Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Adult Children of Divorce Need Boundaries

Picture the figurative home landscape of an adult child before the divorce of his/her parents.
Often it is a home that is familiar, warm, safe and although there may be rooms that need remodeling and overdue repair needed in the yard, there is still a certain routine, and expectation of what is allowed in and out of the area, as well as what freedoms and securities are experienced as people move within its rooms.

Now picture the figurative home landscape of an adult child after his/her parents divorce.
Often it becomes unfamiliar, cold and dangerous. The rooms are filled with skeletons and things that used to appear hidden from view.  The yard may be filled with landmines that probably always have been there, but now they are likely to explode.
People on the outside may peer into the windows uninvited, and it is uncomfortable to have the shades open now.

The adult child who once had gone to his/her parents for protection and had learned to relax within a home with open doors and fences, now realizes the need to protect self and others.
The boundaries now are necessary as safety and security are threatened. These new boundaries are unfamiliar, but often adult children of divorce need to set them in place.

The word picture above is not perfect in analogy, but it is meant to help us through one of the very most difficult things adults face when their parents divorce.  If you are a small child and your parents divorce, it is likely that your parents will  attempt to protect you from details, conversations and the responsibility of any adult issues.   But as many adult children of divorce can attest to, the fallout weighs down on us.  We feel a responsibility that younger kids of divorce don't sense.   Parents don't do this to adult children on purpose. It is often a reaction to their deep pain and need.  Depending on the parents age, it may be necessary to lean on adult children or want to be able to depend on someone!
Parents confide in us,  they may need help cooking for themselves, or paying bills.  They may have financial issues they didn't have before their divorce or a physical need no longer helped by the spouse who has left.  It is natural that the parent would seek help from an adult child  or children,  and it is natural that an adult child would want to be there for a parent or both parents.  In the past , you were there for each other. What does that mean now?

Just today while reading the Adult Kids of Divorce forum on Yuku, I read several posts from people who were trying to stay out of the middle, and trying not to take sides, but were finding that to be almost impossible.  Many were expressing how each parent talks negatively about the other parent, how the lies of one parent or both were continuing and how these adult children feel guilt, torn and in a situation where they "can't win".   Some of the participants were expressing the reality of boundaries or distance or even cutting off contact.  These are excruciating parts of being an ACOD.  But it is crucial that you determine your own boundaries. It is time for self-protection and self-preservation. It is time to decide what you can and can't do ,   and what you will and won't do .   I will include some guidelines that have helped me, but this is not a thing to take lightly.

This is a delicate balance between what is good for you, good for each parent and good for those around you.  It is a balance between grace ( kindness extended ) and mercy ( not giving what is deserved).  It is a time to assess ( what is true at the time) and not judge ( give a final verdict with no chance for change).  It is not always a "good guy" /"bad guy" setup, but you may choose to support one parent more than the other based on what is right.    Some helpful DO's and DONT's follow.  I am praying they lead you to wisdom.

  • DON'T agree to listen to or agree with everything. Learn to say NO and
  • "enough is enough".  Monitor what goes in and out of your mind and guard that
  • DON'T take all the initiative for the relationship and communication. It is OK to wait to see how each parent approaches you
  • DON'T be afraid to close the door , or leave it cracked open, but try to keep the welcome mat out if you feel it is safe to do so
  • DON'T become your parent's counselor. Encourage them to get help from others

  • DO keep contact as you are able, but some distance is not bad. It can be helpful
  • DO speak up against things that are wrong or hurtful.  If abuse or violence are occurring at the hands of one parent, you need to intervene. And if there is danger to you or your children, you may need to be more careful with interactions or end them
  • DO gather your siblings if they agree;decide how to approach parents in a united way
  • DO give respect to each parent as a human being. Be kind, but firm.
The  landscape in which you find yourself is not the home with open doors and an unfenced yard anymore.  But doors and fences are not always bad things. They can be good for safety and the health of relationships in the future.  Be brave and careful while establishing new boundaries, while trying to keep the lines of communication open.

You may want to read another article about this issue that I have linked here

Leave me a comment or send me an email at serenitytime8@gmail.com.

