Monday, March 26, 2012

The Rings

You really don't think about the rings your parents wear until you become an Adult Child of Divorce and they don't wear them anymore.  You may not know where the rings are, or they may sit in a drawer that you look in once in a while, or they may be sold, but regardless, as you look at the hands of your aging parents, the wrinkled fingers are now strangely exposed. 

What is a ring?    In other cultures, now and many years ago , it is/was a sign of a contract between families. The woman received a ring, the man and his family pledging to provide for her and she giving up her family to be bound to another by love and responsibility.  Over time, and throughout various cultures, the specifics and types of rings have changed, but the ring symbolizes a deep, permanent bond.  The shape is easily worn for practicality of a physical symbol, but also signifies being timeless, endless, whole and of continuation.  It is given during a public ceremony where a private relationship is celebrated and witnessed in community.  Two people become "spouses".  The Latin word from which the word "spouse" comes, refers to a promise, or a binding pledge. 

A ring is a symbol given and worn in public to point to a vow and promise of a binding private relationship.  We give other symbols in public to celebrate a person being a part of something bigger than themselves that they have committed to, such as awards and pins for being part of a football team, or badges and pins to show promise or completion of a pledge to the military.
The difference is that a ring in marriage means forever. And it acknowledges a common life and greater purpose in caring for and continuing creation as the lives of those wearing the rings affects their children, their friends, relatives and the greater community as well. 

A ring is a sign to others that our energies, gifts, emotional and physical intimacy, our dreams, money, etc. are going to be given to only one other person forever,  over and over, again and again.  The deeper meaning of a ring is its promise and adult children of divorce feel the emptiness that is caused when the rings come off.

How can we as Adult Children of Divorce preserve the importance of promises kept when we've experienced them broken?

1. Wear our rings proudly...they are a sign of liberation and clarity of purpose, not a sign of constraint or bondage
2. Respect the rings that others wear.  They are committed to give  much to another and we have no right to take things that belong to others
3.  Look at the empty , exposed hands of our parents and realize that they may feel freedom , or they may feel shame, or someplace in between.  But those hands bathed us, fed us, worked hard to provide for us, and tried to love us and each other. 

As Adult Children of Divorce I think we will always look at The Rings differently now and hopefully wear ours with more meaning as well.

Next Post  :    The Postcard

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The House

The idea of "our home" or "dad and mom's house" changes dramatically in the life of an adult child of divorce.  The home may have been a place of fighting and disagreements or it may have been a place of laughter and love, or some of each, but regardless, it was a place of familiarity.  A place of belonging and where we had a sense of security.  As adults, we knew that both of our parents would not always live there. We knew that they would grow older and move or die and we knew that the house is not the "home", that the people are.  We didn't think one would leave out of their own free will.  When parents divorce, one parent leaves the house and sometimes both leave. The leaving is not a part of death, it is caused by a choice and that is part of the reason that a divorce seems worse than a death often to the children.

After parents divorce, adult children may experience their childhood home or the familiar home of their parents being sold. In her post entitled Moving House But Not Moving On, ( on the Feeling Barefoot blog )  Tali describes wanting to hug the walls of her house as it is being sold.  It is as if she wants to hold on to that place so she can have a place to go home to. Many adult children of divorce say they feel "homeless" when there are two new homes to visit.

Other ACODs may experience visiting one parent at a home that used to be occupied by two. Aldon 3 , in the post called "well that wasn't much fun" , on the Yuku adult kids of divorce forum, talks about the experience of driving into the area of his parents home only to feel physical stomach pains. The description that is given of the one parent not being there anymore is that his "absence was just so palatable".  Items of that parents are gone, places they stood and sat now are unoccupied and as Aldon 3 says it "now brings nothing but sadness".

I have felt the same. So have you if you are an ACOD. We know in our minds that the house is just the walls, floors and the carpet, etc. but we also know in our hearts that it is more.    A house represents belonging, security and familiarity.   And that is our challenge.  To remember well the blessing of having that feeling and that reality at one time in our lives.  To recognize the importance of our own homes to the ones who live with us.  And to work on preserving the intangible meaning of belonging and security in other ways, through other items and experiences and memories that help convey the same things to those we love.

