“Getting Over It” vs. Not Letting It Control Us

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While sharing about a parental-divorce-related struggle, my friend said, maybe it’s time to just get over it.  After my initial unspoken, “that’s easy for you to say,” I wondered if people who believe that are wrong, but also right. Ironically, less than a week later, another parental-divorce related incident occurred, and I was quick to point out, “this is why it’s so hard to get over it.”

These thoughts reminded me of a chapter in Leila Miller’s book, Primal Loss: The Now-Adult Children of Divorce Speak. On the title page, “Speak to Your Parents Then and Now” she writes:
For the record, one or more young divorced parents has told me that adult children of divorce only want to speak to me for this book because of ‘unconscious revenge’ against their parents, and that they simply have not ‘forgiven’ their parents, which is the only way to heal.”1

Ain’t that a blip?! …Or are they right?

One of the challenges of getting over it, is “it” keeps rearing its ugly head in different ways which can continue for years. How do you get over the stepparent who broke up your parents’ marriage with the affair? Where does getting over it fit with two parents who still lower the room temperature 40 degrees whenever they are together? At what point does one get over boyfriend after boyfriend or girlfriend after girlfriend—and explaining the parade to the kids?

I’ve come to realize that ACD may not be able to just get over it. There are too many occurrences. But ACD don’t have to be controlled by the fallout from parental divorce. Hurt doesn’t’ automatically call for unforgiveness. Anger need not produce bitterness. Betrayal can bypass hatred. Misunderstanding doesn’t require severing relationships. Reminders can circumvent depression.

Fortunately (sort of), dealing with recurring troubles is not a new problem. Two thousand years ago, the Apostle Peter asked Jesus, “’Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?’ ‘No, not seven times,’ Jesus replied, ‘but seventy times seven!’”2 Apparently there was a recurring problem and Jesus’ answer was (and is) to forgive—repeatedly, if necessary.*

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But how do we forgive the same thing over and over? Or maybe it’s a something different, but produces the same crummy result. We start by realizing how much Jesus forgives our over and overs. The Bible says, “if we confess our sins to him (Jesus), he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.”3 Consequently, if Jesus is willing to forgive all of our sins, how can we withhold forgiveness from others?

Forgiveness is an important piece when dealing with the fallout from parental divorce and not allowing it to control how we think and act. You can learn more about how adult children of divorce can forgive when you click here.

I also encourage you to read through earlier blogs to see other ways ACD can control how they respond in situations where they would like to just get over it.

 

*Biblical forgiveness never includes enduring abuse or putting oneself in harms way.

1Miller L, (2017). Primal Loss: The Now-Adult Children of Divorce Speak. Phoenix, AZ: LCB Publishing, 163.
2Matthew 18:21-22, NLT
31 John 1:9, NLT

Images:
Honestly by Steven

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Primal Loss Through the Eyes of ACD

If you could ask adult children of divorce questions about the impact of their parents’ divorce, what would you ask? More important, how would they answer? Leila Miller found out by asking seventy ACD the same eight questions.  Her book Primal Loss: Now Adult Children of Divorce Speak not only gives their answers, but except for the introduction, the entire book is their answers—no commentary, no “expert opinions,” no “it’s not a big deal” bravado.

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As a result, for me, reading Primal Loss was like drinking orange juice concentrate without the three cups of additional water. I’m used to reading ACD stories that are liberally separated by statistics, comments, etc, so you get a break from the intensity of the parental divorce experience. Miller gives us 100% ACD dialog and it’s a tough read at times. However,  two important things occur as you read: you realize your challenges aren’t unique, and you learn you aren’t crazy because of your challenges (for the most part!).

Miller’s eight questions were:

  1. What effect has your parents’ divorce had on you (the longest chapter)?
  2. What is the difference between how you felt about the divorce as a child and how you feel about it as an adult?
  3. Has your parents’ divorce affected your own marriage or your view of marriage?
  4. What do you want to say to people who say that “children are resilient” and “kids are happy when their parents are happy” and “kids of divorce will be just fine and will go on to live successful lives”?
  5. What would you say directly to your parents about the divorce and how it affected your life than and now? Would you advise them to do things differently, and, if so, what?
  6. What do you want adults in our society to know about how divorce affects the children?
  7. What role has your faith played in your healing?
  8. What would you want to say to any children facing their parents’ divorce today? What would you want to say to those parents considering divorce (leaving out cases of danger)?


How would YOU answer these questions? Does it even matter now with their divorce so long ago? YES! Because your answers (and the emotions surrounding them) are inside you and probably leaking out in various ways (anger, fears, troubled relationships). Also because, as the individuals in the book found, thinking through it helps.

Important recommendations
For those of you who are ACD, before you start reading Primal Loss, I encourage you to let your loved ones know what you’re reading. This is to prepare them for the up and down and all around moods you’ll experience.

