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 window”1
“Then I run to her. Wrap my arms, around her skirt. And I cry for him. Out the window”1
This 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 Christmas”3 fill your ears at the coffee shop only to remind you your home dissolved years ago. However, as the 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 I”4
- 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 Kent, Buck Ram, I’ll Be Home For Christmas, 1943, Decca Records.
4Psalm 61:2b, KJV
Looking out the window 2 by Carol Munro
Divorce Sucks! by Addie Willams
Forgiveness by Tiffany Scantlebury
Starting in September, two important classes will be offered in areas around the US and Canada. DivorceCare and DivorceCare for Kids are 12 week programs that offer support for people either going through divorce or in the post divorce phase. Key benefits of DivorceCare groups include:
- people who understand your hurts, emotions and painful experiences!
- helpful, practical information from DivorceCare DVD videos that feature top experts on divorce and recovery subjects and case studies of people just like you, who have been through the divorce experience.
- the chance to talk about your experiences.
- becoming part of a “family.”
DivorceCare topics include anger, loneliness, loss, depression, forgiveness, new relationships, finances, children in divorce, reconciliation and “moving on.” DivorceCare for Kids addresses the same topics simultaneously, but in a small group of kids and at an age appropriate level. It also covers the issues from a child’s perspective.
Combined, these powerful classes give the parent and child common ground for conversations that can strengthen their relationship in a difficult time. I strongly encourage anyone who has experienced a divorce (even if it’s been a couple years) to check out a group by going to www.divorcecare.org.
When I learned my parents’ divorce was still affecting me, it proved enlightening and overwhelming. Fortunately, many tools are now available to overcome issues created in us by parental divorce. But in conversations with adults from broken homes, I’ve learned a basic A-B-C approach helps tackle divorce-related issues in our lives.
A. Acknowledge that the impact of their divorce continues. This two minute video discusses the subtle change parental divorce can create in the trajectory of the kids.
B. Identify how our parents’ divorce still affects us. Kelly Spenser’s Happy Healthy YOU article addresses common challenges adults with split parents face. As a life coach, Spenser’s perspective is insightful. Her observations reveal we always have a Plan B, sky-high expectations, cautious disbelief, and have a fascination with normal. Spenser’s article yields an intriguing glimpse at idiosyncrasies that often affect us.
C. Take steps to overcome these issues. Identifying and replacing the lies we believe is a crucial first step. The Bible offers truth that can deliver us from the fear of inadequacy, feelings of unworthiness, anger, and other issues. Holding fast to God’s truth is the only answer when the hurricane-force-winds of deceit try to blow us off course. Though our fears (fed by lies) say otherwise, the Bible says, “With God all things are possible,“1 “God has not given us a spirit of fear,“2 “Cast all your cares on him for he cares for you,“3 “If we confess our sins, he (Jesus) is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness,“4 and “But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.“5 The truth that God offers love, forgiveness, acceptance, and the power to change can break the chains lies have forged.
Along with your Bible, Gary Neuman’s book, The Long Way Home: The Powerful 4-Step Plan for Adult Children of Divorce helps identify issues we struggle with individually. It also equips readers with tools to change behaviors that are destructive to themselves and their relationships.
It’s time to free ourselves from habits and routines that produce hurt rather than healing.This A-B-C process can help.
22 Timothy 1:7
31 Peter 5:7
41 John 1:9
The Long Way Home, Gary Neuman, (Wiley, 2013)
Twas The Night Before Christmas for an Adult Child of Divorce
by Kent Darcie
Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the house,
My kids were all sleeping, and so was my spouse.
All quiet at last, day’s deeds finally done,
Soon wonder would greet wide-eyed little ones.
It’d been a long time since that thrill filled my heart,
I’d grudgingly sleep, and then wake with a start.
Seems like it died on that one fateful day
When my dad and my mom went their separate ways.
I suddenly mused on Christmases past,
The mountain of toys we kids would amass.
We’d laugh and we’d play and we’d play and we’d eat
Mom’s Custard Tart pie; Ahhh, such a treat!
Then consciousness dulled as fatigue settled in,
The latch to my eyelids coming unpinned.
A break from this annual ache I would feel
That tugged at my soul, took strength to conceal.
