Wednesday, August 29, 2012

ACODs and Identity : The Family Tree

Adult children of divorce can become discouraged when looking at our family trees. Our identity is a part of those relatives who have come before us and those coming after us, and we realize , if we have not known before, that our tree has missing leaves and broken branches.  Adult children of divorce have unique damage to their family trees, but we are not alone in the fact that many trees have unusual growth patterns, strange and unwelcome fungi, results of outside or inner infection and disease.  We are not alone in the world of unhealthy family trees, but we do need to consider how our trees got this way, what damage has been done and now what we can do to make the tree as healthy as possible.

For adult children of divorce our family tree suffers when our parents divorce. I was reminded of this as I recently looked through a photo album of several generations past.
The people had normal problems and had tragedies , illness and hardship that sometimes is evident in the expressions on their faces.  Other pictures show them expressing humor, togetherness and enjoyment of life. It is a good reminder that life is wonderful and messy in the course of generations for most of us.   As with a death, a divorce brings not only the expected winds and storms of life that do some damage to our family trees, but it brings a greater blow that resonates in the whole tree.

Not only have I looked at old photos and imagined the lives of my ancestors lately, but we also had a tree specialist come to check the health of the trees on our property.  He had a wealth of information and advised us on a few procedures we could take to insure the health of our trees.  A few were suffering from insect infestation and a few had not been attended to as young saplings so there were unique issues with growth.  And a couple other trees had small scars where our tree specialist said they must have been injured as young trees, but the tree had overcome and grown well despite a small scar or two.

This thinking about family trees, and the trees in our yard caused me to do a little research. I am not a tree expert, nor is this a perfect analogy, but I was amazed by the things that I read in relating it to us ACODS.  The article was from and the article was concerning the stopping of a procedure called "topping".
Topping is the drastic removal of large branches from a mature tree.  This sounds like what has happened to many of us older acods. The larger ,more established , older people have become removed or separated from our lives and those of our children due to our parents divorce.  The article explained that this upsets the ability to produce enough food to support all branches , trunk and roots when a 30 year old tree loses much of its 30 years worth of canopy.  Topping makes the bark vulnerable to scalding from the sun and branch stubs rarely close or develop calluses, making them more susceptible to decay. This is discouraging to hear how unhealthy a tree , or a family, can become after a devestating loss of important branches!  Can a damaged tree survive?

One of my dear blog readers shared with me the story of the Survivor Tree in New York City.  The tree was found in the rubble after 9/11 with blackened trunk and snapped roots, but was nursed back to health and now is four times its size and sprouting blossoms!  She described her impression in the following quote:

"The tree is beautiful... it is being held by chords that are currently helping it gain strength. You can still see many traces of what it has been through, but you see as well, very clearly, new growth. The tree will never be the same, but it is still a tree which, although assisted, stands strong. ( deleted sentence here). I realized, our family tree has been through devastation, but it has not died. We are hurting, but we are still standing; we are breathing and we are fighting for survival. And we are being "held up" like those chords that hold the 9/11 survivor tree. Those chords are helping us regain strength in our roots... those chords are our sweet Jesus and the many people who have brought us comfort and support, reminding us of a hope for the future."

Her words brought tears to my eyes when I first read them and also today as I share them with you!!  We all want a healthy family tree , yet trees get damaged and need help sometimes.   As our tree specialist explained that the best policy is nurturing, careful planning and early training when it comes to the long term health of trees,  he also gave us recommendations for future health and healing for those trees that had suffered damage beyond our control.

As an adult child of divorce who could become discouraged by what I see now in my family tree, , I am  instead trying to take the measures needed to regain the best health I can , for the future life and growth of the family tree.  This involves taking care of my own "leaf" , so to speak.  I can not control all the limbs and branches and the outside forces that will cause weakness to the family tree.  All I can do is try to make sure my leaf is healthy, nurtured, and cared for when wilting.  I can try to influence the branches to which I am in close proximity for good .  We can hope future generations will look back at our family trees and while recognizing that they are not completely whole, they are still standing.  The people overcame, they endured and the tree survives.