But there is no denying that The House has significant meaning to an adult child of divorce.


( next post will be The Rings)

Thursday, March 15, 2012

The Meaning of "Things" to Adult Children of Divorce

When parents of adult children divorce, the adult children bear more burden and responsibility than younger children whose parents are divorcing.  Some parents take a united position in telling the adult children and encourage discussion and open sharing.  Most do not. 
 Some adult children are able to recognize from the beginning ( of the end of the parents marriage) that they need to carefully walk through the minefield of emotions and unexpected decisions that are being made before their very eyes.  Most do not.  There are many extremes and inbetweens.  But something common to all adult children of divorce is the impact that "things" will have or do have on them.  

"Things" can be material objects,like a ring or a hand-written letter.  They can be "things" that evoke a feeling, like a song or a old photo.  "Things" can be a recipe or a lawn ornament or a place on a map.   In some cases, adult children of divorce become involved in decisions concerning older parents' money and their financial inheritance, as it may be jeopardized  when new boyfriends or girlfriends and their children and grandchildren become more important than the "first" family which was a unit for a greater length of time.

In my next posts, my focus will not be on  money or inheritances, but instead on the simple description of "things".  I will attempt with each post to describe an object or a "thing" to which all ACODs can relate.   Each post will include the greater story of what that object may MEAN.  I can not pretend to know what all objects mean to all people, but I can speak from my experience and from the words I have read in books and blogs by other ACODs. 

My hope as we look at The Meaning of Things, is that we see the intrinsic value that lies much deeper than the object we may hold in our hands or at which we gaze.  The change in our perception and feelings may amplify what the meaning was and now what it is and can be.  As adult children of divorce sort through the "things" of our loss and memory ( both literally and figuratively) may we see the "things" for what they truly are and may we have great courage to preserve important "objects" for our loved ones, because we have a greater appreciation for the MEANING than for the THING. 

 Join me next week as we look at The House

Monday, March 12, 2012

On A Lighter Note

                    Change is good - - - You go first!!

     The past posts have been part of a series on the stages of Grief.  I am hoping to get your input on what you would like to read about in the future.  If you can comment below, or send an email to I will be listening to your input before I write again. Thanks!!!  

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Is It Time For Serenity?

After our parents divorce, we adult children of divorce move through many stages.
Hopefully the stages move us toward serenity.  I have always been intrigued by the word serenity after I met someone who named their little baby Serenity after a long and difficult pregnancy with her.  I looked up the meaning and remembered the significance of that word and name.  Years later I ran across the first part of the Serenity Prayer and I loved the simple wisdom in the first few lines.  When my journey as an ACOD began, I ran across that prayer  and was immediately drawn once again.  The remainder of the poem became an unexpected find and the words were solidified in my heart and mind.  When deciding to write a blog, the name Serenity seemed perfect.  And now I pray that the word and the reality of it will be something meaningful in your journey!!

The word Serenity means  "the state of being calm or tranquil"  and some synonyms are  "peace" and "composure".   That is where I want to be.  Is it where you are wanting to go , too?  If you are open to growth, then you are on your way!!!

In the Fall a few years ago I began my formal counseling to deal with the issues of being a new child of divorce as a middle aged adult.  I remember being very nervous before I first met with my counselor.  I was trying to keep my mind busy that day and decided to plant some tulip bulbs .  The process was more difficult than I thought it would be, but I worked at digging a hole, positioning the bulb correctly,  applying powder that would deter squirrels, and mulching to preserve nutrients . I was almost late for my first counseling session because the process took me longer than I thought!!   The tulip bulbs were hidden in the cold , dark ground and all winter I wondered if anything was happening.  Would there be growth one day?

The following Spring, the sunshine and the rain beat down on the ground in my front yard.  My counseling sessions had taken up much of the winter and they were coming to an end.  Before my last session that Spring, I went into the yard to check on the area where I had planted the tulip bulbs and I saw growth!!!   There was a small, green stem poking up, peeking out from the spot where I had planted it months before!!!  It may sound as though I am making this up, but I tell you the truth, and it was a sweet gift to my soul , as the Creator and Sustainer of the tulips blessed me with a message of hope !!    With time,  the right amount of protection and nurture, growth occurred.    It is the same with us!

