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 planetamnesty.org 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.