I also recommend reading it with a friend or two. The Bible says, “A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.1 As you read through the chapters, get together weekly and debrief. This will help keep you focused on the healing process God desires you to complete.

Lastly, please leave a comment about how the book affected you. I’m very interested in your thoughts!

 

1Ecclesiastes 4:12, NLT.

Images:
Thinking RFID by Jacob Botter
Girl talk by Nathan Rupert

Billy Graham and Overcoming the Impact of Parental Divorce

With Billy Graham’s passing at 99 years old, we have lost the Moses of our era. It’s difficult to name someone who has had a broader and more positive worldwide impact than Billy Graham. However, he would be the first to say it is not about him, nor has it ever been.

For nearly 60 years Billy Graham taught true healing starts with a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Adult Children of Divorce Ministries is committed to helping those who struggle with the residue of parental divorce, and we agree. The video below shares how anyone can be freed from the fears, anger, unforgiveness, father hunger, and other issues common to adults with divorced parents.

Please grab a cup of coffee and watch this. These few minutes could change your life in a wonderful and eternal way.

Who to Call Instead of the Lawyer

Tis the season…for divorce filings. Right after the holidays, people (roughly two-thirds women) will call a lawyer to “explore” how to free themselves from the misery of their marriage.

The first thing the “helpful and understanding” lawyer will do is give advice that is the EXACT OPPOSITE of what needs to happen: “don’t talk to your spouse about this.” Unfortunately,  divide-and-conquer pays their bills, not reconciliation.

Please understand I’m not minimizing:

  • your hurt
  • all you’ve done “to make this work”
  • how unloving or disrespectful your spouse is
  • how unappreciative and unsupportive they are
  • how many prayers have gone unanswered
  • or….fill in the blank.

However, terminating any chance for constructive communication is NOT the answer. “But all we do is argue! We can’t talk without name calling, blame, and hurt.” That may be true, but get real help.

1)   An organization called Focus on the Family‘s sole purpose is to strengthen families. For forty years they’ve had people you can talk to for free. Their number is 800-232-6459. They have a wealth of resources that can help marriages that are even tougher than yours, but more important, they provide a listening ear.

2)   Find a couple that has been married for at least 30 years, treat them to coffee, and spill your guts. An outside and long-term perspective is crucial at this time. Very often you’ll find these couples have weathered storms similar or worse than yours.

3)   Commit or recommit yourself to God. If you’ve never accepted Jesus as your Savior, listen to His words, ““Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”Jesus can help you.

If Jesus is your Savior, act on the words of Psalm 61 verse 2, “when my heart is overwhelmed, lead me to the rock that is higher than I.”2 That rock is Jesus Christ. With God all things are possible. That can include changing your heart and/or the heart of your spouse.

Lastly, if your parents are divorced, please look over the resources on our resource page. Learn how the collapse of your parents’ marriage is greatly affecting how you see yourself, your spouse, and your own marriage. Before you call the lawyer, commit that you will never do to your kids what your parents did to you!

This is the most important blog of the year to share, because the person who needs this information hasn’t told you. In fact they haven’t told anyone. So let’s work together to stop the next wave of divorces…and adult children of divorce.

1Matthew 11:28-30, The Message Bible
2King James Version

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Divorce by Tony Guyton

 

Thanks-giving to Parents Who Really Try

Divorce isn’t easy for anyone. Furthermore, on this site I tend to focus on the fallout parental divorce produces—and rightfully so. If adults with divorced parents hope to break the divorce cycle, we need to identify some of the contributing factors.

However, there are countless divorced mothers and fathers and stepmothers and stepfathers who honestly try to minimize the ongoing impact. They accept that hybrid relationships can be difficult, awkward, or confusing for us, even as adults.

Some travel distances to stay involved with us.
Some sacrifice their own happiness because they believe it will help us.
Some refuse to badmouth their ex because that ex is our mother or father.
Some go above and beyond financially to help.
Many display grace when facing new husbands and wives.
Some pursue us even when we push them away.
Many lovingly do the stepparenthood dance of being a parent, yet not being the parent.
Some avoid family functions to decrease our discomfort.
And the list goes on..

If you’re blessed with a parent or stepparent who is described by the list above, first give thanks to God. Unfortunately, these wonderful individuals are not as common as we might hope. Second, give them a call, or a special hug to thank them. Tell them what you are thankful for. You may just give them the best gift they receive this entire holiday season!

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Father and daughter by Chany Crystal

When the Prodigal is a Parent

Marriage offers many benefits, but primarily a healthy marriage provides balance. Since spenders wed savers, risk-takers bond to safety-lovers, chocoholics find physical trainers, and spastics unite with steady-rudders, balance is maintained because they keep each other in check.
But divorce severs that tether allowing natural tendencies and desires to go unleashed. So, basking in post-marriage freedom, drinkers can drink more, couch potatoes couch more, spenders spend more, and philanderers play the field. However, we get entangled in all this. 

