Tuesday, January 31, 2012

An Angry ACOD Responds

A husband asked his wife, "How do you control your anger so well? You never fight back when we disagree?"  

The woman answered,  "I work out my anger by cleaning the toilet."

To which the husband said, "But how does that help?"     

"I use your toothbrush", she said.

As an adult child responding to my parents divorce, anger was and still is a reoccurring emotion.   My sense of loss and it being at the hands and decisions of one of my parents made me very mad.  My anger caused feelings of wanting revenge at times , and I wish I could say that the worst thing I thought of was using my father's toothbrush to clean the toilet.  I thought of worse things I could do to embarrass him,  shame him,   and hurt him, as he was doing to me.  I am grateful that I didn't act on those ideas.  In fact, I probably had to become more comfortable expressing my anger , than holding it back.

Anger tells us that something IS wrong and we can respond to in in a spectrum of ways. One end of the spectrum is lashing out in word and action ,  and the other end of the spectrum is denying it and holding it inside.  Neither is good for us or the situation .  Our response truly matters!!

When I first realized that my father's affair was not going to be a short lived difficult time in our family life, but that it was the beginning of a permanent loss for all of us,  I would have people ask me how I was doing and I was in such disbelief that I would often just say "fine".  My sense of shame caused me to minimize my feelings and my desire to have life stay the same in the rest of my life, had me trying to think that not that much was going to change.
I would say I was "frustrated" , or I would say that I could see both sides at times.  I wasn't allowing myself to be angry at a parent. It seemed that it was not honoring or it was disrespectful.   Through the help of counselors and divorce care support group I was able to see that "stuffing" my anger  would cause me to open it one day and it would be a bottle full of bitterness.  I began to choose to say that I was indeed angry at the injustice that my mother had suffered at my father's hand.  I was angry at the "other woman".  I was angry that my father had used visits to me as an excuse to see his mistress as he travelled. I was angry that if my parent's had been experiencing such differences in their marriage that as adult children , my siblings and I hadn't been made aware of it prior to this crisis.  I was angry at myself for not noticing things that were red flags or warning signs of deeper problems that they had been dealing with.  I was mad at God for allowing years of deception. He surely could have had things become discovered sooner had he wished.  I was mad, angry and furious at times.  And feeling those things and talking about it was GOOD for my soul.  It freed me from locking it in.  It was in many instances justified , because a wrong had been committed against me and others I love.  I love the wrong doer, too, but I still can have anger.  I have come to see that God can love us and yet feel angry at our sin.  I guess I can feel that way, too.

Once I became more comfortable with my anger I swung to the opposite extreme.  When people would ask me how I was doing , I would then unleash upon them with an abbreviated version of what i was going through,  what the injustices were , and I am sure I did this all with a furrowed brow and clenched fists.  The poor checkout lady at the grocery store one day , when she said "How is your day going"  ended up  hearing an earful.....I was feeling good about getting it "out" ....but after that , I realized I was going too far.   Certain people could handle hearing my feelings and others did not need to.  Punching my pillow , or crying aloud in my car and ripping up a letter that evoked betrayed feelings seemed appropriate as I tried to express what was going on inside. I did realize though, that acts of violence or attack in word or deed had no place in my response.  And if you are feeling the need to physically hurt the one hurting you , please look for a counselor very soon. 

For either one of the extremes of minimizing anger or lashing out in anger,  and for all the feelings in between ,  it is important to seek counsel and work through this important piece of grieving.  

Anger does have a place in  how an adult child responds to their parents divorce.  It is best if the anger can produce healthy results, not unhealthy ones.  If our response matters, then what does HEALTHY anger look like?  We will touch on that topic next time!!


Friday, January 27, 2012

Angry ACODs

                      "I want to yell at my parents".  "I am resentful".  "I hate them".

These are just a few words that express the deep feeling of anger that adult children have when their parents divorce.   Just as we have talked about Grief and Sadness, our new topic for adult children of divorce is Anger.  Or ANGER!!! 

When adults learn of the plan of a divorce of their parents, the feeling that there is something wrong, terribly wrong, is at the surface of our emotions.  I remember being so angry that I couldn't even truly express it for a while. When I finally was able to say the words " I am angry", then many other verbal expressions of anger came out, too.  Many of the discussion boards I have read include people's stories of how they are handling their anger. We will talk about normal responses to our anger and also about healthy ways to handle those feelings.

Usually ACODs are angry because of the abuse of trust, the lies and injustice that we may see at the hand of one parent , or both,  and we are angry because of the way our parents treat us .  Anger is often directed at ourselves or others as well.

Anger is a big topic and we will be talking about it next!!!



