“Love Triangle” and the Gift of Grieving Togetherness

I don’t move in country music circles so I’m late to the party when it comes to the song “Love Triangle” by Raelynn. The song gives voice to a childhood perspective of her parents’ divorce. For me, two phrases that describe our dilemna of loss stand out:
Then I run to him, Big hug, jump in. And I cry for her, Out the window1
and
Then I run to her. Wrap my arms, around her skirt. And I cry for him. Out the window1

looking-out-the-window-2-by-carol-munroThis conflict is reminiscent of Elizabeth Marquardt’s words in her book Between Two Worlds:
“I missed my mother and father terribly when I was separated from one of them—and I was always separated from one of them.”2

Feel familiar? The Christmas season brings this loss to a head for many adults with divorced parents. It’s a time when togetherness oozes from every commercial and show. Songs like “I’ll Be Home for Christmas3 fill your ears at the coffee shop only to remind you your home dissolved years ago. However, as Divorce Sucks! by Addie Willams 50the clouds of sadness move in we have a choice; run away and deny the clouds exist, or turn towards them and feel the loss. After years of denial, I finally did the latter.

Accepting the gift of grieving
I used busyness as a Band-Aid for making it through the Christmas holiday, but a few short years ago, I decided to embrace the loss.

  • First, I admitted I missed having my dad at Christmas…a lot.
  • Second, I allowed the sadness to come. As a guy, crying is not my thing, but holding back tears when a Christmas movie triggered my thoughts of post-divorce Christmases was energy draining. Allowing the tears to come was cleansing and energy boosting. Who knew? (other than the female half of the human race.)
  • Then I took my pain to the Lord. I found praying specifically about what I missed very helpful. “When my heart is overwhelmed, lead me to the rock (Jesus) that is higher than I4

Forgiveness by Tiffany ScantleburyLord, even though Mom did a great job with Christmas, it wasn’t the same without Dad. I really missed him playing his favorite Christmas music.

  • Next came focusing God’s blessings—my wife, my kids, my home, our holiday traditions, and so much more.
  • The last thing I did to embrace the loss was commit to strengthening my marriage so my kids would never have to choose between Mom and Dad. Taking in a marriage seminar, reading books, listening to teachings all help. See our resource page and audios and videos for many marriage strengthening resources.

This process wasn’t easy. The first couple Christmas seasons were actually worse. But with persistence and lots of prayer an amazing thing happened. The Lord took the sting out of the loss, and I was able to fully enjoy Christmases. It turned out, grieving was a wonderful gift!

 

1Nicolle Anne Galyon, Racheal Woodward, Jimmy Robbins. Love Triangle, 2016 © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc., Universal Music Publishing Group
2 Elizabeth Marquardt, Between Two Worlds, (NY, NY: Crown Publishers, 2005), 8.
3Kim Gannon ,Walter KentBuck Ram, I’ll Be Home For Christmas, 1943, Decca Records.
4Psalm 61:2b, KJV
 
Images
Looking out the window 2 by Carol Munro
Divorce Sucks! by Addie Willams
Forgiveness by Tiffany Scantlebury

Six Helps for Handling Your First Thanksgiving as a Divorced Family

Before the holidays many articles describe the challenges divorced parents face in making the holidays okay for their kids. Do you keep oldIMGP6979 by siti fatimah traditions or start new ones? Should you let them be with your ex, or have the kids at home?

But what about those who are approaching Thanksgiving and Christmas with divorced parents for the first time?
The emotional turmoil new adult children of divorce experience is great, and no one seems to understand. You don’t even understand, but that’s okay. Here are six steps that aren’t cure alls, but can lay the groundwork for holidays that aren’t horrible:

 1)  Acknowledge the pain. Let’s face it, most of you didn’t want this outcome. It’s important to fess up that you have sorrow, grief, frustration, anger, disappointment, fear, disgust, apprehension, and a host of other feelings because of your parents’ divorce—even if it was anticipated.

2)  Tell someone about the pain. First, “Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.”1 Pray to God and tell Him what’s on your mind—the good, the bad, the pretty, the ugly. God can handle it, and He wants to help. Forgiveness by Tiffany ScantleburySecond, talk it out with your spouse or close trusted friend. Verbalizing your feelings can really help to ease your frustrations.