Monday, August 27, 2012

On A Lighter Note

The song  "Forgive" has been on my heart and mind almost constantly lately!!  It kind of gets stuck in your head and you can't get it out!   Maybe that is a good thing in this case .  Check out Sara Renner's website at and listen to her song that reminds us that if we want to live, we need to forgive. Powerful and beautiful,  from one ACOD to others like us!!  Thanks Sara!!!!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

ACODs and Identity : Part 1

Even though I became an adult child of divorce at the age of 43, I thought my identity was quite established and secure by that time in my life. A strong sense of self had been developed apart from my roots of childhood, and I had my share of personal accomplishments from which to gain a positive self concept.  Tasting some of life's painful experiences had given me an amount of maturity and perspective I would not have had at a younger age.  BUT.....  as the reality of my parents divorce set in , the realization that I saw myself as a part of "them" couldn't be ignored.  Seeing myself even more separately became a new exercise. 

"Mom and Dad" had become  "mom" and "dad".  "They" had become "he" and "she" , "hers" and "his".  The language I used now spoke of it.  The way their lives became independent and compartmentalized made me see everything in a new, unwelcome, way.
When my 44th birthday rolled around, I was surprised that it felt somehow less significant and important to celebrate my birth , my life and my identity.

I began to ponder the relationship that had caused the creation of my life.  If I was conceived in love and togetherness, I reasoned,  then, if the love and togetherness was gone now, did this somehow "un-conceive" me?  Was my life less of a miracle and thing to celebrate ?    I wondered if I were the only one who had thoughts like that.  But in Christianity Today magazine in the July/August 2012 issue,  Andrew Root , discusses how the divorce of his parents involved a questioning of his core identity.

As Christians, Andrew Root and I believe and embrace the truth that God is able to take us into a relationship with Him, where there is deep communion between His being and ours.  It is a place where God becomes our Father and our identity "in Him" can not be threatened or destroyed the way the relationship with our earthly fathers ( or mothers) can be.   Andrew calls the Christian church to minister to those whose parents have divorced.  I agree that is a need.  But the church is also called to show us that our identity is most full, complete and purposeful when we see ourselves as God's creation and child, more than we see ourselves as the creation or child of earthly parents.

This truth helps not only children of divorce, but also children of rape, children of abuse, and adults who have a compromised identity for a variety of reasons!!!   That is the truth of the Gospel, that the "old" is gone and the "new" has come.  Our identity is with Christ , and because of that , we live in a different way, with a different hope and purpose.

I am reminded on each birthday now, that it doesn't really matter how my life got here, who helped bring it about , and what the circumstances were....what matters is that God created me and sustains me , and I am .....  what I do with that reality does give me a reason to celebrate when my birthday rolls around!!!    I hope on your next birthday, your sense of significance, self worth and purpose is renewed,  not because your identity is wrapped up in being an adult child of divorce, but because you recognize the part God plays in who you are , and who you can become!!!

Look up  Romans 8: 38 and 39,    Acts 17: 28 ,   Psalm 139  and be encouraged!!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

On a Lighter Note

On A Lighter Note         is a little break from the serious posts and is sometimes just a funny photo or a thought that is lighter and more hopeful than some of the ideas that surround us adult children of divorce.   We all need a little laugh once in a while, or a different perspective while we go through the grieving process.  Enjoy  the On A Lighter Note feature !!   :)

Hopefully you won't make this mistake!!     Talk to someone , face to face today, about how things are going as an ACOD.   Find a good listener,  and unbottle the emotions!!     It will be good for your soul!!!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Are ACODs More Materialistic????

Materialism is an issue that everyone has to face...not only adult children of divorce, but is the tendency stronger for us?  And if that is true , what do we do about it??

According to research conducted and compiled by Tim Kasser, author of The High Price of Materialism there is a correlation between children who grew up in homes of divorce and the need for security which is manifested often in a higher degree of consumerism.
His book covers a wealth of information challenging the idea that greater wealth leads to greater happiness. He proposes, in fact, that the opposite is true.  As an adult child of divorce, I realize that the statistics that relate to children whose parents divorced are different than the statistics that relate to children who are adults when their parents divorce. But my ears perk up now whenever I hear the word divorce, and I was interested in this theory and how it may relate to us ACODs.

