I’ve come to envy young children going through a divorce. Everyone worries about them. They are sent to psychologists to get the help they need, but 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. (Brook Lea Foster, who wrote the AARP Magazine article, “The Way We Were”)
Brook was talking about the difficulty of coming to terms with her parents divorce even though it happened when she was an adult.
Adult “Children” of Divorce Hurt Too
Even though you are an adult, it doesn’t mean that you don’t still feel immense pain. You realize, “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” adult children of divorce must go through in letting go of the past. And there are a lot of “firsts” to adjust to as you visit your parents one-by-one in different locations and often different states. There are 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.”
Wrong Notions About Adult Children
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. People think 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. And I was the one who wanted to make sure they had a good weekend, or that the birthday present I had 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 think 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.
Adult Children of Divorce – Healing the Pain Resources:
This first resource is a series of radio interviews conducted by the ministry of Family Life Today with Dennis Rainey. In these radio broadcasts Dennis interviewed Jen Abbas and Elizabeth Marquardt.
We encourage you to either listen to, or read the transcripts for each of 5 radio broadcasts. They are 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:
You will find below another 3-part series of Family Life Today broadcasts. They deal with the subject of adult children and how their parents’ divorce has affected their lives. Dennis Rainey is interviewing Bill and Jesse Butterworth in these programs. We invite you to either listen to or read the transcripts for:
Cindy Wright of Marriage Missions put together this article.
If you can share additional tips to help others in this area of marriage, please “Join the Discussion” below.
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Filed under: Separation and Divorce