But then a miraculous thing did occur,
I dreamed a grand dream and my spirit was stirred.
The Lord took me up, and showed this great sight
Of my home, my kids, myself , and my wife
On Christmas days filled with the love that we shared;
Starting with wonder and ending with prayer.
The faces reflecting the joy of those days
Were as sweet as a lavishly fragrant bouquet.
“How have I missed this?” I queried the Lord,
“These riches exceed what man could afford.”
“This is the day I have made,” the Lord said,
“Move on from your past, here, focus instead.”
Then quickly He went to His heavenly abode.
I woke in my chair, and joy finally flowed
From a heart filled with thanks for blessings galore;
The ones that last years, not those from a store.
Time’s pages have turned since that Eve‘ night untold,
I bask in each Christmas, both body and soul.
For God gives today to each daughter and son,
A joy in this world, ‘cause our Savior has come.
May God bless you with His peace and joy this Christmas season and all the New Year!
As we fill our Christmas trees with gifts that are here today and gone tomorrow, why not give something that can last for generations?
The Love and Respect Ministry has a marriage conference on five DVD’s that has helped the marriages of countless couples. These fantastic teachings are a natural complement to this ministry because they focus on what happens when love and respect are missing in a marriage. The lack of love and respect between a couple often triggers the fear of inadequacy, fear of abandonment, trust issues, and anger in adult children of divorce. Left unresolved, these problems often lead to divorce.
Guy’s, are you tired of being disrespected? Ladies, are you tired of feeling unloved? Emerson Eggerichs has found an answer that was at our fingertips for centuries in the Bible: “let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.1”
But what does love really look like to a woman? What does respect really look like to a Man? Eggerichs answers these questions, and gives participants tools that can strengthen a good marriage and rebuild a shattered one.
This Christmas, give a gift that can change couple’s lives and break the cycle of divorce in the New Year!
1Ephesians 5:33 [ESV]
19th Sept 5 years of marriage by scribbletaylor
The Conversation – Redux by Bill Gracey
For those seeking a healthy permanent relationship, Elisabeth LaMottes’ book, Overcoming Your Parents’ Divorce takes an insightful and hopeful look at a dating/relationship environment that is made even more complicated by our parents’ divorce. It’s strength lies in its almost exclusive focus on the fear of commitment—an issue many other books only give a passing mention.
Though enlightening for the single individual, the book is a worthy read for married adult children of divorce because it explains many of the challenges you probably experienced on your way to matrimony.
Elisabeth Joy LaMotte, an adult child of divorce and therapist in Washington DC, shares many stories from clients who struggled with committing to a relationship—as a direct result of their parents’ split. At times heartbreaking, but scarily applicational, her book always points us to the potential of a positive outcome. The overtone of the book reminded me of Psalm 61:2, “When my heart is overwhelmed; Lead me to the rock that is higher than I.”
The book’s approach is summed up by her statement, “In spite of the multiple difficulties that flowed from growing up with divorced parents, it is worth noting some of the positive things that subjects say about their parents’ divorce.”
One of the ways she illustrates this is with generous glimpses from her own life that was fraught with relationship and life challenges brought on by her parents’ breakup. However, despite the rocky road, she has achieved a happy marriage and family.
The chapters in her book gently probe our own histories and faulty attitudes as we watch LaMotte interact with clients that could easily be us. In “Do You Choose Candy Bars Instead of Apples,” LaMotte explores the trap of choosing the sweet but non-nutritious partner versus the individual who is good for us. “Do You Prefer Renting Over Buying” challenges our unconscious tendency to treat our relationships as fleeting because its safer than taking the risk of having a stable relationship end.
Though my dating history is anemic, and I married my only real girlfriend, many of the fears and lies LaMotte reveals in chapter after chapter plagued me during high school, college—and well into my marriage. But, ever hopeful, she has an interesting way of trudging through the muck to find the gold nuggets.
Since many adults with divorced parents are stuck in the fear-of-commitment muck, LaMotte’s book is a strong tool for those who want a solid relationship, but are secretly afraid of it at the same time.
Overcoming Your Parents’ Divorce is a secular book, but has minimal language and no graphic sexual discussions.
Heart Image: Engagement Rings by Valshak Suresh