it bother you if I make this out in your previous name?”

“That is such a shame about your divorce.”

“You should have the last name of your children.”

This was compounded when going to the store to pick up those cute monogrammed towels and cups, and asking, “What initial should I get?Who am I? Would this hurt my children if I picked one up that didn’t include their last name?”.

One of the hardest parts for me has been my relationship with my name. I have come to realize that I am, who I am and my tribe consists of various people from various last names, family or not.

There has had to be lots of questioning myself, forgiving and healing, to get to the point where I understand that all of that judgment really has nothing to do with me. Rather, it’s a result of what other people might be experiencing themselves.

I have developed a love for all of my names now. They represent the story that brought me to here. I love the example for my children that a family is not defined by obligation but choice, acceptance and love.

For more information on self-love and healing visit, The Red Bow Project Amber Bradshaw-Wooten is a practicing blended family life coach and has a PhD in Educational Psychology.

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