The excerpts below provide only an introduction to the feelings and challenges that confront the separated or divorced Catholic. Be sure to visit our Regional Happenings and Resources section for workshops and other events in your region, including Diocese contact information and details about divorce ministry for resources for spirituality, family, wellness, recovery, and growth.
Divorce affects more than just the couple ending their marriage. Children in the family are affected. In-laws on both sides experience the loss. Neighbors and friends also feel the effects.
Offer help to the divorced and to the family in their time of loss:
- Show the care you still have for them.
- Support and comfort the children as they adjust to the changes.
- Listen well and with understanding.
- Suspend judgments.
- Expect to mourn the end of this marriage.
- Take a casserole over to the family.
- Offer respite to the custodial parent on occasion.
- Pray for the entire family.
- Welcome all members of the family at public and social gatherings.
- Be mindful that there are no "ex" parents, only "ex" spouses.
- Be kind to those in pain over the trauma of the divorce.
- Focus on the bright side of future opportunities and challenges.
Divorce is never the plan the couple had for their life. Extend help in appropriate ways.
From Family Life - Separated and Divorced, Archdiocese of Boston:
Divorce and your family
The ripple effects of divorce are felt throughout the family. The children are most deeply affected as their day-to-day life has changed significantly. It is often a difficult task to put aside the burden of ones personal emotional difficulties as one hopes to guide their children through this traumatic time.
No matter how much parents try to hide marital conflict, children sense the tension. Once the divorce is announced, their reactions may go through many of the same stages that they would if a parent had died. Initially, they may deny the reality of divorce, insisting that the separation is only temporary. Denial is followed by anger, which may be directed at one or both parents, or turned inward. The third stage, depression is marked by fears of abandonment, of ridicule from friends and classmates, or of life-long misery. Conscious acceptance of changes that divorce brings marks the final stage. However, it is not unusual for children to harbor unconscious hopes long after the divorce is final that their parents will reconcile someday.
Children's emotional reaction to crisis
In assessing children's behavior at times of crisis such as divorce, it is always important to compare their behavior to how they behaved prior to the crisis. Secure and happy children have a better chance of handling crisis and recovering quickly. The primary concern of most people, including children, is their own personal safety. In the time of a divorce crisis in the family, it is important that parents reassure children that they will be protected - that they will be safe.