Next post we will move into the topic of Acceptance in our grief series.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Adult Children Of Divorce Wait

When adults watch their parents divorce,  if they can grieve in a healthy manner, they experience feelings of loss, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. You will have to WAIT  for the topic of acceptance until March, but that shouldn't be a problem for you ACODs out there, because waiting is part of our experience.

For the sake of analogy, but with hesitance, lest I minimize the reality and seriousness of an ACOD's plight, today we will liken an adult child of divorce's situation to a play in a theatre.

For years and years the play has been showing in the theatre of community and family.
The main actors have established their roles and interactions with each other.  The supporting actors know their roles and their lines and although there are different scenes and lines, there is a certain type-casting for each player and most scenes.   The play seems to be written with a certain end in mind, although the specifics are not written in stone, each play actor imagines that generally the script will continue as it has in the past,  or as other plays have run for other family members, or people we know.

The waiting begins for the ACOD when one of the main actors or both decide to adjust their role.  They may choose to leave the play,  or want to stay in the play , but not play their expected role.  They may want to include a new main actor who has never been introduced to the cast before.  The ACOD begins to wait in the beginning, to see if this is just a stage, where the main actors will assume their normal roles again, or if things truly are beginning to change.

As the reality of change sinks in,   the ACOD realizes that every one's roles are shifting.  There is no script for this.  The character of each role is not predictable anymore.  People who were typecast as one type of person don't act like that anymore.  How much is true, how much is acting? Some supporting actors try to rewrite the script and get everyone else to repeat lines that will ensure a certain outcome.  Not all actors like how things are being rewritten.  No one is sure of their role or lines anymore.  So we wait.

After a while, the new roles are being more comfortable, and we adjust, but we dont' know what the ending is.  We don't know if the characters resolve their conflicts, or if they do not.  We don't know if there is a happy ending , or a tragic one ( more tragic than what has already played out on stage).   We adjust , but we fear.  We fear the unknown.  We fear what character we are becoming , and we fear what lines and scenes are still unplayed.

The waiting continues , as the story is still being written, as all stories are. But it isn't being written how we thought, or how we would like.  The location and props and set may change, and we liked the old one.  The music may become louder, or more minor in key, and we liked the way it was.

We wait, when we dont' know what line we should say. We wait, when we don't know where we are to stand on stage.  We don't know who is the lead anymore. So we wait.
We take one line, one scene at a time now.  Waiting becomes OK.  Waiting and distance and silence on stage is uncomfortable, but sometimes that is what it takes in order for everyone to adjust to all the changes and the new roles we all play. 

The last chapter has not been written yet. So we continue to wait. Hoping and praying for a resolution and a happy ending.  As we wait, we keep working on our role and wait for the curtain call , when the audience of community and family will learn and grow and hopefully be better off for observing us on the stage of life no matter what twists and turns or ending they witness.


Next post will cover the subject of setting boundaries. 

Sunday, February 26, 2012


When you reach the end of your rope, tie a knot in it and hang on. -- Thomas Jefferson

Friday, February 24, 2012

You Can Deal With ACOD Depression

As your parents divorce you may recognize that you are depressed and need to do something about it.  Realizing your losses and seeing your own need are the first steps to getting healthy.  The other sources of help may be determined by your own situation and what assistance seems most needed first.  The effects of your parents divorce will be felt emotionally,spiritually, mentally and physically.  So the help you get may need to address each of these components as well.

In my case,  I seemed to address my emotional and spiritual struggles first. I went to books(which I have listed in the margins of my blog) ,  my pastor,  a support group called Divorce Care, and a counselor.  This provided amazing relief and clarity for me.   But I also realized that I needed to work on giving myself new mental stimuli, so I took a pottery class, just for fun!    I found that physically I needed to take walks to help balance my anxious energy at times.  Medication gave my brain the ability to retain some chemicals I had lost during the stress.   After about three years ( I know..it sounds like such a long time, but just take one day at a time)  I realized that all the parts of my life seemed more healthy and in balance than when I first began to process my parents divorce and I had moved in and out of finding help for each aspect of my life as the need presented itself.  It is something I am still aware of and providing for even today!