Monday, January 23, 2012

What Pain Taught Me

Hope and healing for adult children of divorce is the purpose of this blog.
Today my intention is to show you that your pain is not for nothing if you are experiencing all the feelings of loss and sadness that come from our situation.
There are lessons to be learned and personal growth that can occur.
Here are some lessons learned ,  so far.

After one of my dear friends invited me over to talk, she gave me a little card with a quote on it.  As I mentioned before, I had amazing friends who really tried to support and encourage me the best they knew how.  The quote spoke to me because after I had talked and sobbed, all I could think about was how things would be different from now on and I was grieving that.   The quote said

"  I can be changed by what happens to me.  But I refuse to be reduced by it."   Maya  Angelou

The pain I experienced and still feel teaches me that it is important to think about how I live and interact with others.   I grew in my understanding and practice of interpersonal skills , such as conflict resolution.  I am still learning, but I have had more practice in trying to gather facts, meet with people in person, getting help if needed and waiting.  

The pain taught me to accept help. The help of friends, family, pastors, books, counselors and others has been invaluable.  Their wisdom and advice has guided and given clarity .  Some of the help came in the form of challenges to my thinking and actions. Not always something I have welcomed, but it was helpful because my best interest was at heart.   I am blessed to have had wise counsel from people and I have gained it also from God's word.   Proverbs 8:14 records the Person of Wisdom as saying  "counsel and sound judgement are mine".  Counsel and sound judgement , coming from wise words and people are something good that can come from pain.

Comfort of friendship and personal places of peace has been a lesson learned.  In the learning of it through others I will always ask myself what I can do to bring that comfort to others. I am glad for that lesson.

And the last lesson I will mention, is the lesson of rest and acceptance.  There is just so much I can do.  The serenity prayer's words asking God to grant us the ability to accept things and courage to do what we can , and wisdom to know the difference has been a prayer of mine as I have learned my limitations in dealing with each of my parents and the fallout of their divorce. 

The lessons I have learned have not fixed the brokenness of the divorce. The lessons have not taught me how to right all wrongs. But I have learned to find purpose within pain. 
Beth Moore has written in her book So Long , Insecurity  "God has promised that His grace will be given according to our need and that not only will we survive by the skin of our teeth, if we trust Him and hang on for dear life- grieving, yes, but as those who have hope--we will also thrive again.  We can give ourselves to something greater than painlessness.  We can give ourselves to purpose."

* Get physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual help for yourself ...it is not a sign of weakness, but of strength
* Try to not ask "why", but instead ask "how can I grow from this"
* Focus on your own pain enough to heal, but reach out to others who are hurting. We all have problems
* "Receive your life and leave behind the illusion" ( M.Craig Barnes)   It is what it is and you will get through

Visit again as we explore the issue of ANGER!!!!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

On A Lighter Note

In a counselors office:

 Growing old is mandatory, growing wise is optional
Pain is inevitable, misery optional

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Bonds Unravel When Your Parents Divorce

When parents divorce in your adult years many tight connections unravel.  The strength of relationships that you have learned to trust become weak and sometimes broken altogether.

Marriage is described as a cord.  Individual strands are woven and twisted so closely together as to give the rope more strength and a sense that all strands are actually one unit.
A cord of three strands is likened to a marriage where God is intertwined as well.  The more strands and the stronger each one, the more sturdy and useful the rope.
Marriage is a deep, thorough connectedness with another human being , and with all the others that are in relationship with that person. The circles of personal interconnectedness are almost unending.

So, in divorce, many people are affected.   Their reactions to the pain of an adult child of divorce is unpredictable.  Suffering is difficult to watch in others and is tried to be explained somehow.   In the book of Job in the Bible,  Job was suffering from some things other than divorce,  but his loss was great!  His friends, although well meaning, had various ways to try to explain what was happening to him.  One reasoned that he must have sinned.  Another thought he must have forgotten God.  And yet another one thought he probably deserved more! ( some friend , huh?)  And even Job's wife questioned why he kept his integrity and told him to curse God and die.   Pain of lost connection brings out interesting reactions .

As a 40-something with parents, a husband, children, siblings, and friends, I still felt very alone.  I especially did not know , nor do I now know, anyone personally , who was my age and having parents going through a divorce after a long marriage.   Before I make note of some of the most alarming responses I got to the news of my parent's divorce, I need to make clear that overall, I had wonderful friends and family who listened and tried to understand and help.  I will mention some specifics after I relay the strange reactions.

One acquaintance actually began laughing when I told her that my parents were divorcing.
I was taken aback by this, but realize that she was nervous and probably dumbfounded!
Another said that all sin was the same and I shouldn't judge.  I wasn't really talking about judging, but how much pain I was in.  Another friend said something about trying to look at all the blessings in life and then went on to recount some good things that had happened to her recently.    My friends were well meaning, but I felt a little like Job. Misunderstood and in pain and alone amidst friends and family.

