As a culture over the last hundred years or so, we’ve witnessed marriages dissolve with such regularity as to see the matter become commonplace. Some readers might consider it harsh for me to suggest divorce is, in fact, another manifestation of the Brave New World. Though I think it applies, I will refrain from using the title this time.
I’m thankful to be married to the same man who caught my eye (and shortly after that, my heart) more than forty-four years ago. Part of the marriage vows we repeated to each other (and all who attended our wedding) promised we would love and cherish one another “… so long as we both shall live.” We both meant what we promised that day.
Has it always been easy? Hardly. The way I’ve always viewed it though, when a person gives his or her word, that’s as good as gold; there’s no turning back.
I recall a time when my children were young. My daughter was in conversation with one of her playmates and they were talking about their dads. The young playmate suddenly exclaimed: “You mean your dad lives here … with you?!” (Her tone and body language implicitly communicated, “How weird is that?”)
That conversation must have taken place some thirty years ago, perhaps more. I was struck by the unpleasant realization that children in our home town were growing up in households where Daddy was just a sometime visitor. As most everyone knows, this is the situation across much of our country today, a fact of modern life.
Yep, I’m old-fashioned. Children need their daddy and they need their mamma. As the website anonymousfathersday explains so clearly (and other resources concur), children have an innate need to connect. This need doesn’t recede just because they have “loving parents” (not always blood-related) to raise them. It doesn’t go away when they reach adulthood.
Divorce powerfully shatters a child’s world. I think it’s no exaggeration to say children of divorce know almost immediately their lives will never be the same again. Even if they’re too young to verbalize the extent of their loss, they understand it.
ASIDE: Please don’t mistake my words. I’m not casting blame, but I grieve terribly for children who suffer in what I can only describe as a suffocating swamp. (There’s no way out, just an ongoing struggle not to be swallowed up any further.) Yes, children bounce back from the worst experiences, but many also carry lifelong scars.
Through the years, I’ve known many children scarred by divorce. Even acknowledging the deep wounds they’ve sustained, they’re not the only ones who get pounded.
I’ve known numerous adults who experienced divorce and some with multiple divorces. No matter how “amicable” the divorce was supposed to be, lingering regrets and distress are an ongoing plague. It’s the nature of broken relationships to turn us into broken and tormented people. It is, plain and simple, a death unlike any other.
Whenever a friend tells me about his or her divorce, I’m prone to cogitate on and internalize details they share; I can’t help it and often their stories turn into subjects for my poetry. The sonnet below pictures how one father addressed his pain. (I suspect he’s not alone in coping with his loss as described in the poem.)
Whether for a child or an adult, there’s purpose in the pain. As C. S. Lewis put it: “Pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences, but shouts in our pains. It is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”