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

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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.)

Images
Shutterstock
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.

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

The Gift of Hope (Pulling Back From Divorce)

Christmas has passed, but gift giving needs to continue. Start with the gift of hope. This month many adult children of divorce are contemplating what they swore they’d never do to their children—filing for divorce.

This is not a sudden whim. Months or years of feeling unloved, disrespected, or fearful they aren’t good enough to keep their spouse, or tired of arguments that raise fearful memories from childhood, have combined with the stresses of life to squeeze out any hope.

Satan whispers “things will never change” and they think, “Now I see why Mom divorced Dad.” “Now Dad’s leaving makes sense.” However, few want to ruin Christmas, so January comes, and the call is made.

These precious individuals need the gift of hope and you can help.

  1. Be a godly ear for them to talk to. You’d be surprised how many people file for divorce without talking to anybody.
  2. Watch their kids on a weekend night so the struggling couple can have time together.
  3. Buy them tickets to a marriage retreat. The Love and Respect conference and Weekend to Remember getaway weekends are excellent. For marriages in serious trouble, Retrouvaille and Focus on the Family’s Hope Restored Marriage Intensive Experience  are proven tools that can help.
  4. Review and have them review our Considering Divorce page. Even those with divorced parents rarely understand the gravity and lifelong consequences of this drastic action.
  5. PUSH! Now is not the time for timidity. Too often I hear, “Well, I don’t want to rock the boat by interfering.” THE BOAT IS SINKING! You have nothing to lose and everything to gain by offering tools and hope to the hopeless.Praying woman hands by Long Thiên
  6. The Bible says, “pray without ceasing1 and that, “The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.”Pray for your friend, family member, or coworker’s marriage. Pray for protection from Satan’s attacks of doubt, fear, hate, and selfishness. Pray works!

It’s the biggest month for divorce calls and the lawyers know it. Let’s work together to thwart more divorces by giving the gift of hope this new year.

 
11 Thessalonians, 5:17, ESV
2 James 5:16b, NLT

Images:
Praying woman hands by Long Thiên

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

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