Tips for dealing with your parents divorce:

Emotionally:    *Find a support group, a counselor, various friends or a pastor
                               *Give yourself some slack. Lessen demands on yourself and others
                               *Find something to laugh about and get your mind off of the pain

Spiritually:        *Explore your beliefs and values
                                *Pray alone and with others
                                *Help others with a completely different need
                                *Learn about forgiveness

Mentally:            *Try to encourage positive thoughts
                                *Make a plan or a list for your day so you can accomplish something
                                *Think through challenging conversations ahead of time
                                *Try a new hobby or activity for fun

Physically:         *Exercise
                                *Eat healthy
                                *Pay attention to sleep patterns and try to get good sleep
                                *Talk to your doctor about your depression
                                       Your doctor may ask how long and severe it has been occurring
                                       and you may be referred to a specialist or psychologist who may
                                       suggest medication.  Be open to this , while trying other things!

When an adult child of divorcing parents is dealing with depression, the goal is not to necessarily fix the problem or eliminate issues of conflict within the family.  The object is instead to begin healing at a soul-level.   We can not be responsible for others, but we can take our own thoughts and behaviors and modify them, one step at a time.  Just do what you can do for now, and in time, your depression will feel and look different in your life!

( Highly recommended book :   Happiness Is A Choice   by Frank Minirth and Paul Meier )

Next post will be another On A Lighter Note page - to help us laugh, smile  and lighten up emotionally!!  :)

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Mom and Dad's Divorce Makes Me Feel Depressed

As an adult, I had experienced periods of depression in my life due to changes and losses I had experienced.  I had walked the dark valley of clinical depression with some friends and family.  But when the loss of my parents impending divorce began to "hit me" I realized that I had entered a new dimension in the way my body and mind and emotions were reacting. 

What did I feel like? What do you feel like? How can you tell if a friend whose parents are divorcing is becoming seriously depressed?  The symptoms of depression are many and varied.  If you or a loved one are exhibiting any of the following changes, it is imperative to pay close attention.

My first obvious sign or symptom was :  EXTREME SADNESS
I did alot of crying, alot of my days, and at times had a physical pain in my heart, as well as low moods irregardless of the circumstances in my own life.

Another apparent set of changes were : CHANGE IN SLEEP, EATING , ENERGY and CONCENTRATION
I lost some sleep initially, as I would lay in bed and rehearse all the new information I was having to process and as I made decisions in each family relationship.  After time , I enjoyed the reprieve sleep gave me and began to be addicted to coffee in order to wake up in the morning.   My eating became functional , not enjoyable and my loss of energy was obvious as I would just sit and stare out the window at times and didn't find my normal sense of motivation.

WITHDRAWAL from others began to be my preference, since it was difficult for me to enjoy normal conversation about normal things and my LOW INTEREST in prior hobbies and activities made me feel like I was bringing my friends "down" when they were with me.

PESSIMISM and thoughts of minimal hope plagued my thoughts. I did not experience thoughts of suicide, but it is not uncommon and a indication that professional help is necessary.

FEELINGS OF UNFORGIVENESS and FEELING FAR FROM GOD were issues that were not easily resolved or quickly remedied. 

These symptoms of depression are experienced by many adult children whose parents are divorcing and should not be taken lightly.  My hope is that you will recognize yourself in the description and know that it is normal during loss to need help in dealing with all these signs and symptoms.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Divorce and Depression

Can adult children of divorce find help and hope in the midst of their depression?

Today we will just touch on what depression is and then look for more posts on how it manifests itself in our lives and what we can do about it.

The dictionary definition is as follows


  1. Severe despondency and dejection, accompanied by feelings of hopelessness and inadequacy.
  2. A condition of mental disturbance, typically with lack of energy and difficulty in maintaining concentration or interest in life.
dejection - hollow

 Depression is often a response to loss.   The feeling of sadness doesn't leave and causes it to be difficult to maintain our normal level of functioning.  This is often the case for those who have parents going through a divorce.  The challenging issue is that many people in the same family may be dealing with depression at the same time when a divorce of older parents affects their adult children and grandchildren of all ages as well.

From the oldest to the youngest of those in my family , we all cried, we all lost sleep and many of us exhibited other symptoms of our biochemical changes as we internalized our loss.