 3)  Go into the holiday with a plan. Where will you spend the holiday, with who, when, and why? Remember, this is your holiday too. In trying to please parents—which is now infinitely more complicated—we lose ourselves causing bitterness, anger, and resentment. Is this the year to stay at home or go to your spouse’s parents for Thanksgiving dinner? What is best for you? As the stewardesses say on the plane, when emergencies happen, put your oxygen mask on first.

4)  Remember everyone is hurting. Like a pebble in a lake, the divorce-ripples affect a lot of people. Siblings, grandparents, kids, even your spouse’s parents and siblings are all caught in this storm. Author and ACOD, Stephanie Staal, says it well, “everyone was comfortable with the extremely uncomfortable situation.”2 Tempers may be short, tears may flow, and tension may be high, but remember, everyone is hurting—even those with smiling faces. And most haven’t acknowledged or shared their pain.girl-talk-by-nathan-rupert

5)  Debrief after the holiday. Within a week, talk through how things went with your spouse or close friend. Grab a coffee somewhere and share your thoughts and emotions. If it was terrible, okay, or somewhere in-between, tell them how and why. Sharing greatly reduces bitterness, anger, and resentment that can taint us and our relationships.

6)  Keep the Thanks-giving in Thanksgiving. Even in this difficult time, you have much to be thankful for. Create a list of the ways God has blessed you this year. Keep it near,and read it regularly. It will remind you to “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”3

Do you have something that worked for you? Please share it as a reply below. Thanks!

 

11 Peter 5:7, NLT
2 Stephanie Staal, The Love They Lost: Living with the legacy of Our Parent’s Divorce, (NY, NY: Delacorte Press, 2000)
31 Thessalonians 5:18, NIV

Images
IMGP6979 by siti fatimah
Forgiveness by Tiffany Scantlebury
Girl talk by Nathan Rupert

Stepfamilies and the Holidays

Many adult children of divorce (and their spouses) are networked into a stepfamily. Stepfamilies can add layers of complications to relationships and holiday dynamics.

stepfamily-cartoon-by-dorthy-b-torres

Doing better than “surviving the holidays” begins with understanding what’s really going on. This requires separating fact from fiction. Terry Clark-Jones just posted a strong article titled “Dispel Stepfamily Myths.” She lists ten common stepfamily myths and corresponding truths.The Smart Stepfamily bk

Another organization that offers excellent information about stepfamily dynamics and how to incorporate them successfully is Ron Deals’ Smart Stepfamily ministry. His book and ministry offer solid, truthful, real, and biblical help for all those who are trying to make the stepfamily thing work.

Deep down, our desire is for a family that has “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control.”1 Seem impossible? “With God all things are possible.”Committing your ways to God and reviewing these resources can be a strong step toward enjoying the holiday season this year!

 

1Galatians 5:22-23, NLT
2Matthew 19:26, NIV

Image
Stepfamily Cartoon by Dorthy B. Torres from stepfamilyrochester.org

Finding a Trustworthy Person to Share With (Confidant Part 2)

Have you ever experienced something like this?
I can’t believe you told them. That was a private conversation!” You’re furious because you voiced some concerns about your boss to a coworker and thanks to their loose lips, everyone, including your boss, know what you said.

Though many have experienced trust violations, one major casualty of coming from a broken home is a fear of trusting people. So it’s natural to flinch when thinking about sharing our parental-divorce related stuff. However, as I mentioned in the last blog, sharing is very important if we don’t want the anxiety, anger, and frustrations we experience to taint our relationships and marriage.

The good news is strong confidant candidates are out there, but we need to qualify them properly. Here are some desired qualities.
A confidant:

  • has your best interest at heart—by using biblical truth to judge what’s best for you
  • encourages and affirms your willingness to share your burden
  • maintains confidentiality, but doesn’t condone immoral or illegal activities
  • serves as a sounding board—mostly listening, asking a few questions, and offering biblical advice
  • remains objective—sees through any bias caused by your closeness to the situation
  • exhibits sensitivity, but doesn’t choose sides
  • challenges you to dig past the surface issues to the deeper emotions
  • is not a person of the opposite sex (unless it is your spouse or boyfriend/girlfriend)
  • should only be a family member if they meet the criteria above

Does this type of person exist? Yes!!!! Hopefully it is your spouse or boyfriend/girlfriend, but if not, your confidant is out there if you keep searching.

