New life after the wound of divorce

By  Dr. Daniel and Bethany Meola, Catholic Register Special
  • August 25, 2023

Every year over a million children experience a tragic milestone: seeing their parents divorce. In fact, when combined with unmarried parents who split up, it’s now estimated that fewer than half of all children today will spend their childhood together with their parents in a unified home.

These sobering statistics of widespread family breakdown affect millions of real people, Dan included. His parents separated when he was 11, and he started shuttling between two ever-diverging homes. He dealt with feelings of anger, hurt, betrayal and loneliness. Thankfully, he found timely support from some attentive priests and saw a witness of lasting love in his grandparents.

But still, when we got married — ironically, the same year Dan’s parents’ divorce was finalized — he still had anxiety about whether our love could really last.

Dan is far from alone in his struggles and fears. We know from research and testimonies that the wounds caused to children by parental divorce or separation are deep and long-lasting. One adult child of divorce described her parents’ divorce as “an earthquake that can make the ground heave and roll in waves, totally defying our understanding of the earth as being the solid ground we stand on.”

The wounds divorce inflicts on children include questioning one’s identity and where “home” is; struggling with anger, anxiety and healthy boundaries; and a damaged relationship to God and the Church. And all of this can be compounded by the “wound of silence,” a sense that one’s pain is not seen, not valid or should be easy to “get over.”

Perhaps most tragically, those who come from broken homes are more likely to divorce themselves, if they marry at all. As the saying goes, a wound that isn’t transformed is transmitted.

But there is always hope. We founded the Catholic apostolate Life-Giving Wounds to give voice to the pain of adult children of divorce and help them find transformative healing.

We want every now-adult child of divorce to have a place to turn, a community where others can receive and honour their pain and a pathway forward toward greater peace, faith and joy. Through in-person and online retreat experiences, support groups, online and print resources and more, Life-Giving Wounds wants every man and woman from a broken home to become cycle-breakers, and ultimately to find even within their wounds the Lord’s invitation to greater faith, hope and love.

This fall, the Archdiocese of Toronto will launch a local Life-Giving Wounds chapter — the first non-U.S. chapter — with an initial weekend retreat, Sept. 29 – Oct. 1, at the St. Francis Centre. Registration is available here: learning.saintmonicainstitute.ca/products/Weekend-Retreat-Life_Giving_Wounds.aspx.

The Life-Giving Wounds retreat is a one-of-a-kind opportunity for men and women from broken homes to come together in a faith-infused environment with others from a similar background. Topics covered include how the wound of divorce affects one’s identity, faith and relationships; what Christian forgiveness is (and isn’t); setting family boundaries and dealing with difficult family relationships; the meaning of redemptive suffering; and more.

In guided small groups, retreatants have an opportunity to connect with other adult children of divorce and share support, empathy and encouragement with each other.

Finally, knowing that Jesus is the ultimate Healer, the heart of the retreat is prayer, Eucharistic Adoration, the sacraments and Catholic devotions.

Praise God that none of our wounds are beyond the Lord’s healing touch. He always meets us in our wounds, but never leaves us there. For all men and women who have lost the love of their parents together, we invite you to come and see what Life-Giving Wounds is all about.

(Dr. Daniel and Bethany Meola are the co-founders of Life-Giving Wounds and both received degrees from the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and the Family. For more information about the Life-Giving Wounds Toronto chapter, please Patrick Douglas: lgwtoronto@proton.me)

Please support The Catholic Register

Unlike many media companies, The Catholic Register has never charged readers for access to the news and information on our website. We want to keep our award-winning journalism as widely available as possible. But we need your help.

For more than 125 years, The Register has been a trusted source of faith-based journalism. By making even a small donation you help ensure our future as an important voice in the Catholic Church. If you support the mission of Catholic journalism, please donate today. Thank you.