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Lessons Learned From “This Beautiful Trauma”

Posted June 10, 2019

Tonya Lanthier, RDH

Millions of women know what it is like to start again, whether it is moving on from a job that has become toxic, or boldly making a change in a family situation that is no longer fulfilling.

For me, the struggle has been real over the past few years. Divorce can be a tangled combination of  sadness, complicated feelings, and yes, relief. Going through life with challenges is inevitable, and believe me, it’s not for sissies. But as First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt said, “A woman is like a tea bag; you can’t tell how strong she is until you put her in hot water.”

We put up a fight for a long, long time. And it has taken me awhile to talk about it openly. The hardest part was, I was in love with the dream that I refused to give up on.

I wanted it so badly that I would do anything, even sacrifice myself to have that dream. That took an emotional toll on me while I was trying to build love, security and a strong ecosystem to improve the lives of everyone in my family.

Going into my marriage 18 years ago, I did not ever think I would end up divorced. Few of us ever do. Yet, things change, and we must recognize when the time has come to just plow through the heartache  to a stronger, more nurturing situation.  We have all adjusted, and done some personal re-inventing  to make things work better for our families.

With a sense of both liberation, and sadness, I finally surrendered. Yet, I have learned from this beautiful trauma and it has shaped me forever.

Whether it is a nuclear family or the family in a dental practice; every member must always have the security of knowing that others have their back. For our family, that hasn’t changed; the refuge and protection are just coming from two homes instead of one.

We are okay, and our girls are okay. This is what’s most important. We are embracing and celebrating a new journey. We live near each other and still work together. Some find that hard to understand, and that’s okay. I believe in coming from a place of love and always putting that around my children, my family, my business and my friends to make all of our lives better.

My own extended family dynamics have taught me strength, patience, and resilience. My grandparents on both sides of my family were pillars of their communities. I grew up watching and admiring their love and service to their friends and neighbors, through their businesses, and personal kindness.

I learned dramatically different skills and coping mechanisms from my mother.

She had Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) that debilitated her life, and in turn affected my sister and me growing up. It was so severe that she washed everything multiple times (including us!) or threw things away. Money, clothes, shoes, toys, everything she thought was “contaminated” often ended up in the trash.

I wanted my mother to always be okay, and free from the prison in her head. The amount of pain my sister and I endured watching mom gave me the will to want to be better, and to try to protect everyone around me.

Observing her pain gave me a gift, to see and help others. Yet most of all, to understand why people do the things they do. It is my “WHY” to help improve lives. My mother was unable to acquire wealth because of her constant obsession with things being contaminated.  Throwing things away meant they had to be replaced; and that is where the money went.

That is why I created DentalPost. I wanted people to be able to buy the things they needed, food, toys for their kids, to be able to go on vacation, and have a freer life. I saw the need when I was struggling with infertility and needed more flexibility in my schedule. I saw the need both when I was facing my own challenges, and listening to others struggling to find a good job.

As painful and startling as it was, I now see my childhood as a gift, because I would have not become the person I am today without surviving those hurdles. It made me aware of very basic human motivations and fears, which in turn gave me the skills to understand how to guide my patients and influence their care.

I am confident in my priorities, both in my family and my work.  I’m raising amazing children who feel loved, and I am confident they will someday pass their love and kindness on to my grandchildren.

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