Adult children of divorce suffer a “Primal Loss”
Thanks to donors from around the country, every parish in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati received a copy of a groundbreaking new book on adult children of divorce this month.
“Primal Loss: The Now-Adult Children of Divorce Speak” by popular Catholic author and blogger Leila Miller, explores a topic unknown to her just months ago: the ongoing pain, usually hidden even from family members, of adults whose parents have divorced.
“What surprised me when I first began researching this is what still surprises me now: how deep, common, and similar their pain is,” Miller said. “No matter how different the circumstances surrounding the divorce, or how rarely the adult children of divorce actually speak (or are asked) about their suffering and experiences, almost universally, they simply remain silent. Well into adulthood, these children are still protecting the parents they love and are still repeating ‘the narrative’ that they were given: ‘This was for the best,’ ‘Everyone is happier this way.’”
Inspired by a friend’s remarks, Miller–who grew up in a happy, ‘intact” home–began asking about divorce experiences on social media posts, and soon became convinced that children never really recover from the loss of their homes and families. They rebuild, but their lives are never the same, and many find it difficult to forgive their parents, trust others, or stay married themselves.
The book tabulates answers to eight questions Miller gave to 70 adult men and women. Some were children of traumatic divorces, and some of so-called “good” divorces, but all report pain and loss that never end. All recommend that in all but the worst cases, parents contemplating divorce should whatever it takes to keep their marriages together.
Unlike sociological, legal, or psychological books on the effects of divorce, Miller’s book examines how the Catholic faith can help. “Most of the contributors to my book are Catholic now, although many of them were not Catholic growing up,” she said. “The Church’s teachings on mercy and forgiveness and an understanding of redemptive suffering, combined with the grace of the sacraments–especially the Eucharist and confession–have helped them profoundly. And grounding in the Church’s teaching on Holy Matrimony has also been balm for their souls.”
Was your life impacted by your parents’ divorce? We want to hear from you for the October issue. We will not publish any names or identifying information, but you do need to identify yourself in your email so we know you’re real. Send your answer to one or both question from Leila Miller’s book to firstname.lastname@example.org before Sept. 11:
1) What do you want to say to people who say that “children are resilient” and “kids are happy when their parents are happy” and “kids of divorce will be just fine and will go on to live successful lives”?
2) What do you most want adults in our society to know about how divorce affects children?
Dan Thimons, director of the archdiocese’s Office of Marriage and Family, said the purchase began when a Catholic woman from Dayton wrote to him suggesting that each parish be sent a copy.
“She said she’d found a lot of healing in it,” he said. “It’s the first book of its kind to give adult children of divorce the freedom to tell their stories and give personal witness. It’s not accusing the parents, it’s just about the now-adult children.
“Pope Francis asks us to reach out to the peripheries, to the forgotten people. Children of divorce are forgotten. They’re told to move on with their lives. They’re in every parish, but they don’t’ have a way to bring their pain to light or address it.”
Even buying at wholesale, Thimons said, the Office didn’t have funds available for 211 copies the book. So Miller went to work – making a Facebook post asking for donations to help “a major American diocese” get a copy for each parish.
“None of the donors knew at the start which archdiocese would get the books,” she said. “But I got responses from all over the nation and even 100 from a man in Australia. A total of 14 donors pledged the full $2,272.47 (which is 40% off retail, and free shipping).”
Donations ranged from $10-$500, she said. “I don’t think any of the donors were actually from the diocese, and I know that they didn’t care which diocese was getting the books. That is how much they believe in the necessity of getting the books into the hands of priests and parishioners.”
Thimons said that having the book available should help parishes immediately by the problem to light. “Ultimately, we would like to see ministries for the adult children of divorce,” he said. “The Catholic’s Divorce Survival Guide is a very good program that is growing in our archdiocese, but right now there is nothing for adults who went through a divorce as a child.”
Miller has hopes of her own. “I hope and pray that each parish in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati will wear that book out!” she said. “I hope each parish’s priests and deacons will read the book and then make it available to parishioners struggling in their marriages, as well as to the adult children of divorce who need healing and understanding. I would also love to see it used as a springboard for discussions in parish groups, and even homilies.”
Help with divorce
Currently, no ministries in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati serve adult children of divorce. Programs and counseling services for couples, adults, and children, include:
The Catholic’s Divorce Survival Guide
This program developed by Rose Sweet for people and families in any stage of a divorce is in use at parishes around the country. Classes are offered at St. Maximilian Kolbe (Liberty Twp.), Ruah Woods (Bridgetown) St.Christopher (Vandalia), and St. Mary of the Assumption (Springboro).
An international program for people in struggling marriages, Retrouvaille (French for “rediscovery”) is a weekend event followed by a series of meetings held over three months. For information visit retrouvaille.org; for upcoming area dates and locations, call 800-470-2230.
Catholic Charities of Southwestern Ohio
Therapists and counselors with CCSWO can help with parenting, divorce recovery, relationship conflict, general mental health issues, and more. Call 866-635-9716 for information, or visit CCSWOH.org.
Therapists can come from a variety of programs and philosophies, not all of which are compatible with the Catholic faith, especially when it comes to family matters such as divorce. CatholicTherapists.com is a free, online directory of licensed, insured therapists who follow Catholic Church teachings.
A Theology of the Body center located in the southwestern part of the archdiocese, Ruah Woods also offers psychological services for individual people and hurting families. For information see Ruahwoods.org or call 513-407-8878.