Bible with Cross Shadow David Campbell FCC ( A, $, @) 337522540_8eb3c1f974_oThe Bible says, “Commit your way to the Lord, trust also in Him, and He shall bring it to pass.1 Seek God in prayer and write down some potential confidants. Pray over your list and approach the person you believe God is leading you to. Explain to them what you’re looking for and why. Gauge their interest and meet with them a couple of times as a test.

A good confidant is invaluable. Speaking with someone you trust greatly increases your ability to deal with family drama and situations that will come up this holiday season. Take a step of faith and reach out for that special friend today.

 

1Psalm 37:5, NKJV

Images
Thinkstock Photo
Bible with Cross Shadow by David Campbell

A Friend for the Tough (and Easy) Times

James Taylor sang:
    You just call out my name, And you know wherever I amswings-girls-talk-by-thaeusalrang
     I’ll come running, to see you again
    Winter, spring, summer or fall, all you have to do is call
    And I’ll be there. You’ve got a friend1

For adults with divorced parents, when parents still force you to choose sides, you need a friend. When family gatherings include stepparents, ex-steps, potential new steps, and assorted others, you need a friend. When you find out your parents are divorcing after decades of marriage, you need a friend. When stresses in your relationship or marriage send the cold fear of divorce through your soul, you need a friend

Unfortunately, it seems people would rather see the dentist than share about their parents’ divorce with a friend. Between the “dirty laundry” stigma and the fear of the potential pain, we just won’t go there. However, dealing with the years-long and ongoing aftermath of parental divorce is something we shouldn’t handle alone. But don’t share indiscriminately.

conversation-by-christ-blakeley

We need a confidant
A confidant keeps what you share confidential. Presidents have confidants. Pastors have confidants. Did you know even Jesus had confidants? The Bible records that Jesus told Peter, James, and John, “Tell the vision to no one until the Son of Man is risen from the dead.”1 Jesus separated these three again in the Garden of Gethsemane.2

The person you choose must be one you can confide in, bounce ideas off, lean on, and receive biblical wisdom from. It’s not required that this special person be your best friend. Also, unless your spouse is the ideal candidate, your confidant should be of the same gender. This is because sharing personal things can lower our emotional defenses and cause us to form a bond with the individual. It’s best to avoid this unnecessary risk.

Learning to trust again

Using confidants can be challenging for adult children of divorce, because we must trust them. Unfortunately, earning our trust can be like taking a favorite toy from a toddler—it’s given grudgingly. But, the alternative—keeping the barriers up—means the stress and pain the post-parental-divorce-life can create has no constructive outlet. And this is where many ACD’s find themselves.

The upside of confidants
“A man of too many friends comes to ruin, But there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.”3 In taking this step, you’ll find that God, you, and your confidant are a formidable team. Where you are weak, they are strong. Together, you can overcome the divorce-related fears and other issues that block the healthy relationships you desire.

But what are the qualities of a confidant? We’ll explore that next.

 

1King, Carole, “You’ve Got a Friend,” Mud Slide Slim And The Blue Horizon, Warner Bros. Records Inc.’t. 1971. http://lyrics.wikia.com/wiki/James_Taylor:You%27ve_Got_A_Friend
2See Matthew 26:36-38
3Proverbs 18:24,NASB

Images
Swings, Girls talk by THaeuSalRang
talk to me my love by Indra Galbo\
man on phone – Thinkstock

 

Good News for Adults with Divorced Parents

Though adults with divorced parents are up to 200% more likely to divorce than their peers from intact families,1 two books offer us good news.  One is The Good News About Marriage by Shaunti Feldhahn. The other is Daughters of Divorce: Overcome the Legacy of Your Parents’ Breakup and Enjoy a Happy, Long-Lasting Relationship.

