“The demon of divorce loves to haunt the hearts of its children.”
This troubling statement appears in the book, Primal Loss: The Now-Adult Children of Divorce Speak, edited by Leila Miller.
Divorce has severely weakened society. However, few have visited the hearts of children haunted by the demon of divorce. These people are given a voice in this remarkable book.
Mrs. Miller structured her book in an unusual but effective way. She lets seventy children of divorcees tell their stories in their own words.
The stories come from questionnaires the author sent to the contributors. Each survey asked eight questions. In simplified form the questions were:
- What effect has your parents’ divorce had on you?
- How did you feel about the divorce as a child as opposed to how you feel about it as an adult?
- Has your parents’ divorce affected your own marriage or your view of marriage?
- What do you want to say to people who say that children will be just fine?
- What would you say to your parents about divorce and its effect on your life?
- What do you most want adults to know about the effects of divorce on children?
- What role has faith played in your healing?
- What would you want to say to children facing divorce and to parents considering it?
The differing responses to the first three questions reflect the diverse situations in which divorce happens. The children experienced divorce when very young, pre-teens or teenagers, and already adults. The reasons for divorce were because of infidelity, abuse, alcoholism or merely out of convenience. Most stayed with their mothers, although a few lived with their fathers. Some divorces were bitter; others were amicable. Some contributors have themselves divorced.
The answers to the last five were far more similar. Typical responses included:
“While the parents may go on to find happiness, it is the children who cannot escape this situation and must relive it each and every holiday, each and every drop-off and pick-up, and even on their wedding day and the births of their own children. For the children, it never, ever ends. Never.” (p. 162)
“I would tell my mom that she was the only one who “won” out of the whole thing – so if that’s what she was hoping for, she got it. I feel everyone else lost in some way. I’d say, “I’m happy if you’re happy, but don’t think that happiness didn’t come at a cost.” (pp. 189-190)
“Divorce isn’t a one-time event, but a situation where one family sets off on two ever-widening paths…and those paths will have to by navigated by the children for life, especially in low-conflict “good” divorces.” (p. 205)
“If you grew up in a loving home that was not impacted by divorce, you are, in ways that you can’t realize, taking your family for granted…. The solidity that you feel in life, faith, and love is rooted in something that the child of divorce does not have.” (p. 207)
“Being Catholic has certainly helped me heal, but it also reminds me that my parents’ divorce will always be one of my crosses to bear…. I have never attended a marriage talk without having to go through my parents’ divorce…. I get caught up in thinking, “That’s how it should have turned out.” (p.232)
“To the children, I’d say stay close to God. Surround yourself with friends and family who know the truth and are not afraid to tell you what it is. Know that the divorce is not your fault in any way.” (p. 246)
“Whatever you do, for the sake of your souls and for the good of your children, do not give the devil his victory over your marriage by divorcing one another.” (p.253)
Except for those few who were being protected from abuse, not one said that the divorce had been beneficial. Even those who had been adults at the time of the divorce lamented the loss of home and the effects of the divorce on the grandchildren. Marriage is made by God to be insoluble. Divorce creates a disaster by tearing what God has united asunder.
Anyone whose lives have been affected by divorce should read this book. Parents who make the mistake of considering divorce will gain valuable insights into the damage that it inflicts upon children. They will also see behind the lies that society tells those whose marriages are troubled. Those whose parents have divorced will come away assured that their reactions are not unusual as well as ways to protect children from their grandparents’ divorces. Priests and counselors will be better conciliators when they know the truth of the problems that children of divorce endure.
Speaking as the child of divorced parents, this author intends to purchase copies for my siblings, my pastor, and several others. This book is that important.