Look back on your journey so far and look ahead to see if you can give yourself TIME.
Do what you can and then wait.
Look back and ahead to see if you can provide PROTECTION for yourself , whatever that may mean in your situation.
Look back and ahead to see if you need NURTURE.   Maybe it is the soil of counsel.   Or the water of refreshment that comes from faith.  Or the sunlight of support. 

Instead of asking  "why me?"      ask   "How can I grow?"  "How can I be changed, not destroyed by this?"   and "How can I use my pain to achieve a greater purpose?"

May you move toward serenity along with me  --  It's time!!!

Isaiah 58:11  NIV 

 The LORD will guide you always;
he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land
and will strengthen your frame.
You will be like a well-watered garden,
like a spring whose waters never fail.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Forgiving Our Parents

The conversation I have been having with myself goes something like this:

"WOW...why did I ever say I would blog about forgiveness?"
"Well....forgiveness is such an integral part of healing for many people, regardless of religious persuasion, or the depth of ones faith"
"Yes, I've collected, read, listened to and been told so many things about forgiveness and as it is related to divorce, that I don't know how I will be able to condense it all to write one blog post"
"Maybe , since it is such a hot topic, I should just leave the post page blank..he he...that would help people know it is not an easy topic, nor one most people like to write about"
"Maybe a blank page shows more of what I know about it, than a long post"
"That really wouldn't be very nice to my readers"
"You're right!"
"Well,  maybe I will just write the basic ideas....but which basic ideas??  and whose??  which spiritual guide or which modern author?"
"And there is a bigger question :  Have I forgiven?  Does it look like I have to God?  Does it look like I have to others? Does it look and feel like it to me?"
"WOW...why did I ever say I would blog about forgiveness?"

As I have read other adult children's experiences and as I have journeyed through the past years myself as an ACOD, the topic of forgiveness often comes up.  In order to accept the things we can not change and move ahead, alot of us explore the concept of forgiveness.  It is often in an effort to remove the resentment from our lives and loosen the power of the situation and the one who has hurt us.

Since my personal search for purpose and peace in life has led me to the Christian scriptures and words of Jesus, I will include some of the forgiveness passages you may find helpful.
Since my personal quest to know what it looks like and what it feels like to forgive someone who has hurt me deeply has led me to advice from others, I will include that as well. As you read the following, I pray that you and I will understand and practice forgiveness as adult children of divorce.

Luke 6:27-28   New International Version (NIV)

    27 “But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you

Luke 17:3-4  New International Version (NIV)

3 So watch yourselves. “If your brother or sister sins against you, rebuke them; and if they repent, forgive them. 4 Even if they sin against you seven times in a day and seven times come back to you saying ‘I repent,’ you must forgive them.”

Matthew 6:14-15     New International Version (NIV)

14 For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.

Matthew 18:32   New International Version (NIV)
   32 “Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to.

Romans 12:19-21   New International Version (NIV)

19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,”[ says the Lord. 20 On the contrary:  “If your enemy is hungry, feed him;  if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

What does Forgiveness Look Like?

The following  points are influenced by many , many things I have read that attempt to clarify what the scripture means and does not mean.  Many of the points made in much literature was condensed in an article  entitled  Forgiveness : Clearing Up Common Misconceptions , by Laura Petherbridge,  which I will use as a guide to the points below.

* Forgiveness acknowledges that you were hurt - it is OK to admit that someone betrayed you or caused loss in your life
* Forgiveness is an act that may not be initiated due to feelings - if we wait until we feel like forgiving , we probably never will
* Forgiveness says that there is a wrong-doer and there is a debt to you -  if the person didn't do anything hurtful there wouldn't be a need to forgive. To forgive doesn't make what the person did to you OK, it just releases them from owing you and lets go of bitterness inside you.
* Forgiveness can still allow for a person to be accountable - it is loving to hold people accountable. It requires authenticity and can lead to repentance and a better relationship.
* Forgiveness can mean that the relationship is different because of the present level of mistrust -
Redefining the relationship and trusting again takes time and depends on whether their actions warrant the gaining of trust again.

What does forgiveness feel like?