Wanting to scream
How do you greet Mom’s 12th boyfriend? Are you responsible to keep your father from eating Cheetos and Red Bull chasers for dinner? Does Mom really think she looks good in that outfit made for women 25 years younger? Tired of explaining to your kids how “til death do us part” fits into grandpa’s fourth wedding? Frustrated because your parents don’t get why you’re upset with their life choices? Perhaps a look at prodigals may help.

Perspective on Prodigals
The word “prodigal” comes from a story Jesus told about a young man who left the blessings of his home and “wasted all his money in wild living.”1 The son eventually realizes he messed up and plans to return home groveling. But the father sees the son returning and runs to greet him. Instead of condemnation, kisses and hugs are showered on the son. Then the father throws a my-rebellious-son-who-I-dearly-love-has-returned party. Jesus’ point is we are the prodigal and God is the father. As such, we should respond to our prodigals as the father in this story—but we usually don’t.

How we deal with our prodigals
Our response to prodigal parents is often:
1)     We brood over how things should be, could have been, or how we wish our parents should act.
2)    We harbor bitterness and unforgiveness, and withhold grace because we focus on our parent’s prodigal ways (and the hurt it causes) forgetting we, too, are prodigals in God’s eyes.
3)    We dabble in their behaviors because we’ve secretly wanted to do it anyway and if a parent can do something it’s justified for us…even if we know it’s wrong.

How does God deal with prodigals?
He loves them.  And we need to follow God’s example, but how do we do that?
1) Pray for them – prayer may change them, but often changes our attitude toward them.
2) No badmouthing. “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.2  It’s tempting to talk them down, but find the positives and talk them up—particularly in front of your kids.
3) Maintain boundaries – Often their decisions impact us because we allow them to. Our desire for their love, or fear of losing it, can cause us to comingle in their dysfunction instead of maintaining healthy boundaries in love3.

While prodigal parents can challenge us, they can also stimulate spiritual and character growth. We just need to remember their actions are their choice. Our response is our choice.

1Luke 15:13, NLT
2Ephesians 4:29, NLT
3Henry Cloud, John Townsend, Boundaries, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1992.)

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The Parables of Our Lord – The Prodigal Son by John Everett Millais by Birmingham Museum and Art  Gallery
Talk to the hand by Matt Foster
Bible with Cross Shadow by David Campbell

Sweeping Divorce Debris Under the Rug (The New Divorce Party)

obsolete-roadmap-by-xavier-vergesBecause of our ever creative ways of downplaying the negative side of divorce you may start hearing about the “new divorce party.” Granted, “divorce” and “party” are not words most adult children of divorce put in the same sentence, but divorce parties are not uncommon. The difference, is now some moms and dads are celebrating the divorce together.

Jennifer Brant writes having this type of divorce party demonstrates the parents are, “showing enough maturity to put your children first and showing friends that relationships can still be maintained.”1 However, Brant, a lawyer, admits that high levels of animosity in most divorces will limit this type of celebration. Praise God! No…wait a minute…lost-in-thought-by-matthew-musgrove

But while trying to comprehend this, I was reminded of adult children of divorce who’ve asked me how parents can be so clueless to the debris behind their divorce(s)? Ever wonder that? Do you get sad or angry sometimes at their apparent naivety or denial? These steps may help:

    1. Watch Brant’s interview.  Observe how the divorce topic is handled. Picture this at 8:15AM on your local morning show just days before Christmas (which is when it aired).
    2. Write down or verbalize your thoughts after the video. Agreement? Disbelief? Sadness? Anger? Pain? Numbness?
    3. Pray to God. “Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.”2 God wants to heal your heart. If this video evokes some emotion because it triggers memories of your parents, spell it out to God in detail. Psalm 142:1-2 says, “I cry out loudly to God, loudly I plead with God for mercy. I spill out all my complaints before him, and spell out my troubles in detail.3 Giving our hurts to God helps prevent those hurts from coming Christian Cross 11 by Waiting For The Word croppedout in destructive ways which often hurt our loved ones.
    4. Commit this year to learning how your parents’ divorce impacts you, and how to navigate through the debris field successfully.

We can’t change our parents’ behavior, but each day we can take steps toward our healing. May God bless you with His unfailing love, ultimate trustworthiness, and His joy in the midst of your divorce-related craziness. And may you never want a divorce party.

 

1 http://www.jdsupra.com/legalnews/a-new-type-of-divorce-party-35331/
21 Peter 5:7, NLT
3Psalm 142:1-2, Message.

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Obsolete roadmap by Xavier Verges
Lost in Thought by Matthew Musgrove
Christian Cross 11 by Waiting For The Word cropped