The loss can be at many levels, including the physical presence of a loved one,  the security or monetary support we may have had ,   or it could include loss of possessions that one parent may take when they leave.  It can be the loss of a childhood home.  The loss of the parent who always cooked your favorite dish,  or the parent who fixed your car when you came home to visit.  Routines can change and you may mourn the loss of going for breakfast every Saturday like you used to do.  A loss of trust may result in your life.  And ultimately the loss of dreams for the future are present now as you wonder if each parent will be there for your wedding, your child's birth, or your child's graduation.  These are just a few areas of loss that can cause and add to depressive feelings in adult children as their parents divorce.

We need to acknowledge that depression is a natural phenomena triggered by loss and it is necessary to be honest and face our losses as we hope to eventually move on over time.

Since I haven't really been getting much feedback anyway, today I am not going to ask you to answer a question. Instead,  get out a piece of paper and make two lists. One , list the things you have lost or are losing.   On the other list , write down the things or intangibles that you still do have.   This is an important exercise in dealing with our depression.

Join me next time as we explore what depression looks like for an adult child of divorce and what we can do about it!!!!!!    Don't forget , there IS hope and healing!!!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

On A Lighter Note

Adult Children of Divorce are among those who celebrated National Marriage Week last week  ( Feb. 7-14)  !!  Every year during those particular days an effort is made to celebrate and promote healthy marriages.  If you are an ACOD who is married, or hopes to be one day, check out some of the wonderful hopeful and helpful links at the site below!!  I loved the Recommended Reading area where there are many great resources that my husband and I have implemented in our marriage!!  A Shout Out for marriage !!


Saturday, February 18, 2012

Honestly?!! What's An ACOD to Believe?!!

Adult Children of Divorce often find themselves in the fallout of parental lies.
Sometimes both parents have lied in the past.  Sometimes one has been deceptive in the past and now both are lying in the present.  At times there is one who has lied in the past and betrayed the other parent,  and those untruths threaten to damage or succeed in destroying the family that has been known.  Lies are often told in cases of marital unhappiness because there is an inability to solve ones own problems or the problems of the couple.   Secrecy can be conducted when conflicts are not resolved.  The degree of the secrecy and lies effects the severity of the damage.

One of the places I have found support is the discussion board entitled Adult Kids of Divorce on Yuku.  While scanning entries today I came across the following paraphrased statements, many which could have been echoed by me,  or by you , if you are a fellow acod.

"we all thought we had a nice, cozy family, when the lies came out"
"lifetime of lies"
"betrayals and lies"
"mother hides everything"
"mother lies to my brother and sister and tells different stories"
"mother and her friend came up with unreal concoctions of lies"
"dad lied about where he was going on weekends"
"he/she lies without realizing it"
"I wonder if my childhood was all lies"

In my case, the lying and deceit was one of the most difficult things for me to reconcile.
I had been taught by both parents to "tell the truth" and that "honesty was the best policy" and the 10 commandments of the Bible were held as rules by which to live.  Naturally , therefore, the discovery that my dad had lied so deeply and for so long and about something so important caused my sense of mistrust to skyrocket!

I felt as though I didn't know how to trust people, if I couldn't even trust my own father.
This insecurity in my ability to spot lies, caused me to educate myself.  I read a book called
Lie spotting by Pamela Meyer.   If there is any 'silver lining' in my experience, it is that I feel I may be better at spotting a lie when I see or hear one in the future.

Here are just a few tips from the book Lie spotting on how to possibly spot a lie:

  •      listen for a context of truth
  •      listen and look for intense emotions
  •      listen for answers that give too much information or very little information
  •      pay attention to whether the question is avoided
  •      ask yourself if there is a defensive tone
  •      ask if there is extreme language when denying ( "did NOT", "I swear to God")
  •      notice if the person's body language, words and emotions do not match up ( there      may be nice words, with an angry face)

When ACODs reflect on being lied to , and know how badly it hurts and breaks down relationships, they often consider more honesty in their own personal lives.
Truth and honesty are qualities that we need to take seriously and commit to building and guarding in our interactions with others.   But why keep it honest if others don't?
As I talked with my counselor about this issue,  she repeated two phrases to me that I wrote down so I would not forget them.   Truthfulness builds Trust and Honesty builds Intimacy she said.  If you need a concrete reason as to why honesty is the best policy, that is it.  Relationships that encourage the growth and love that we all desire, are built with honesty as the foundation.

