When Mothers Leave – What the Research Shows

What is the impact on the children when the mother is the non-custodial parent after the divorce?
This question was raised at a presentation I gave on Father Hunger. I assured the inquirers I’d get back to them with what I found. However, I learned there was not much to be found. Consequently, this became the topic of my Master’s Thesis.

For those of you with mothers who left after the divorce, not much data addresses your dilemma. The attached thesis gives  some information, but much more research is necessary. Until that happens, I welcome your thoughts, opinions, concerns, and whatever else you feel necessary for us to know about your experience in this area. Also, please remember God wants to heal the hole or wound your mom may have created.

The Bible says, “Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you!” (Isaiah 49:15) and, “Though my father and mother forsake me, the Lord will receive me” (Psalm 27:10). The researchers may be way behind on this issue, but God isn’t.

The Impact of Non-Custodial Mothers Thesis – Kent Darcie

 

 

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“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

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Honestly by Steven

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

Will You Roll the Stone Away? – A Sunday Snippet

On that first Easter morning when the women found the stone rolled away, the tomb of Jesus was empty. He had risen as He said, and crushed the sin which separates us from God.

Many adult children of divorce have a stone in front of a tomb filled with unforgiveness, anger, bitterness, frustration, hopelessness and fears.

Parental divorce can produce all that and much more. One can easily add regret, sorrow, disillusionment, depression, anxiety, and more divorce to the list. The stone is lodged tightly so nothing can get in or out. Many of us like it that way. Keep all that ugly stuff behind the stone.

The smell of hurt
Why we do this was explained at another tomb. Earlier Jesus went to raise his friend Lazarus from the grave. Martha, the deceased’s sister, protested because it had been four days and “by this time he stinketh.1 Love the King James version here, but Martha was correct. Stuff buried for four days, four months, four years, or four decades stinks.

We know this because, occasionally we (or a loved one) get a waft of the stench when we react poorly to a stray comment a parent makes, or our spouse doesn’t meet a need, or a friend “betrays” us, or our fears are triggered by something and we lash out, or we’re anxious with no tangible reason to be so. Our tombs leak.

It’s time to roll away the stone
When Jesus rose from the grave He overcame man’s greatest enemy—death. But if He could beat death, isn’t it reasonable that Jesus can help us overcome our hurts and all the stuff behind our stone? The Bible encourages us to “Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.”2

But that’s a big step for many of us. God knows that, and He is not going to force you to do anything you’re not ready to do. But He does want you to know He loves you enough to want healing in your life—true healing, not Band-Aid healing.  He wants to take away your anger, hurt, and fear. The question is, will you let Him?

In our time
Maybe because I’m a guy it took years before I allowed God to help me. Guess it’s like asking for directions. But to my surprise, He didn’t move the stone all at once. He’d pull it back a little and we’d deal with whatever smell came out—maybe the smell of bitterness. Then back it went. Eventually, we moved it away from the tomb door, but it took quite a while.

To be honest, my tomb still has a pretty strong residual stink to it, but it is so much better than it used to be. Thank God!!! This Easter season, I encourage you to talk to God about cleaning up the stuff behind your stone. And remember that with God all things are possible

 

1John 11:39
21 Peter 5:7
3Matthew 19:26

Images
Thinkstock
Bible with Cross Shadow by David Campbell

When Mothers Leave – A Survey for Some of You

After completing a workshop on Father Hunger, which explains the long-term impact of the father’s absence after a divorce, I was asked, “What about when mothers leave?” I couldn’t answer. All the research I’d seen dealt with the impact on the kids after the fathers left. But I assured them I’d return with a wealth of helpful information.

That’s when I learned how little data was available on this topic. Even though authors like Jen Abbas (Generation EX: Adult Children of Divorce and the Healing of Our Pain) and Stephanie Staal (The Love They Lost) experienced their mother’s departure, neither addressed it directly–and the issue has gone largely unnoticed in the world of research. So, my Masters thesis explores the impact of a mother’s departure on the children at the time, and after they grow up.

This is where you come in. The survey link below is for those whose mother left after the divorce—she was the non-custodial parent. If this is you, please complete this survey. If it is someone you know (sibling, friend, relative, coworker), please share this and encourage them to complete it.

I will summarize the findings of my thesis and the survey here when it’s complete.

Thanks for your help.

Survey – ACOD Whose Mother Left After Divorce

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