By DR. DANIEL MEOLA, Special to the Bulletin | Published February 7, 2022
ATLANTA—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 by sociologists and researchers 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, myself included. My parents separated when I was 11, and I started shuttling between two ever-diverging homes. I dealt with feelings of anger, hurt, betrayal and loneliness. Thankfully, I found timely support from some attentive priests, and saw a witness of lasting love in my grandparents. But still, when I married my wife Bethany—ironically, the same year my parents’ divorce was finalized—I still had anxiety about whether our love could really last.
And I’m far from alone in my 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. Writer and blogger Sandy Howlett, an 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! Bethany and I founded the Catholic apostolate Life-Giving Wounds to give voice to the pain of adult children of divorce and help them find deep spiritual healing.
We want every now-adult child of divorce to have a place to turn, a community where others can receive and honor 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.
In March 2022, the Archdiocese of Atlanta will launch a Life-Giving Wounds chapter with an initial weekend retreat March 25-27. Registration is available at http://tiny.cc/lifegivingwounds.
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 Meola holds a Ph.D. in theology from the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and the Family (Washington, D.C. session) and co-founded, with his wife Bethany, Life-Giving Wounds. The Meolas live in Maryland with their two daughters.