There was a book circulating on Instagram from those I follow that caught my attention, “Primal Loss, The Now Adult Children of Divorce Speak” by Leila Miller.
It didn’t take me long to realize this would be a tough one to read.
Leila Miller, a Catholic author/writer, compiled questions and answers from participants from all walks of life. The book, “gives voice to the adult children of divorce. Their stories are not pretty. ..breaks through layers and layers of pro-divorce propaganda.” Answers are given numbers to keep the participant anonymous. Much of the responses I could relate to, to the point of highlighting, noting a page, and writing in my answers.
Chapter one, “The Effect of the Divorce”, the first question, ‘What effect has your parents’ divorce had on you?’ The answers are raw and some sound as if they are still struggling. Response noted: “Stunted my ability to properly form my own emotions” and “parental presence, instruction, and stability were often missing in my childhood.”
The second chapter, “Feelings as Child vs. Feelings as Adult, what is the difference between how you felt about divorce as a child and how you feel about it as an adult?” There was a response I highlighted from a woman who spoke about her brokenness and how she carried it into her marriage. That early on, she wrestled with the behaviors, but thanks to God, her husband, “never gave up…even when I gave him reason to walk away…through their marriage, I have come to learn what love means, what truth means.”
Third chapter, “View of Marriage, has our parents’ divorce affected your own marriage or your view of marriage?” A reply noted: “I struggle with trusting my husband. I am always waiting for the other shoe to drop, which I am sure must be related to the feeling of abandonment by my family of origin.”
Fourth chapter, “Are children resilient? 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?” Responses marked: “What divorce does is shatter that universe in a drastic and traumatic way, and there’s no coming back from that. It even changes the way you perceive reality, you become anxious, nothing ever feels safe or predictable, and you’re always waiting for the piano to fall” and “I was never happy with the way things were. I simply accepted that I had no control over any of it.”
Chapter five, “Speak to your parents, then and now, what would you say directly to your parents…how it affected you, would you advise them to do it differently?” Response noted: “I would have told them that God must be at the center of their marriage, that they were losing focus on the family, and that they were pursuing too much of their own self interest” and “I didn’t even know my pain was buried, but every now and then something would trigger this little girl inside of me.”
Chapter six, “What society should know, what do you most want adults in our society to know about how divorce affects the children?” Response noted: “I’d want them to know that divorce is likely affecting their kids in way that they, the adults, can’t see or understand” and kids “often don’t gain the vocabulary and perspective to even begin to articulate all they are experiencing and questioning until well into adulthood.”
Chapter seven, “The role of faith in healing, what role has your faith played in your healing?” Response noted: “My faith taught me that marriage is a vocation that leads me to unification to God. It isn’t “romantic” love or superficial happiness; true love is an act of will.”
Chapter eight, “To those facing divorce, what would you want to say to children facing their parents’ divorce today?” Response noted: “You will confuse them and make them feel abandoned in the process” and “all the positive things you modeled for your children will be eclipsed by the disordered things you modeled when divorce is the punchline” and “even though they are children, they have a voice and should say, loud and clear, what they are feeling.”
Now my response.
I begin by admitting, the book took me a while to finish. For whatever reason, I would become anxious before and while reading. There were emotions, thoughts, that I felt I was clear of, but then memories surfaced that I had forgotten. I would stop and think, text my sister, ask for her recount. Sometimes, I would ask my Mom questions throughout the day, to see if she could recall situations. And for those who don’t know me or my blog, my Dad is no longer alive. He passed away in 2006 from sarcoma cancer. However, before my Dad died, we did talk and reconcile (thanks be to God).
Before I go any further, I wanted to share when I found out my parents were divorcing. It was a weekday morning. I was leaving to go to school in 7th grade. That’s when I was given the news. I clearly remember it was in the winter, clear morning, and my world began to close in. My sister, who is eight years older than me, was already married with her new little family. My Dad was quickly out of the house which left just Mom and me. Mom worked a full time job and soon began to search in her ways of attention and self seeking joy. In 7th grade, I tried marijuana and alcohol and continued using through my Sophmore year of high school. Time at home on the weekends was on my own or, thanks to my sister, spent with her on the weekends. My Mom and Dad led selfish lives fulfilling their own needs and not looking towards mine. I was fed and clothed, but the impact of my parents non-emotional non-spiritual care was heavily felt.
Even after reconciling with my mom a couple of years ago, this book pushed out things I still had trapped in my heart I didn’t know I had. Thankfully, when we spoke she listened to me when I vented the pain it caused me. Mom is 77 years now. So even though, there are more things I would like to clear up, she can’t recall nor does she have capacity to help me resolve. In a way, once I realized that, it saddened me because I know I will need to deal with it with God and on my own.
This book was a challenge, but I know I had to read it not just for me, but also for my nephews and niece who are also victims of divorce. I can see much of their own behaviors in the book that match. They are adults now. This book gives me knowledge that I could help them in ways I didn’t notice before.
But I think the biggest thing I took away from this book, is my progress made by faith as a now adult child of divorce.
There was a moment in the book when I jumped up, put the book down, and ran over to my husband and cried to him. I literally saw God’s hand paint over my life from the time of the family destruction to where I am now. Holding my husband’s hand, I cried and said, “Thank you! Thank you for staying with me in the beginning when our first years of marriage were rough. For not retaliating and leaving me. For understanding I had a rough past and still with some issues to this day.” His answer, “we broke the cycle.” How much Our Lord Jesus knows our pains and struggles. How much He heard my cries as a teenager, saying randomly, how I never want to be like my parents or have a marriage like them. The times when I was left alone to grieve the loss of family from junior high through high school, keeping it inside, moving like a zombie pretending to be normal and happy. Through the time after high school, living a double life of seeking attention and finding myself in the pew with my sister’s family on Sunday’s because I felt I was holding onto something good.
In many ways, I know that’s why this blog started. It was healing and still is healing. I know the way God needed to reach me and stop the pain and focus I was starting to show in my marriage, despite putting in front of me a husband, stability, love, was to diagnose me with Lupus. I know for sure, that put me to change, have recourse in my life that I’m forever grateful. It allowed me to see truth.
Catechism of the Catholic Church: 1621
In the Latin Rite the celebration of marriage between two Catholic faithful normally takes place during Holy Mass, because of the connection of all the sacraments with the Paschal mystery of Christ. In the Eucharist the memorial of the New Covenant is realized, the New Covenant in which Christ has united himself for ever to the Church, his beloved bride for whom he gave himself up. It is therefore fitting that the spouses should seal their consent to give themselves to each other through the offering of their own lives by uniting it to the offering of Christ for his Church made present in the Eucharistic sacrifice, and by receiving the Eucharist so that, communicating in the same Body and the same Blood of Christ, they may form but “one body” in Christ.
One thought on “Primal Loss Book Review”
Thank you for sharing this. I had tears in my eyes reading the story of you and your husband…”we broke the cycle” Amen, Amen, Amen! Do you know that there is a new Catholic ministry especially for adult children of divorce? It’s called Life-Giving Wounds and it has had a tremendous impact on my life and many others. They offer in-person and online retreats plus a plethora of other resources on their website: lifegivingwounds.org.