Adult Children of Divorce – Healing the Pain

Pixabay boy-928655_640“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

Join the Discussion

Please observe the following guidelines:

  • Try to be as positive as possible when you make a comment.
  • If there is name-calling, or profane language, it will be deleted.
  • The same goes with hurtful comments targeted at belittling others; we won't post them.
  • Recommendations for people to divorce will be edited out–that's a decision between them and God, not us.
  • If you have a criticism, please make it constructive.
  • Be mindful that this is an international ministry where cultural differences need to be considered.
  • Please honor the fact this is a Christ-centered web site.

We review all comments before posting them to reduce spam and offensive content.


58 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.

  3. I am 23 years old. My parents divorced few months after my birth. I grew up with my father and stepmother. The pain of living a separate life has never been easy for me, especially the thought of my stepmother who was mother’s best friend. This has made me stay away from the outside world with pain and anger in my heart as I fear that it might happen to me too some day.

    1. Chantal, How my heart breaks for you. I can well understand your fear because you have lived within this dysfunctional “reality” for so long. But please know that you are being held a prisoner to your fears and as a result, it is discoloring the joy you could experience in life with every passing day that these fears are given that kind of power. Please, please, please find a way to talk to a good counselor over this. It will be hard work and will take commitment, but it is SO worth it. Yes, you have been very hurt by the events pushed upon you, but no, you don’t have to allow it to victimize you for the rest of your life. You CAN work through this (with a good counselor) and eventually be able to break free from its pull.

      We all have stuff that has happened to us. Some of it is horrible and some, not so much. This is tough stuff you’re dealing with. You need help –especially now while you’re still young enough to properly frame all of this, break free, and live the life, free of fear and anger, that you were created to live. I hope you will, Chantal. I had some horrible stuff happen to me when I was younger that affected me all of my growing up years (part of it was adultery issues with my dad), into adulthood. I’m SO GLAD I eventually got help because I am no longer a prisoner of those awful feelings and thoughts. I hope that will be true for you. I pray for you and encourage you to be brave enough to do this. It will be life changing –in a positive way if you do. :)

  4. My husband of 39 years left me for another woman. I am devastated. I divorced him. My problem is I am hurt when my grown children make special time to be with him. My head tells me they need a father to love, but my heart tells me that they are rewarding their father’s behavior which almost killed their mother. Sometimes I feel myself pushing my own children away because I feel angry at them for what feels like a betrayal. What should I do?