In the story of Job, one friend ends up giving words of wisdom as he explains that suffering is educational.   He eludes to the fact that God is greater than man and there are things we learn that we wouldn't know without pain.

Telling my almost adult children was excruciating.  I was grieving and then I watched them grieve almost immediately after I told them what was about to happen.  I dont' like to go through pain , but it is awful to watch your children experience the deep pangs of sadness and loss of trust.  Difficult to know what to tell them, what not to tell them and wanting to give them enough information to process it, but not too much to ruin their remaining trust in people.

Bonds unravel, connections lessen, people react to your news with different responses, it hard to tell some people, easier to tell others and the feeling of being alone in the experience is helped when others do respond with grace.    The people who listened, just listened and said little were the most helpful.   The ones who asked thoughtful questions and then listened some more gave me things to think about.  The ones who acknowledged what was going on, instead of acting like no crisis was occurring, helped to validate my experience.    Those who called, wrote a note,  had me over for pie,  took a walk with me, handed me a Kleenex....all those (and they know who they are), they helped me to not feel as alone!  To them I owe a lot of thanks!!! 

As you think through your friends or families reactions to the news of your parents divorcing,  who helped you the most in your personal crisis?  What did they do?

Did any of you have to tell older grandchildren about grandparents who were divorcing?

Next post will be a special feature I plan to include at times.  I will call it On A Lighter Note, and I will give you something about which to be hopeful!

Monday, January 16, 2012

I'm An Adult , but the Pain of My Parent's Divorce Still Hurts

What is the pain of an adult child of divorce like?  It begins something like this :
"Honey, do you have time to talk right now? Because I have something that I need to talk to you about".  Your heart begins to race, you feel emotions from fear to anger, a need to take flight or to fight, and at the end of the conversation you hang up the phone and realize by the deep physical feeling of sickness in your stomach , that nothing will ever be the same again.

Adult children of divorce are expected to be able to handle their parents divorce.  It is imagined that they are less impacted than younger children.  In an article in the Huffington Post from May of 2011 by Erica Manfred, that thinking is referred to as a myth.  In her article The Kids Are Never Grown , Erica says  " The notion that divorce is easy once the kids are grown is a myth. Divorce is never easy and the kids are never grown."

Divorce is likened to open heart surgery and death for the people actually divorcing. I would think most adult children of divorcing parents would agree that their pain is as deep and life-altering.  The pain begins as the news of the brokenness sinks in.  The pain continues as the separations of what was and what is take place in coming months and years. The pain is physical, emotional, spiritual and mental.

Physically, there is that feeling of a pit in your stomach. A hurting of your heart.  Numbness or physical shaking.   Emotionally, you cry. You can't feel some emotions at times. It is said that over 80% of your energy is experienced in the emotional realm when grieving. That leaves little energy for other things in daily life.  Mentally it is difficult to concentrate. You find that the first thing you are thinking of in the morning and the last thing you are thinking of at night is your crisis.  And spiritually, there is a desperate longing for MORE.  A yearning for a deeper relationship with a trusted One who is higher, stronger and more able than you are.  That is just a little picture of what the pain is like for an ACOD.

There are multiple losses.  A loss of home ( someone said they felt "homeless").  A loss of ones identity. It can mean a loss of hobbies, vacations, times that you had together with others in your family.  The meaning of your family changes, and its legacy and the reputation among community and friends and other family.  Brooke Lea Foster used the word "unrecognizable" in her book The Way They Were , to describe the way family relationships become after a divorce.  The loss and separation is not just between the divorcing spouses ( parents), but it is felt on many levels for the adult children.

When I think of my initial pain , I remember being surprised by my feelings and my ability as an adult to reason some of my mindset, but still I was unable to change my feelings.  I recall initial thoughts of personal blame and a battered self image.  I thought " Maybe if I was prettier this wouldn't have happened.  Maybe if my children were better behaved....Maybe if I had pursued my career more wholeheartedly things wouldn't be like this....maybe those things would have helped my parent be happier and not need to do this".
I knew how foolish and illogical my thinking was, but I was in pain and that is how it expressed itself in my core.  I felt pain differently than my siblings and we worked through our stages of grief ( explained in my previous post)  at different times, levels and intensities.
It was a process and continues to be.

So, I have tried to describe what the pain of a parents divorce feels like to an adult. 
Remember that the grief and pain is necessary to honor what your family meant to you!
Don't forget that pain can be a valuable teacher...you can grow from this experience.
This kind of pain can take years for your body and mind to work through. Be patient with yourself , just like you would be if you were recovering from a medical surgery. Your heart and mind have been through a severing and it will take time and possibly many types of "treatments" to get to a place of recovery.