So how do we keep it honest?  The DOs and DON'Ts:

DO try to talk to people face to face  or by phone so each person can "read" the other best
DO invite others to be honest with you ,  or to begin to be honest with you
DO be kind and strong if you need to expose an untruth, while still giving freedom of choice
DON'T  underestimate the power of honesty in a relationship
DON'T let yourself be controlled by a lie

" When you tell a lie, you become a slave to something that isn't real"..."you become a servant to that lie"  ----   taken from At Home In Mitford novel


The grief stage of Depression will be our next topic .
Make time for me (Serenity) next week as we find Help and Hope for  depression as Adult Children of Divorce !!

Friday, February 17, 2012

Of ACODs and Triangles

Adult children of divorce often find themselves in the middle.   They often are in the middle of two parents they love or have loved.  They are often in the middle of siblings who feel various things at different times and are moving in and out of their own stages of grief alongside each other. They can find themselves sandwiched between other relatives and friends as conversations are played out in front of them.  Being in the middle of things puts ACODS in a vulnerable position of being pulled into a triangle.  Let me explain..........


As an adult child of divorce have you ever heard statements like the following?

"Can you find out from YOUR mother what I am supposed to do about XYZ, because she won't talk to me."    OR   " What in the world did YOUR father mean by that ...now do you see what I have had to deal with all these years?"   OR  "Don't tell dad that I talked to mom, he would be furious, but I still want to know how she's doing even though she left him".

The statements are fictional, but it didn't take me long to think of them.  We all, whether we are acods or not,  have been in situations like this where we have said something similar or are listening to a statement that is loaded with emotion and stress like the ones above . 
There is a  conflict between two people  that we know and it is not being addressed by the two individuals with whom the problem exists,  and we are being drawn into the situation to help reduce the tension.   We think we are listening,  but before we know it, we are part of the triangle that has been constructed by one of the people ( or maybe both) who is in conflict.

Triangles exist on many levels automatically and subconsciously in our everyday lives, and we should learn to recognize them.  When they become very unhealthy is when they become ingrained in the relationships, inhibiting real growth or resolution between the two people who have the original problem.

Here are some examples:

When mom wants dad to give her something back that he took when he left, she often will ask her son to tell dad that she wants it back, or worse, she may ask her son to get it from him.    The mother is pulling or triangulating her son into the relationship to help stabilize the situation, but the problem is not solved. 

Another example may be: 

When your brother tells you that he agreed to meet with your father's new girlfriend, and he likes her,  but he tells you not to tell your mother, because he doesn't want her to know and thinks she will be mad.  The brother is enmeshing or triangulating you into the stressful relationship with your mother,  but the  intensity of the problem is only lessened for him, not dealt with. 

Before I go on to describe what we can do about this, let me say that most of us don't even know we are doing this  and we dont' have any ill motives.  We just simply have not learned how to deal with conflict in a healthy manner.  We don't know what else to do.
It is not easy or natural to stay out of other people's conflicts or to determine to keep others out of our own, and to handle each disagreement with the one who is most directly involved.
We often do not realize that our behavior is actually preventing conflicts from being resolved  and healthy intimacy from being realized.

So how to we learn to talk and listen in more healthy ways?

*  If you are angry with Person B, put your energy directly into dealing with him
*  Don't use a child or a childish adult as a confidant
*  Don't ask others , directly or indirectly, to take your side or to blame others
* Evaluate whether it is gossip or not ( it may be gossip if you are not part of the problem or part of the solution)
 *  Be aware if the other person is merely sharing their feelings and hurts, or if they are trying to draw or pull you into their conflict with the other person in some way
 *  Know the difference between privacy and secrecy and don't allow yourself to be told something that you would rather not know or try to keep a secret

*STAY CALM  :   how you say things is as important as what you say
*  GET OUT  :     gently suggest that you want to change the way you relate at present
*  STAY IN  :       stay involved emotionally by showing you care in other ways
                                 or listen carefully , or suggest they talk with others as well

One last thing to help us ACODs who may find ourselves in the middle:
Below are some suggested possible statements that may help when we want to stop the unhealthy patterns, but don't know what to say.

Practice a few this week and I would LOVE to hear how it goes!!!! 

“I value my relationship with both of you. So, I would rather not be in the middle.”

