One of the biggest concerns that couples have when going through divorce is the impact that it will have on their children, especially the youngest ones. The hard reality is that divorce and separation often causes deep emotional, spiritual and psychological wounds in children that can last well into adulthood and are rarely addressed.
The Church recognizes this issue, and thankfully the Archdiocese of Denver now offers various resources and hope for these adults through the Adult Children of Divorce Ministry. To help adults heal from the trauma of their parents’ divorce or separation, the Archdiocese is introducing two ministries: Life-Giving Wounds and Restored.
“These two ministries help adult children of divorce to see that they are not alone,” said Carrie Keating, NFP and Marriage Specialist at the Archdiocese of Denver. “There are others out there that can relate to their experience. They help them understand the ways in which they have been affected and how they can find healing for these wounds.”
Life-Giving Wounds Ministry is a national ministry that seeks to help young adults with divorced and separated parents. This ministry also strives to end the isolation of the pain caused by the wound of separation by creating a community of peer support within the Catholic Church and help those affected by divorce find deep spiritual healing through weekend retreats, support groups, consultations and other resources.
“Many people know that their parents’ divorce has affected them, but they don’t know how or what to do about it,” said Beth Sri, board member of Life-Giving Wounds Ministry. “It’s overwhelming to know even where to start and it can be terrifying… We provide the time, the space and the tools to see the anatomy of one’s personal woundedness and provide the opportunity to begin to take that wound to God for healing.”
Although the healing process for a child of divorced parents can be long and often difficult, it’s necessary to be able to live a fulfilled life, or else the negative effects of these wounds can remain for a lifetime.
“Generally speaking, children of divorce have ‘a suffering that is not allowed to be called suffering’ as society tells us that we are resilient and instructs us to be happy since our parents are now happy, having ended their marriage,” Sri added. “Many of us have tragically never had a chance to grieve the loss of our intact nuclear family because no one allowed us to see it as a loss. We valiantly carried on, stuffing our pain down deep, only to have it manifest in other damaging ways. [Adult children of divorce] tend to struggle with anxiety, people-pleasing, perfectionism, fear of commitment and failure, abandonment and even a deep, often well-concealed, anger. We struggle emotionally and psychologically in ways that are foreign to our peers from intact families.”
Another harsh consequence of divorce is that most children of divorced couples suffer in silence for one simple reason: they don’t want to hurt their parents.
Restored, founded by Joey Pontarelli, is another ministry and resource that the Adult Children of Divorce ministry offers. It provides resources to help teens and adults cope with their parents’ separation and find healing. All of this healing is done through advice, podcasts, blogs, talks and a private online community to coach and help them begin their healing process that oftentimes is suffered in silence.
“Restored offers the practical guidance and support that teenagers and young adults need to heal and grow, so they can feel whole again and thrive,” said Pontarelli. “We provide resources that bring awareness to the problem, actionable advice about how to cope and heal, and support along the way.”
Healing is certainly a fundamental need for any individual, and while the wounds of divorce don’t necessarily go away, these resources can help a person build stronger relationships and move forward with greater hope, joy, purpose and identity.
“Your parents might have divorced last year or two decades ago. Regardless, it almost always brings pain and problems into our lives,” Pontarelli concluded. “Most of us go through life unaware of how we’ve been affected… But we weren’t created to tolerate life. We were created to live it to the fullest. We were made to become the best version of ourselves. Yet, what holds us back most from becoming the best version of ourselves? After sin, our untreated brokenness… while healing isn’t easy, it is worth it. It is also necessary. If we don’t heal, we will pass the brokenness onto other people – especially the people we love the most.”
The Office of Evangelization and Family Life Ministries is also sponsoring two upcoming events for Adult Children of Divorce. Next week, Pontarelli will be the guest speaker for Theology on Tap, and in May, Life-Giving Wounds will hold a retreat at Annunciation Heights.
For more information about these events and more resources, visit archden.org/acod.
Life-Giving Wounds: lifegivingwounds.org
Life-Giving Wounds Retreat: May 7-9, at Annunciation Heights
Theology on Tap: “How to Build a Thriving and Divorce-Proof Marriage.”
Monday, March 8 at 6:30 p.m., at Knights of Columbus Hall.
Guest speaker: Joey Pontarelli, CEO and Founder of Restored.