The story below is from Ashlyn, written at 26 years old. She gave permission for this story to be told.
I was 24 when my parents finally divorced after years of infidelity, countless arguments that ended yelling at each other long into the night, and many other lies and wounds. I grew up in a large Christian family. We always attended church together and my family was the "staple" Christian family at said church gatherings. But as long as I can remember my parents argued. My parents were angry with each other and there was a lot of dishonesty in their relationship and eventually, it led to their divorce.
HOW THE DIVORCE MADE HER FEEL
The divorce was incredibly difficult at first, and still is at times. I was a young adult already on my own when it happened, but I had an unshakable feeling of shame and embarrassment of my family. I often questioned myself and would ask questions like; "Am like my parents? Am I a product of a broken divorced family? Am I guilty for this?" I felt incredibly betrayed by God, my parents, and even other family members. I was always taught that marriage is forever and that you do not break the vows you made at the altar, so when I saw my parents doing this it almost destroyed everything I ever understood or knew about marriage and family.
HOW HER PARENTS' DIVORCE HAS IMPACTED HER
My parents’ divorce has impacted me as an adult substantially because I still have young siblings at home. I often felt like I had to step up and keep the peace between my parents for the sake of my younger siblings. I felt like I had to take care of them which caused me to ignore my own feelings and my own experience of the divorce for a long time. I also have shame and embarrassment when I talk about my parents’ divorce because I am Catholic and Catholics aren't supposed to get divorced.
ADVICE TO SOMEONE WHOSE PARENTS HAVE DIVORCEd OR SEPARATED
Develop your relationship with Jesus and allow yourself to experience all the feelings that come with the situation.
Additionally, I would encourage you to set boundaries with your parents. I often found myself in the middle of my parent's arguments growing up which caused a great deal of confusion and harm to me. When I finally told my parents I was not going to participate or talk poorly about the other parent I found a lot of freedom and was able to move on the way I needed to.
Seek counseling and spiritual direction.
Do not allow your parents’ divorce cloud your view of marriage and family.
Share your story honestly. When I finally started sharing my story with others I realized I was not alone and that my story was not shameful or my fault. That is when I started to receive the most healing.
Take care of yourself. You have the freedom to change your situation. I am in the process of trying to change mine by moving out of the state where my parents reside. I have realized that I am not responsible for my parents and that it is not my duty to keep the family together.
HOW TO HELP YOUNG PEOPLE FROM DIVORCED AND SEPARATED FAMILIES
Better counseling and better services within the Catholic Church. Many of us feel shame because the Catholic Church doesn't do a good job of providing ministries or support groups. It is not discussed in a manner that is helpful.
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