 “I think it would be more helpful if you talked to her about your feelings, rather than for me "
“I want to listen , but I feel uncomfortable when you tell me such private details”
“Since we can’t change him, let’s think about  how you might have handled this situation .”
 “I don’t feel adequate to give you advice on this situation, but I’d be happy to help you look for a professional to talk to “
( Next posting will be on the issues of lies, mistrust and honesty for ACODs)

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

On A Lighter ( Love ) Note

What does LOVE look like

A wise counselor once asked me   "What does loving your mother look like in XYZ situation?"  and "What does loving your father look like in ABC situation?"  The challenge was to think of how REAL LOVE considers the OTHER person's good and benefit as the main goal.  

      Quotes below from Tuesdays With Morrie book 

Hopefully an encouragement to those Adult Children Of Divorce who are married and want to stay married to the person to whom they made the vow.

   " I've learned this much about marriage," he said now.  "You get tested. You find out     who you are, who the other person is, and how you accommodate or don't."
    Is there some kind of rule to know if a marriage is going to work?
    Morrie smiled.  "Things are not that simple, Mitch."
    I know.
    "Still,"  he said , "there are a few rules I know to be true about love and marriage  :  If you don't respect the other person, you're gonna have a lot of trouble.  If you don't know how to compromise, you're gonna have a lot of trouble.  If you can't talk openly about what goes on between you, you're gonna have a lot of trouble. And if you don't have a common set of values in life, you're gonna have a lot of trouble.  Your values must be alike.
    "And the biggest one of those values, Mitch?"
    "Your belief in the importance of your marriage."

Monday, February 13, 2012

Do I Have A Bargain For You!!!!

Adult Children of Divorce can spot a bargain when they see it!  But they can't always see when it is a form of begging and something of which they should be leery.

We've talked about the stages of Loss/Denial  and  Anger and now enters the stage of divorce/grief that is titled "bargaining".  As I thought of how to describe it to you, the word bargain brought to mind the way it is used in the act of shopping or spending money.  When there is something that you want, you are required to pay a price for it.  Usually the more valuable the item, the higher the cost to you.  If we think the price is too high,  or more than we can afford to pay,  we begin to bargain.  We ask, or beg the seller to lower the price, or make the cost less oppressive.  If we get them to give us what we want , we say we got a bargain.  We got what we wanted,  the valuable item, but we know we didn't have to pay what it was worth.

Bargaining in grief or divorce is described below by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross and David Kessler :
"We want life returned to what is was; we want our loved one restored. We want to go back in time: find the tumor sooner, recognize the illness more quickly, stop the accident from happening…if only, if only, if only. Guilt is often bargaining’s companion. The “if onlys” cause us to find fault in ourselves and what we “think” we could have done differently. We may even bargain with the pain. We will do anything not to feel the pain of this loss. We remain in the past, trying to negotiate our way out of the hurt. People often think of the stages as lasting weeks or months. They forget that the stages are responses to feelings that can last for minutes or hours as we flip in and out of one and then another. We do not enter and leave each individual stage in a linear fashion. We may feel one, then another and back again to the first one."

Bargaining is similar to denial, except you think there are things that can help the situation return to normal.  When someone has died and you experience bargaining, you reflect on how things could have been different. But in the case of a divorce, and especially for children of divorce,  your parents are still living, so bargaining is actually possible.   In the initial stages, each time your mind thinks of something that may change things, you write that letter, make that phone call, enlist someone else's help,  hoping that what is happening is reversible.   If you dont' move out of this stage at some point, you can begin to stalk or harass others.  It is imperative that you bargain, but that it ends before you try to force certain reactions from others.
My first recognition of this was when my parents weren't going to share the exposed affair with others, since there was an understanding that things would go back to normal, even though this was discovered.  No one said words that are associated with bargaining, but it was unspoken that nothing would change.
I bargained when I met with my parents and basically presented the obvious choice to my father , that he needed to make a decision as to how he was going to proceed.  Either stay with my mother and give up his mistress, or choose her and move out.  It was painful for me to present the obvious to him , as it wasn't so obvious to him that he could not do both any longer. Truth has a way of exposing our choices.
I later bargained in a way to have conversation or any type of communication that would give me answers I wanted to the way things were and had been.  I didn't know what had been true or what had been a lie in my past. I wanted to talk. I tried to bargain conversations about the issue at hand and my father tried to bargain conversations that picked up where we had left off, as though nothing had happened.  Needless to say, sometimes when trying to bargain, the price or cost becomes unacceptable to both parties and for years we didnt' come to any resolution.
Other family members, bless their hearts, tried to be the mediator between family members. Some family members tried to tell other family members how to respond. Words like  " If you don't ____________, then I won't _____________" were spoken. The hope was to be treated as we used to treat each other. The hope that the pain would go away that things could remain the same caused us to say many desperate things to each other.
Not only was there bargaining between my parents for awhile, but there was bargaining between siblings and us children between each parent.  Each hurting soul tried desperately to hold things together and retain what we used to have. 

