Graduations, Triggers, and Anger

Your high school graduation was long ago. Okay, not that long ago, but back then having parents (who could barely speak to each other) smiling together in graduation pictures was bizarre. But you were young (or numb) and treated it as an annoyance, not life changing.

However, twenty-five years have passed, and now your child’s graduation is coming. Planning for the big event is goes well until the Ghost of Graduations Past shows up.

A slideshow of memories flash through your mind. There’s the embarrassment when your boyfriend’s parents met your dad, mom, and her husband. They’re all smiles, but the awkwardness felt like a steel ball in your stomach. Of course, their smiles later melted into glacial stares resulting in social courtesy so strained, it sent you scurrying from your party to somewhere less tense. It was “no big deal” at the time, but now anger brews over the unfairness you feel being forced into a position like that.

The specter’s next memory is of “the call”. The one responsible for the tepid relationship between you and your dad. The conversation announcing how, because you were 18 and new priorities had arisen, no college money was coming. The Ghost’s work is done now. All you can think about is how hard it was to get through college and how unfair it felt.

Now it’s happening again!
No need for the Ghost of Graduations Future to show you how your child’s event is going to play out. Dad with wife number two, Mom with current boyfriend, and step dad number one have accepted the invitation your child sent them. You know what’s going to happen, because it’s happened already. The question is, are you upset because of your discomfort today, or triggers from 25 years ago?

Triggers remind us of past events, but create an emotional response in the present. The frustration of our graduation creates “rose colored glasses” through which we see our child’s graduation. We project our experience onto their event. This can hide the real reasons we’re more quick-tempered as the event approaches.

Many of us deny we’re angry about events in the past, but words like “frustrated”, and “annoyed” are close cousins to anger. So, what can we do if graduation triggers are producing anger in our lives?

  1. Acknowledge this graduation is reminding you of your own. Stop pretending it’s something else.
  2. Identify specific issues you were upset about then, but didn’t share with anyone. Write them down if possible.
  3. Pray about them with God. The Psalmist wrote, “I pour out my complaint before Him.” (Psalm 142:2, NLT)
  4. Share them with your spouse or a close friend.
  5. Enjoy your child’s graduation. Regardless of how everyone acts, try to look at the graduation festivities through your child’s eyes. They’re probably oblivious to the drama.
  6. Meet with someone after the graduation and share your thoughts and emotions. Talking about it is a powerful way to avoid building up anger and anxiety.

Support Group for Adults with Divorced Parents in Southeast Michigan

I am excited to announce that I will be co-leading a support group for adults with divorced parents starting in May.  Please contact Sycamore Counseling Services for more information.

Here is a video with a brief description of who this group is for.

“Divorce is Not All That Devastating”

divorce-by-marc-hatot-croppedThese words appear in a Washington Post story by Crystal Ponti. The article was mostly tongue-in-cheek about how divorce might make parenting easier, but one quote caught my eye:
“Research also shows that divorce is not all that devastating for most children. Sure, it comes with some consequences and a huge adjustment period, but overall, kids bounce back.”1divorce-sucks-by-addie-williams
Because this mindset is so prevalent today, let’s take a closer look at what comes before the “kids bounce back.” 

Not all that devastating
The definition of devastating (and its root devastate) includes, to render desolate, overwhelm, to lay waste, and destruction.” 2 So, if totally devastating (on a 1 – 10 scale) is a ten, is a devastation level of six okay? of four? And would any level of devastating behavior be acceptable in an intact home?

For most children
More than 51% are not totally devastated.  This is good news?

Some consequences
For those with tears in your eyes from laughter, pull yourself together. For those with tears from painful unbelief, please know that even though this is the dominant view—including the belief of many parents, it’s normally not due to ill-will. Non children of divorce simply don’t get it.

Elizabeth Marquardt illustrates this well in her book, Between Two Worlds. There she reveals the double standard children of divorce face with a series of questions.

  • “How often do married [intact] parents send their child away from home for days, weeks, months, or years at time?
  • How often do married parents put their children on airplanes by themselves?
  • How often do married parents divide their financial responsibilities for their children down to the penny?
  • How often do married parents sleep with someone besides the child’s parent in the home when the child is present?”3

ACOD’s know this is the tip of the iceberg, but Marquardt goes on to say, “the needs of children of married parents and children of divorced parents are the same. So why are children of divorce considered so resilient? Because the adults need them to be that way.”3

Huge adjustment period
Truest statement in the quote, but most parents and experts doubt its validity. Divorce is a bump in the road and kids are resilient is their mantra.

But overall
This is the crux of the “good divorce” argument. Overall, since most children of divorce don’t become ax-murders or burdens on society, divorce is not bad for them.

The devastating truth
I had no idea that fears of inferiority, fears of inadequacy, a fear of doom, fear of marriage, unforgiveness, and a host of other issues clung to me like leeches well into my adulthood. ACOD are usually unaware of these repercussions. But though we may look normal on the outside, these issues act like termites in our relationships.its-all-about-love-by-candida-performa-cropped

A hopeful future
Parental divorce doesn’t have to be devastating. However, healing doesn’t come with denial, but working through the issues. Fortunately, there are resources here that can break your divorce-related chains. Review these and pray for God to heal your heart and your relationships.

