I ran into an interesting issue today with one of the characters of From the Ashes of Courage.
In brief, Gail and George divorced years ago, and they haven’t seen each other since. Now, she’s part of his life again, as a friend. George’s father seems genuinely happy to see her and treats her with affection and respect. But George’s mother is acting out, making her feel uncomfortable. One of the other characters explains that when a child’s marriage breaks up, it can be hard on the parents. Everybody pays attention to the kids of divorced couples, but they all just assume that the parents will just deal (as it were) with their son’s or daughter’s divorce.
As the author, writing this fictional character, I was genuinely surprised to hear her say that. So I did a little Googling. I found only a few web pages that said anything about dealing with the divorce of your child. The first said essentially what I wrote above, that researchers have paid a lot of attention to the children—as indeed they should—but that very few up until now have considered the effects of the divorce on other adults.
A user commented on that page, explaining that their child’s divorce left them feeling “like we are grieving and I cannot seem to find anyone else in my situation.”
My fictional character explains to Gail that it’s like she was dead, but now she’s come back to life— but not really her. It really makes me feel empathy with George’s mother, to explain some of the animosity she feels but which she hasn’t been able to work through constructively.
What Gail doesn’t know, but which she will probably find out before the story is over, is that just as children of divorced parents can blame themselves for the divorce, so also parents of divorced children sometimes blame themselves. In George’s case, his mother believes they and Gail’s parents should have been more involved back when it counted. Now, she’s reflecting her hurt, guilt, and anger back onto Gail by sabotaging any long-term relationship Gail has, thereby proving that it was Gail’s inability to commit that caused all the problems in the first place.
Here’s another page that goes into more depth on what a parent can experience when her child divorces. It confirms several points I had speculated upon and worked into the story above. I also discovered a book (which I have not read), Your Child’s Divorce: What to Expect — What You Can Do.
My kids are still barely teenagers, and I hope never to be the parent of a divorcée. But it’s still good that this subject is gaining some attention.
Do you have any words of wisdom to offer to my characters? Or to me as their author?