What can you do?  What tips are there as you feel pain of this kind?
*  Be good to your body...eat, sleep, exercise, talk with friends, etc.
* Lower your personal demands of self
* Don't expect the people who are causing your loss to feel the same loss. They have already gone through it.
*Write a letter to the person who has caused your loss and probably don't give it to them , but it just helps to write or journal and get your feelings out and then it is easier to move on
*Measure your progress slowly.  First hope for one hour of enjoyment this week and two next week.

Adult Children of Divorce experience pain very deeply from that first phone call until years and many many more phone calls have taken place. No need to make a call to us other ACODs to tell us your experience, just comment below and share with us :

Was your pain mostly physical, emotional, spiritual or mental?

What specific loss hit you the hardest?

Has the pain lessened over time?

Next post will be about the pain of telling our children and friends and their reactions.
Thanks for listening and sharing!!


Friday, January 13, 2012

Adult Children Of Divorce and Grief

When I first became aware of the stages of grief, I assumed that I would experience it firsthand when someone close to me died,  not when my parents divorced in my adulthood.  As I cried my way through the first days and months of the shock of what was about to happen to my family of orgin, the pain was deep and unbearable at times.

 Before the tears came readily and daily I seemed to walk around from task to task while hours ticked away in my day, as I functioned on auto-pilot, but my thoughts were consumed with the surprise and disbelief that my father had another love and would leave my mother and what we knew and loved of family to be with her. I reasoned that he would reconsider, that the affair wasn't as serious as it seemed, and that all would eventually be OK. 

Little did I realize that I was experiencing the Stages of Grief due to the great pain and loss that I was experiencing.  The Stages of Grief are expressed by various words in different grief literature.  I will use what words seem most explanatory to me as I use the format as an outline for my posts.  I plan to take each stage,   talk about my experience with it,  and include excerpts from books,  counseling sessions I attended, or any help with that topic that I have found.   By doing so, I am hopeful that not only will we become more educated about what happens to a person when they walk through the waters of their parents divorcing when they themselves are an adult,  but also it will give all of us a format to share our experiences and ultimately we can grow and move toward healing in our journeys. 

Recently I came across another list of stages that accompanies Abandonment.  In the case of divorce , whether the children are adults or children, there is a true feeling of abandonment.  It is curious to me that although the stage order is not exactly the same for abandonment as it is for grief, they do line up in a loose parallel way. 

The Stages of Grief and the Stages of Abandonment are given below.  The length of each stage, and the order can be different for each individual. Many times people can experience more than one stage at a time, or go in and out of them at different points in their experience.

STAGES OF GRIEF                                                    







Letting Go/Lifting                                                                       

If you see yourself in one of these stages, do not lose heart. It is normal, you are not alone and as I wrote in my journal at one time along this road   " There is a strong healing power in grief".  I do not know who told me that , or where I read it, but it has proven to be true.

The first topic I will tackle in my next post will be the topic of Pain and Loss associated with the divorce of parents as an adult.    ACOD's experience pain and loss uniquely.   How did you react initially to the news of your parent's divorce or separation?   Were you in shock?  Did you experience denial?   How did you deal with the pain and the loss ?   Adult children of divorce feel grief and abandonment .  Let's explore that issue together!

Help and Hope

Creating a place for Adult Children of Divorce of every age to come for a bit of hope and help has been a desire of mine as I have navigated the rough waters of finding my place within the aftermath of my parent's divorce.  The counsel I have found and from which I have benefited in the past few years is what I will share with all of us in an effort to encourage us that we are not alone and there is hope. May this place be where we can all go to move us toward times of serenity and peace within our circumstances.


JANUARY TOPICS : Help and Hope
Bonds Unravel


MARCH TOPICS: Accepting Change
Forgiving Parents
Time For Serenity
Things/Objects of Meaning

Photo Album

JUNE/JULY : Reflecting and Writing Again

Acods and Listening
Acods and Materialism
Acods and Identity

Serenity Prayer Worksheet
ACODs and Simplicity
A New Look to the Blog!!
Serenity Prayer Extended Version/Worksheet
Why do we Blog???

ACOD Serenity Prayer
ACOD Fathers and Mothers
Things Still Aren't Right This Christmas

Grandchildren of Divorce
ACODs and Affairs
Keep Going
ACOD Forward and Back
Lord' Prayer ACOD version
Ripple Effect
Grief Revisited
Too Many Choices
ACOD Times To Remember
Telling the Truth
Behind the Curtain

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