Personal Stories

One thing I would like to do with this blog is give people an opportunity to share their stories with us. Some have done this through the comments on other posts, but I would like to devote a page to this so they are all in one place. Children of divorce all have very unique experiences, depending on the age we were, what events took place, what siblings we had (if any), etc. If you would like to share your story with us, please e-mail your story to me at mindyrichmond (at) comcast (dot) net and I will post it to our “Your Stories” page. I will keep it entirely anonymous unless you request otherwise.

Thank you!

Following is a short piece I wrote for a local Christian newsletter in June of 2004.

Child of Divorce

Malachi 2:13-16
“Has not the Lord made them one? In flesh & spirit they are his. And why one? Because he was seeking godly offspring. So guard yourself in your spirit, and do not break faith with the wife of your youth.”

634 Turwill Lane. It’s the one with the white birch tree in front. This is where my family ended. At the tender age of 6, my family was destroyed by divorce. From that point on my siblings grew up living two different lives, one with our mom and one with our dad. I am sitting in front of the house where it all started, but I know I can’t go back.

After twenty years of being pressured by society to just accept it and move on, I am finally allowing myself to FEEL something about my parents’ divorce. I have been overwhelmed with a flood of emotions lately. I wish that my parents had fought harder to hold together the family they chose to create. I wish it so that I would not have grown up with conflicting values or segmented family memories. I wish it so that I would not be so afraid to trust others. I wish it so that I didn’t strive so hard to be perfect in order to gain some sense of stability. And I wish it so I would not run away when things got hard. I wish they would have fought harder to win one more battle in the war Satan has declared on marriage and family.

It has surprised me to learn how devastating divorce actually is for the children involved. Our society, churches included, seem to sugarcoat the short and long-term effects of divorce. I hear it referred to as a “fresh start” for the spouses involved, but for the children it is a painful destruction of stability. When the parents remarry they call it a “blended family,” but for the children it is an unnatural arrangement and a constant reminder of the brokenness of their original, God-given family.

What God is teaching me in my own life is that broken marriages result in broken children. He is showing me my brokenness and bringing my hurt and pain to the surface. Some days the emotions are too overwhelming, but I hand them over to God because I know he is with me every step of the way. With one issue at a time, I am growing and healing from the inside out. Through all this I have hope because I know he is filling me with his Spirit in order to make me whole again. I believe we are all broken people for one reason or another. I also believe that God can make us whole again. Give him your brokenness, your pain, your fears. Let him do the rest.

“O let him have the things that hold you, and his Spirit like a dove will descend upon your life and make you whole.”

Found out tonight that another friend has filed for divorce. I am in complete shock. This is a couple that I have always compared my husband and myself to. Married many years, been through a lot but have always pulled through. They seemed so happy the last time I saw them. They have two children.

I have now come to a disturbing realization. All this reading and discussion about children of divorce up to this point has been about my generation. Our parents divorced when we were children. We grew up. The questions have been How are we now? How has it affected us? I’ve been pushing to find how I can learn from my generation’s experience in order to help children of divorce in the future. I don’t feel like I’ve learned enough yet, but I figured I had time. There are so few children in my circle of influence. I know there are many children out there who need help but it wasn’t real to me until tonight. Tonight it hit home. My generation are the parents now. Our children are the next generation of divorce victims.

As you progress through adulthood, first it seems everyone is getting married. Then it seems everyone is having children. Is this the next stage? Get married, have children, get divorced? Then what’s next? The second and third weddings? The new babies with the new spouses? I am not ready for this. It’s one thing to see your parents going through all of this but I was somehow in denial that perhaps our generation would follow in their footsteps. No, I am not ready for this. I am not ready to watch my friends go through painful divorces and I’m not ready to see their children hurting and confused and I am certainly not ready to attend second weddings. Maybe I’m going too far with this, but maybe I’m not. Maybe I’m just finally waking up to the depth of the effects divorce has had on all of our lives.