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1 https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/parenting/wp/2017/03/02/parenting-would-be-so-much-easier-if-my-husband-and-i-got-divorced/?utm_term=.d5b4ce5e5708.
2Webster’s New Universal Unabridged Dictionary, 1994, dilithium Press, Ltd.
3 Elizabeth Marquardt, Between Two Worlds, (NY,NY: Crown Publishers, 2005), 181.

Images
Couple- Photo by Scott Stewart for splitsville.com
Divorce Sucks! by Addie Williams
It’s all about love by Candida.Performa

Nuzzling in God’s Neck – A Sunday Snippet

Maybe you had onjoanna-sweenye of those conversations with your mom, dad, or stepparent.
Maybe your brother or sister is furious that you like your stepmother.
Maybe, even though everything went well, you’re exhausted from keeping parents and steps and assorted others happy at a family event.
Maybe you’re scared because arguments at home sound so similar to the pre-divorce skirmishes you heard as a child.
Maybe life is just hard.

During these times wouldn’t it be great if you could crawl onto God’s lap, let Him wrap His arms around you, and tuck your head into his neck like a little child? But can we do that? Should we do that?

First, can we do that?
Many people see God as ominous, fearful, and untouchable, but as Christians the Bible says, “You received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, “Abba, Father.1 Abba Father can be translated “Daddy.” This is God’s perspective of our relationship with Him, but perhaps a picture can help.

One of my favorites is this picture of President Kennedy with his son, John, playing under the presidential desk.

John Jr. isn’t thinking about being with the leader of the free world. He is with his dad. Likewise, God wants us to curl up with Him, Abba Father, in spite of the fact he is the ruler of all creation.

Second, should we do that?
Countless scriptures declare, “Yes!!!

Let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.2

Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.3

My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot slip—he who watches over you will not slumber.4Time for reflection by Hans G Backman

The Lord is like a father to his children, tender and compassionate to those who fear him.  For he knows how weak we are; he remembers we are only dust.5

Third, how do we do that?
Preferences vary. Some literally crawl onto the couch or recliner and pretend they’re in God’s arms. Others pray. For some people, walking with God helps bring God’s reality in troubling situations.

How we embrace our Abba Father relationship doesn’t’ matter. God isn’t picky. He’s just waiting with open arms for us to come to him.

 

1Romans 8:15, NLT
2Hebrews 4:16, NLT
31 Peter 5:7, NLT
4Psalms 121: 2-3, NIV
5Psalms 103-13-14, NLT

Images
Joanna Sweeny
Time for reflection by Hans G Backman

 

 

 

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

The Gift of Peace (Not Hating Christmas Anymore)

Sleep in heavenly peace…sleep in heavenly peace.1

When I hear adults with divorced parents describe Christmas and families, heavenly peace rarely tops the list. Hassle, aggravating, sad, confusing, disappointing, draining, and annoying all make the list, however.

A popular phrase is, “Well, we have to go here, then we have to go there, then we have to go there...,” and it’s always preceded by a heavy sigh. Christmas brings to the forefront all of our divorce-related losses.

But if we’re not careful, the pain of loss becomes a dark secret I’ve heard multiple times—I hate Christmas. Maybe we don’t say it out loud, but it floats around our mind. Unfortunately, our real heart’s cry is for a peaceful holiday. If parents could just get along…start-of-bethlehem-nativity-by-garrett-w-30

So if you’re secretly waiting for Christmas to be over, I encourage you to revisit the true meaning of Christmas: the birth of the Prince of Peace.

The one who brings true peace
1) Peace was in Jesus’ character description before he was born.
“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”2

2) When Jesus was born, peace was in the good news the angels proclaimed:
Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”3

3) Jesus is peace and desires to give us peace.
Jesus said, “”I am leaving you with a gift–peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.4

Is peace really possible?peace-ornament-by-john-attebury
Regardless of how frustrating things may get with spouses, parents, stepparents, in-laws, ex-in-laws, siblings, ex-siblings and the extended family, Jesus offers His peace in the craziness. “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”5

God wants to give you the gift of peace—peace in your heart, peace in your mind, peace in your spirit—not the peace the world gives, but true peace that only God can give through His son Jesus.

Click here to learn how you can accept the gift of heavenly peace God offers. It may not make the infighting, choosing sides, unforgiveness, and other fractured-family dynamics go away, but you will have supernatural peace amidst it all.

My prayer for you is you’ll receive the wonderful gift of peace from Jesus; not just for Christmas, but for all of the new year!
“May the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times in every way.”6

 

1Silent Night, Franz Xaver, Joseph Mohr
2Isaiah 9:6. ESV
3Luke 2:14 ESV
4John 14:27 NLT
5John 16:33. NIV
6 2 Thessalonians 3:16 ESV
Images
Start of Bethlehem Nativity by Garrett W
Peace Ornament by John Attebury

“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