Kasser's reasoning seemed to go something like this: When a divorce occurs there is less interpersonal "capital" such as warmth, affection, etc. so in an effort to fill this deep need even years later, children of divorce turn to materialism and consumerism to try to create a more secure , fulfilling environment for themselves.

I am not sure how all this plays out in the life of an adult child of divorce, but I do know from personal experience that soon after I found out my parents were divorcing , when I was in my early 40's,  I felt a strong desire to go out and buy things to help each room of my house be a little updated or changed for good.   I am not a big shopper, nor do I usually buy things that I do not truly need, but I remember going to the store with a list that would acquire something for every room of my house.....a new shower curtain, a new pillow, a new rug, a new candle, etc..... something small, but a materialistic , consumeristic purchase in order to bring some sense of comfort , security, beauty, newness to my personal living space. It was a one-time spending spree that did meet some immediate needs. In its place , it did help, in a temporary manner.  Other than that, I do not know if I am more materialistic than before my parents divorced, but I do know that my feeling of security and connectedness was severely challenged, especially in the beginning of this journey.

The reality is that many of us turn to "things" to meet deep needs, whether or not our parents are divorced.   But it is important for us as ACODs to look at how we attempt to fill the deep needs created in the breakdown of our families and re-evaluate what will truly BEST meet our deepest needs.   The book by Kasser gives us more proof that people do not become happier as they become more affluent, by that association alone.

  Our intimacy and closeness to others grows out of more costly and valuable resources than is the product of investment in treating people like the creations they are, and not like things.  As adult children of divorce , who have had our share of loss of security and connectedness, let us not shy away from the greatest investment of "spending" time with people we love, "spending" energy on loving better, "spending" even our money on experiences rather than things.  That may be the best kind of "spending" of all!!!

NEXT time:   The issue of our 'very being' as an adult child of divorce

Monday, August 6, 2012

Why Should ACODs Listen??

When our parents divorce, we have alot to say!!!  We are angry , we are hurt, we feel justified in telling our side of the "story"!! 

Is anyone listening to us???  Are our parents listening to us??
Often talking to a trusted friend, a counselor or pastor is helpful because in those relationships we are heard.  Not only by the ears, but also the heart.

When we are heard, it makes it easier for us to listen.
But why should we listen???
In his letter, James said:

James 1:19-20
19 My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, 20 because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.

and Paul , writing to the Romans, said:

Romans 5:3-5
3 Not only so, but we[a] also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

Being quick to listen  and  being patient in our suffering are not things that come easily or naturally.  We have to work at it and receive supernatural help to do it.
But listening can have great rewards in all of life and also in the life of an adult child of divorce.

It has been said that we have 2 ears and one mouth for a reason.  And there is truth in the phrase "knowledge speaks , but wisdom listens".   In our anger, grief and suffering if we listen,   we learn.
We learn about others, we learn about ourselves and we gain wisdom and character.  This gives us hope!!

TODAY:   Try to listen better to all of those people with whom you come into contact.

                 TRY to be completely silent for 5 mintues in the car, or at coffee, or while sitting with a friend or family member.  They don't have to know what you are up to, but just respond to them with a listening ear and a listening eye.  Yes,  our ears hear, our eyes focus our hearing on the person we are with, and our hearts do the real hearing.

               TRY to think of more questions to ask the other person.  That way you won't be thinking of what you are going to say next, but what you can learn from the other person.

                TRY to pay attention and listen to expressions, nonverbal actions and feelings as you talk with others.  Sometimes these things say different things than their words and often they say more!!!

As adult children of divorce, there are good reasons for us to listen, no matter if we are in the initial stages of shock and anger,  or in the later stages of acceptance.  Listening always is a wise action that we can practice more and more. 

I would love to hear about how your listening has helped you in dealing with being an adult child of divorce.

Next post will be considering whether children of divorce are more materialistic than others.......stay tuned.....


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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