I met a woman today who is currently going through a divorce. She was married for 21 years and has two teenagers. We talked for a bit about the divorce itself… the relationship she had with her husband, the problems, the causes of the breakdown in the marriage. Then I asked her how the kids were taking it. She said they were taking it well. The marriage had been in decline for sometime and the kids were old enough to understand and see what was going on. Not a high-conflict divorce, more silence and tension than anything. The kids didn’t seem to be surprised when they were told of the divorce. And she made a point to mention that there were several intact, healthy marriages in the family, so the kids know what one looks like. I’m not sure why she mentioned that, but it seemed to me that that thought gives her hope that they will have a chance at having lasting marriages in the future. I hope so.

What I wonder is this? How well are the kids really taking it? No doubt they are cautious to reveal to their parents how they really feel. I know I was (still am in some ways). As kids we were brought to counselors to work out our issues, but I was still hesitant. After all, who hired those counselors? I could never feel confident that something I said wouldn’t get back to my parents. And counseling was so intense.

Parents, if you are going through a divorce or are divorced already, be realistic about what your kids are going through. The family structure they have known their entire lives has come to an end. Divorce is extremely common, but that doesn’t lessen the effects. Acknowledge that they are hurting, validate their feelings. Chances are they won’t feel comfortable sharing their deepest hurts and feelings with you, so make sure they have someone else to go to for support, someone who is neutral and unbiased and can be trusted. Children are very sensitive to the pain you are going through and will often go to great lengths to try and ease your pain, including stuffing their feelings and pretending they are okay with the changes.

We know divorce happens. It sucks. The effects can be profound and lasting. With some love, care, and patience I believe we can cause the positive effects to outweight the bad.

Following is a post from my personal blog. I thought it might be helpful to post here as well since this is what this new blog is all about…

I just read this article, “No good divorce: The children’s perspective”. It’s an interview with Elizabeth Marquardt, the author of “Between Two Worlds: The Inner Lives of Children of Divorce” and I’m ready to go out and read the book.

This is a subject that is very close to my heart. In some way I have always felt that my parents’ divorce didn’t affect me all that much. When I read “Generation Ex” by Jen Abbas, I realized that wasn’t true. In the process of reading that book, my feelings of confusion and loss were validated and I was able to find a lot of healing.

Since then I have thought a great deal about the lack of support for children of divorce. Do a google search for divorce counseling for children and you’ll find a slew of websites, but all of them are written for the parents. We need some child advocates here. Parents can do a lot to help support their children through a divorce, but very often its not enough. One reason is simply because the parents are going through a heart-wrenching time. Divorce ain’t easy. A second reason is because these kids need someone to talk to about what they are going through, and they don’t always feel comfortable talking to Mom and Dad because it hits too close to home. How do you be completely honest about your pain and anger with the people who are causing it? I was 6 when my parents divorced, and it hurt like hell. I was mad at them both, but I never told them because they were already hurting so much and I didn’t want to add to their pain and guilt. Add to that the pressure from society. When I was a child I felt like I just needed to act normal. Everyone seemed to turn the other way, pretend it didn’t really happen or that it wasn’t a big deal. I was so afraid of expressing my feelings because I didn’t want people to think I was overreacting. Yet even with that restraint I still cried a lot. (One of the best things my mom taught me is that it’s okay to cry.)

It’s so different the way children are treated if a loved one dies. Their pain is acknowledged for what it is, they are embraced. Children of divorce are grieving just as well, but because divorce has become so common I think we underestimate what they are going through. They experience pain, anger, confusion, denial, frustration, sadness, and they need to know that it’s okay to feel the way they feel. In essence they are grieving the loss of their family. We need to let them grieve.

I want to start an advocacy center for children of divorce. I know it’s needed. Convincing people it’s needed may be a challenge. Funding it will definitely be a challenge. I need to network, I need to make a plan. This blog is the first step.