My father was an adult child of divorce. His father had divorced parents, as did his grandfather. I was well into my adulthood when I learned this.
Does knowing this remove my pain, my loneliness, my poor choices, the consequences of those poor choices, or the collateral damage the divorce produced when he left? No.
Does it mean I don’t have things to forgive, fears to overcome, anger to mitigate, or disappointments to grieve? No.
Knowing my father was an ACD (from a line of ACD), learning some of his backstory, and that he was oblivious to the consequences of being an ACD, increased my understanding of and compassion for him. Understanding and compassion are key pillars that support our bridge to healing.
These help us focus our awareness on our parents’ humanness rather than on the troubling behaviors related to their humanness. The backstory teaches us they’re people like us. “There is no one righteous, not even one” Romans 8:10. Sometimes its hard for us to see our parents as people, but they are—flaws and all.
The pillars of prayer (seeking God), counseling, and identifying issues and learning coping skills, enable us to overcome the consequences of their humanness.
Backstory vs TMI (Too Much Info)
You’ll always be their kid and they your parents (at least biologically). However, because we’re adults, divorced parents often forget this and dive into areas that make us uncomfortable at best, and nauseous at worst. As such, there are certain topics and/or details that are out of bounds.
You decide what’s on your TMI list. The topics may change. Closer to their divorce, your tolerance for uncomfortable topics may be lower than as time passes. That’s ok. If the conversation goes into an uncomfortable area, simply say. “You know, we’re drifting into an area I’m not comfortable talking about. Let’s switch to________.”
This is very important because TMI can cause damage—the opposite of healing.
When talking doesn’t help healing
“Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep” (Romans 10:15). Here the apostle Paul encourages us to empathize with others. But Paul also wrote, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone” (Romans 12:18). The key words there are, “If it is possible.”
I don’t like the words “toxic” or “narcissist” because, as a counselor, I often see them used too liberally. But there are situations where they apply. Where “if it is possible” becomes not possible.
Some parents are in denial, abusive (verbally, emotionally, or physically) too caught-up in their own pain, unwilling to accept responsibility, or are struggling with mental health issues. In these cases, it’s not healthy to have conversations about the divorce with them.
Be careful. Proverbs 11:14 says, “in the multitude of counselors, there is safety.” Talk to a couple people you trust, explain the situation, and prayerfully assess if it’s possible to have a healthy conversation.
Go for it
As I stated, truly toxic or narcissistic people are in the minority. In the majority of cases, when we listen to understand instead of to judge or defend, we increase emotionally safe communication. This open doors to understanding, and moves us further down the healing road.
Pixabay family divorce by Gerd Altmann
Me by Agron Istrefi
Day 218 - Regret by Natilie