Adult Children of Divorce – Healing the Pain

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“I’ve come to envy young children going through a divorce. Everyone worries about them. They’re sent to psychologists. The adult child’s grief isn’t taken as seriously. Many of our parents stayed together because we’d be more mature once we headed off to college, walked down the aisle, or had our first baby.

Parents expect us to shrug off their split, as if the breakup of our family should no longer concern us because pieces of our adult life are in place. Even I felt I was overreacting. I’m an adult, I figured. I should be able to handle this.”

That’s a quote from Brook Lea Foster, who wrote the article “The Way We Were” featured in the Sept/Oct 2006 issue of AARP Magazine. She was talking about the difficulty of coming to terms with her parents divorce even though it happened when she was an adult.

Even though you are an adult, it doesn’t mean that you don’t still feel immense pain because you realize that “things will never be the same.” As Brook said in the article:

“My life suddenly seemed a series of “lasts” —a final Christmas, an end to eggs together at the breakfast table. I’d never again find my parents standing side by side on the porch, waving to me as I pulled into the driveway.”

There are a lot of “lasts” an adult child of divorce must go through in letting go of the past and a lot of “firsts” to adjust to as you visit your parents one-by-one in different locations and often different states. There’s also the “firsts” to adjust to as you meet new people they are each dating. This adjustment doesn’t necessarily come easy just because you are supposed to “be adult about it.”

In another article posted in the Washingtonian Magazine, Brook had additional thoughts to say on this subject. She wrote,

“When a younger couple gets a divorce, they worry about how it will affect the children. My Mom told me that’s partly why she and Dad stayed together for so long. Did it mean that what I saw as a perfect childhood was a lie?

“There’s a notion that an adult child won’t hurt as much as a youngster, that a 26-year-old isn’t as likely to be affected by her parents’ breakup. That she’ll understand. It’s not true. Understanding what your parents are going through is even worse. I began obsessing about their growing old alone. I pictured them in separate houses without someone to make them tea if they had the flu. They could come live with me, but I’d have to choose one.

“My parents and I reversed roles. I became the worried one, the one wanting to make sure they had a good weekend or that the birthday present I’d sent was perfect. ‘I told a friend after the holidays that my family felt dead to me.’ ‘I think you’re exaggerating,’ my friend said. But I wasn’t. I was in mourning. My family as I knew it was dying.”

As you can surmise, it’s not as easy for many adult children to adjust to their parents’ divorces even though many people may thin they should. That’s why we want to lead you to some additional  thoughts on this subject, hoping that they will help those who are dealing with this issue.

The first resources we want to direct you to are a series of interviews conducted by the ministry of Family Life Today with Dennis Rainey. This series was aired October 23-27 of 2006 where Dennis interviewed Jen Abbas and Elizabeth Marquardt.

To make the choice to either listen to or read the transcripts for each of the 5 broadcasts (titled, Surviving the Aftermath of Divorce, The Emotional Hurdles of Living Through a Divorce; The Sleeper Effect of Divorce; Forgiving Our Parents, and Approaching Marriage) please click onto the links provided below:

ADULT CHILDREN OF DIVORCE: Healing Pain that Lives On – Days 1-3

ADULT CHILDREN OF DIVORCE: Healing Pain that Lives On – Days 4-5

As well, there is another 3-part series of broadcasts conducted by the ministry of Family Life Today with Dennis Rainey that deal with the subject of adult children and how their parents’ divorce has affected their lives, where Dennis Rainey is interviewing Bill and Jesse Butterworth.  Please click onto the links provided below to either listen to or read the transcripts for:




The above article was put together by Cindy Wright of Marriage Missions.

If you have additional tips you can share to help others in this area of marriage, or you want to share requests for prayer and/or ask others for advice, please “Join the Discussion” by adding your comments below.


Filed under: Separation and Divorce

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55 responses to “Adult Children of Divorce – Healing the Pain

  1. I was a happy single until I met and married someone whom I had only known for six months, ignoring the red flags, we got married. And For ten years my daughter and I dealt with the discord in our family.

    I was married to an artificial showman who lived a double life, had other secret partners, including men. I ceased having any intimate contact with him, for safety sake.

    My parents, 300 miles away, insisted I stay within the marrige until my daughter went to college…this was the worst advice I ever received. I stuck it out and I Lost everything…even the love of my daughter, who now excludes me from her life.

  2. I’m 38 years old. My dad just told me last night that he asked my mom for a divorce. He told me that she doesn’t know that he’s telling me, and that my brother doesn’t know about this at all. I am expected to pretend that nothing has changed until both of my parents sit down with my brother and I to discuss this, which may not happen in the near future due to my mother’s health issues. I’m at a loss.

    How am I supposed to process this if I am to keep it a secret? I have my husband, and he is supportive, but I can’t even ask my mom if she’s okay, or go to my friends for advice. This hurts, and I don’t know what to do.

    1. Leah, what your dad has asked of you is not fair to anyone involved (apart from what he feels is fair for him). This is selfish. If he wants to break his wedding vows, then he can’t expect that his wishes will all be honored either. Pray about this and then if you feel you should, go to your mom and tell her what your dad told you, and then respond to your mom as you believe God would have you. If your dad is upset… oh well! Then he should stay in the marriage, supporting your mom who is in poor health –work on the marriage, not the divorce.

      You need to reach out and get the support you need. You should not have to carry an extra burden just because your dad expects it. He is a grown man making decisions, which affect the whole family. He needs to man up and accept the consequences.

      I don’t know the issues going on between him and your mom. They may be very difficult. But he promised in his wedding vows, “for better or for worse” that he would be faithful to his wife and to God. Just because he wants out it doesn’t mean he should get out. If there is abuse coming from your mom, he may need to separate, but if not, then he needs to persevere through the “worse” and not add extra burdens upon his daughter and the rest of the family. That is my humble, prayerful opinion. Ask God if what I am saying here is for you. I pray wisdom for you… strength for your family, and eye-opening, God moments for your dad to do the right thing, as God reveals them.