TIPS and DO's and DON'Ts:
Accept this stage and try to recognize it in yourself and in others around you.
Do  keep hope for better future relationships
Do   accept reasonable compromises that retain your dignity and aren't manipulative
Do   decide on what real health would look like in the relationship and keep that the real goal  while working on resolutions.
Don't   bargain for a false sense of normalcy at all costs....that is not based on truth and causes further dysfunction.
Don't    tell others how to react or respond....decide your responses only.
Don't    undermine the value of what you have lost.  Something truly valuable is not easily replaced by a fake, nor should it be.


How did you try to hold on to what "was"?
Did others in your family try to bargain? How?

Tomorrow I will post a little something on Love  :)    and then we will cover the topics of
triangulation  and honesty vs. lies in the next week or so.             

Friday, February 10, 2012

Do Adult Children Of Divorce Need Counseling?

As adult children , whose parents are divorcing, our needs for support and guidance may vary, but I would say counseling is an integral part of the journey to healing. 

Dr. Jim Talley has been quoted , "Divorce is open heart surgery" , and a heart that is hurting emotionally can benefit from a trained professional as it tries to heal.   It seems logical to us that if a person had open heart surgery the recovery would take years and involve many different health professionals.   We wouldn't even think of not seeing a physical doctor or going to physical therapy on a daily or weekly basis for months or years if we experienced a major surgery.  It is easy to accept our need for help in a physical sense, but often we are leery to get help when it involves our emotions or sense of spirituality.

Our logic is flawed when we dismiss how difficult the changes from our parents divorce has affected us.  As adults this is most challenging. We possibly have jobs, families, and we consider ourselves able to handle things that come our way.  We reason that we should be able to deal with this "as an adult" and since it is not a physical limitation which we can't ignore, we try to minimize our need for help in an emotional sense.

If we are not careful,  we may do more harm than good in our healing process and we may end up having more physical issues when the emotional ones are not resolved.

My journey involved at first going to wonderful family and friends and receiving support and counsel from them.  It helped and was most appreciated, but there was something missing.

I read every book I could on adult children of divorce, and related issues ( which I listed for you on my home pages of my blog) and although they helped, it wasn't enough.

Then I joined a divorce support group ( Divorce Care ) that was intended for those experiencing divorce themselves, but it was the closest thing I could find to meet my needs.
It was genuinely helpful in understanding my grief process, but still , the people there could not relate to my personal questions of how to handle my parents and siblings as our family changed drastically. Something was still missing.

Another source of counsel I sought from the beginning , was the help of my pastor.
His compassion, wisdom and encouragement was tremendous, but when he suggested a counselor, I realized I needed more.

My counselor really listened and asked incredible questions. She pointed out things she saw in me that made some relationships difficult .  She challenged me with God's word and His perspective on injustices and hurts and forgiveness.  I can say that after meeting with her on a loose regular basis, I had worked through the stages of grief in a more healthy manner and I was more confident in the way I handled myself in the new roles I played in my family .
This was the piece of healing I had been looking for, to tie all the other pieces of healing together.  They all were important and played a part in where I am today!!

To feel we have a hand on our shoulder ,  an arm around our shoulder,  an ear to listen ,  wise words to be spoken into our pain...... this is what a good counselor can do for us.

I would encourage you to call someone who is trained to professionally counsel.  Make one phone call,  set up a meeting,  and see what help you are given.  If that doesnt' help,   try another source of help.     Your financial situation may need to be considered, but don't let that discourage you. Many churches and non profits offer onetime counseling or a sliding fee scale.   Most support groups are free.