Ddaughters-of-divorce-bk-gaspardaughters of Divorce was written by researcher Terry Gaspard and her daughter, Tracy Clifford—both ACDs. It’s a bold, unpolitically correct look at the impact of divorce on daughters. Gaspard’s purpose was to “create a guide that helps daughters of any age overcome the unique legacy of divorce, so they can establish healthy, happy, and long-lasting relationships.”2

With ample research, stories from those she interviewed, and personal reflections from Gaspard and her daughter, Daughters of Divorce is a practical and hopeful book for any woman with divorced parents.

Their seven steps to a successful relationship begin with the sobering and daunting task of restoring our faith in love.3 After reading this goal I asked, “Do we even realize we’ve lost our faith in love?” Gaspard answers this with numerous examples of clients and others who have done just that. Some realizing they have killed Cupid. Others chasing, but never catching him.

A major strength of Gaspard’s work is how she peels back the layers of lies women with divorced parents believe and systematically leads them on a path toward overcoming those lies. While heartily recommending this powerful book, be advised that her views of self-esteem are not rooted in the fact that God created us, therefore our worth is intrinsic—regardless of how we may feel.

The other good news comes from The Good News About Marriage.4 good-news-about-marriage-bk-feldhahnFeldhahn soundly debunks the 50%-of-marriages-end-in-divorce myth, and offers new insights into marriage that have gone unreported by most media.

For example, did you know that nearly 80% of married couples report being happy in their marriages? Have you heard that attending church regularly can lower your chance of divorce by 25-50%?6 Probably not. The Good News About Marriage is full of marriage encouraging and marriage strengthening information like this.

It’s great news for adult children of divorce (who tend to be fearful of divorce) that things are much better on the marriage front than we’ve been led to believe. For those who desire solid relationships, but doubt it’s possible, Gaspard and Feldhahn declare, FULFILLING RELATIONSHIPS AND MARRIAGES ARE POSSIBLE…FOR EVERYONE!!

 

Why am I Running From My Prayer Closet? – A Sunday Snippet

Forgiveness by Tiffany ScantleburyI try to fit in my daily prayer routine before my crazy days begin. Too often the pressures of my upcoming schedule create a not too subtle urgency to finish so I can start doing the “important” things that are stacked up like planes waiting to land at an airport.

One morning while praying, I was feeling the urge to get a move on when God’s Holy Spirit asked me where I was running from.

Huh? What do you mean, where am I running from?
You’re anxious to start conquering your list right?
Yeah. So?
Where are you running from?
What are you talking about? I don’t get it.Time for reflection by Hans G Backman
You’ve got a full schedule today? 
Over full
Kind of tired?
Exhausted.
Seems like you’re a little depressed too.
Well, yeah.
Feeling like nobody cares or understands.
Well, yeah.
See no end to this crazy season you’re in and want an escape.
…yes.

Okay. Do you believe that Abba Father, the Creator of the Universe, is with you in your prayer closet?
Yes.
Does He listen to you?
Yes.
Does He judge you?
No!
Does He encourage you?
Yes.
Does He remind you of how special He thinks you are?
Yes.
Does He offer you peace now and for your entire day?
Yes.
Does He wipe your tears?
Yes.
Does He offer you strength to make it through your day?
Yes. He says through Christ I can do all things1
Does He give you wisdom for your to-do list?
Yes, very often.
Does He love you?
Yes.
Does He love you?
…yes, deeply.
Does He love you?
…….yes. Unconditionally.

So when you hurry from your prayer closet, where are you running from?
Well…I guess… from a place where I’m totally accepted, totally loved, totally adored, totally supported, totally equipped, where I can be myself without judgement, where I can talk with God as long as I want and He never tires of me. That’s what I”m rushing from. Guess I’ve got things backwards, huh?
Praying woman hands by Long ThiênYou tell me.
Thanks for the perspective check.
Just doing my job.
Thank you.
See you tomorrow?
You can count on it!
 

1Philippians 4:13

Images
Forgiveness by Tiffany Scantlebury
Time for reflection by Hans G Backman
Woman and Bible – Prayer a Powerful Weapon by abcdz2000