  • It feels like real love, where the person's good is of highest concern
  • It feels like there is hope for change....the actions may be judged as wrong, and there may be consequences, but the person is not condemned
  • It feels like freedom in OUR spirit when we forgive
  • It feels like letting go of our bitterness and demand for justice

I dont' know what kind of a conversation you are having with yourself after reading this post on forgiveness.  Adult Children of Divorce have a unique challenge in forgiving a parent or parents.  So I encourage you to keep having  that discussion with God and your own heart and mind.  In his book When God Interrupts   M.Craig Barnes quotes Anne Lamott  :  
 " Forgiveness is giving up all hope of having a better past".    I would add  : " ....and embracing all hope for a better future".  I pray that your and my future is more peaceful because we learn to forgive.

                                                   Next post will be about Growth.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Adult Children Of Divorce Accept Change

In yesterdays Wall Street Journal there were two articles that remind us ACODs we are not alone.  The statistics were given that people over 50 years of age are divorcing at an alarming rate.  ( see Divorce Late In Life : The Gray Divorces)  That also means that there are more and will be increasing numbers of Adult Children of Divorce in coming years.
They, like us, will be moving in and out of the stages of grief ( loss, anger, bargaining, depression...) and hopefully they and we will achieve a sense of the stage of Acceptance.

In his book, When God Interrupts,  M.Craig Barnes wrote something that jumped out at me.  "Receive your life and leave behind the illusion" he stated.  Acceptance of what IS and what ISN'T.  I also am drawn to a passage of the Bible from Ecclesiastes.  In chapter 3, verses 1-14 ( NIV) the wise writer tells us that there is a "time for everything". 

 1 There is a time for everything,
   and a season for every activity under the heavens:
 2 a time to be born and a time to die,
   a time to plant and a time to uproot,
 3 a time to kill and a time to heal,
   a time to tear down and a time to build,
 4 a time to weep and a time to laugh,
   a time to mourn and a time to dance,
 5 a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
   a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
 6 a time to search and a time to give up,
   a time to keep and a time to throw away,
 7 a time to tear and a time to mend,
   a time to be silent and a time to speak,
 8 a time to love and a time to hate,
   a time for war and a time for peace.

 9 What do workers gain from their toil? 10 I have seen the burden God has laid on the human race. 11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. 12 I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. 13 That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil—this is the gift of God. 14 I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. God does it so that people will fear him.
There is a time for change but intense change can be a cause for physical as well as psychological problems.  The affects of change are many and there is even a tool to help psychologists determine how likely a person is to become ill from the stress of change.  The Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale gives various life events a "value" or "weight" and if a patient experiences a higher total number, there is a higher chance of becoming sick.   Change happens and you may have heard that the only thing in life you can count on is Change.  It doesn't mean we have to like it, or be satisfied with it, or have no hope for positive future change.  Like the seasons, we may not like Winter, or just be satisfied with Spring, but we have a hope that Summer is coming.  And then we have to get ready for Fall.   Each change is a challenge for us to adapt or accept things the way they are.
What can an ACOD learn to accept? 
I have learned to accept my past.  I have good memories. I have memories that now are clouded and foggy as I realize reality was not as I saw it.  Family pictures or heirlooms that once held fond thoughts, now bring a bittersweet taste.  I have to accept the past for what it was ; the good, the bad and what is and may always be unclear.
I have learned to accept my present. All of the relationships in my family are not the way they were , nor the way I would like them to be.  Holidays and family gatherings are not always something I look forward to as much anymore.  I am always wondering what the next issue will be that I have to deal with concerning the breakdown of my family ties.  I have to accept that there is a new reality for all of us.

I have learned to accept my future.  Times of celebration or grief may not give me the support I need or thought I would have from my family members.  The legacy my family is remembered for may be different than I had thought.  My influence can still count for good and I can hope for positive change between the now and the then of the future.
When I say I have learned it , I truly should say I am still learning it.  Acceptance is a process that takes time as we learn to adjust to each part of change and each season of our lives.    Acceptance helps adult children of divorce to cope, to accept responsibility for our own actions and to move ahead, with healthy boundaries that contribute to our own sense of well-being and self control.   
Next post will touch on the topic of forgiveness.


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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