So far we have talked about the first few stages of grief   : Pain/Loss  and  Anger.
Next time we will touch on the stage called  Bargaining  and some related issues.

I am not really sure how many people are reading this , or how many will in the future.
If you are able,  add a comment, just to let me know you are a reader. If you want to join as an official "follower" I would love to have you!  If you are reading and able to send an email, I would love to hear from you as well  at    serenitytime8@gmail.com

I am not a counselor, but I would love to hear from you , so you feel my virtual hand or arm on your shoulder, from one who has been there!!    Can't wait to hear from you!!! 

Monday, February 6, 2012

On A Lighter Note

Blessed Are Those .....who once in a while, instead of asking how your parent is,  ask how you ( the ACOD ) are doing!

( parent on left, ACOD in middle, friend on right)

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Healthy Anger

In your anger , do not sin. When you are on your beds search your hearts and be silent.

When you lie to each other you end up lying to yourself. Go ahead and be angry. You do well to be angry - but don't use your anger as a fuel for revenge. And don't stay angry.

Don't insist on getting even; that's not for you to do.

Psalms 4:4,   Ephesians  4:25b & 26a,  Romans 12:18   The Message paraphrase of the Bible

What does healthy anger look like for anyone, but especially an adult child of divorce?

Last post I shared some of my extreme responses such as holding it in and not talking about it and the opposite of expressing it in violent words and actions.  The mime in the photo does a good job of showing us the ways NOT to deal with anger.  Today I want to share about the place anger has and how it can be expressed in a healthy manner.

1.  BE HONEST and ADMIT your anger.    

One of the people who graciously counseled me asked me " What place does anger play in your working through this?"    I was challenged to see anger as an emotion which can cause us to decide what is right and true and stand for that as we see injustice. It can help us clarify our boundaries and how we allow people to treat us.   I was counseled to consider the grace I extend to those who have hurt me , or angered me,  can be in proportion to their taking responsibility for actions and their repentance.  I am still thinking through this all the time,  but the main point here is be honest , admit anger and don't keep it inside!! Talk about it with trusted people.

2. DEFINE what is really making you angry and DECIDE what is your responsibility.

It is important to determine the source of our anger.  That helps us decide how to respond to people in our lives.  It helps to make more clear what is our role  and our responsibility and what isn't.   In the lives of adult children whose parents are divorcing,  the parent - child roles can be reversed.  Children , no matter how old they are, will benefit from narrowing down the source of their anger ( maybe it is being lied to by a parent,  maybe it is the betrayal that is felt,   maybe it is the use of manipulation by one parent or both). 

Deciding what you will do and won't do helps too.  You may decide you will not deliver messages between parents when asked.  You may decide you can listen just so much to a parent and then you need to encourage them to call a friend or a counselor for themselves.
Define and Decide your positions moving ahead.

3.  DEAL directly with the person you are angry with.

When we are angry with someone, it is easy and comforting to bring another person who is not involved, into our experience.    That may help ease the feelings and generate a sense that someone else is "on your side", but it truly doesnt' solve anything.  The best thing to do is to deal with the person who is causing the anger in you.  HOW you do this is tricky and often a trained counselor is needed to figure this out. 


Anger causes a quick response and action usually,  so take time before you do anything.
It can be as simple as saying " I will need to call you back tomorrow. I need time to think about what you have said".   OR     take a few days before responding to an email.  OR if in person, simply stop, breathe and count to ten before you answer.  Don't stay silent or wait too long,  but you know you are ready when you can respond with respect for the other person as a human being, if nothing else.


Release your physical, mental, spiritual, emotional tensions.  For me,  this meant walking, walking and more walking.   It meant praying and praying and asking others to pray for me and with me when it was too hard to do so myself.   It meant beginning to read novels ( I had always read non-fiction in the past), thanks to a friend who sensed that I needed to lighten up and gave me a novel to borrow.  I took a pottery class , which was something I always wanted to do.  It was something I looked forward to going to , got me thinking about other things and  I could use my creativity in a new way. 

 These are just Five Tips for ACODS toward healthy anger .   Maybe one will benefit you as you move toward healing in the stage of grief that is anger.


( My next post will be "On A Lighter Note" , with a drawing in "paint" done by , yours truly..... you won't want to miss my artistic abilities....ha ha)


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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