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A Book Review… Catholic Writer Allows Grown-Up Children Of Divorce To Tell Their Stories Of Suffering

July 13, 2017 Featured Today No Comments

By DEXTER DUGGAN

Primal Loss: The Now-Adult Children of Divorce Speak, edited by Leila Miller, LCB Publishing, Phoenix, Ariz., ISBN 978-0-99798-931-1, 313 pages paperback, $17.95, 2017, primalloss@gmail.com.

We know automobile accidents are going to happen, but we still want to prevent as many of them as possible. However, there’s a different attitude to divorce in modern culture, yes? Sort of like thinking that having guardrails for marriage interferes with the spouses’ freedom to drive.
If you don’t know multiple families with divorce in their lives, that’s almost like saying you don’t know anyone who buys burgers at the drive-through, or watches movies. It’s just so common.
Much like permissive abortion, another enemy of family and society, permissive divorce was sold with the hard cases then switched to a matter of equity and prevalence. Why should that other person get the divorce or abortion she wants, but I have to jump through hoops for permission? It’s just not fair.
Both of these social ills in the modern age, as it happens, came out of the spirit of revolutionary Russian Bolshevism, which saw the family as a barnacle on the sleek hull of progress.
Think it’s hard for the Western world’s liberal legal and media establishments to acknowledge their grave error in pushing the massive slaughter of infants? Then think how much harder to persuade them the divorce reform that needs to occur would mean making divorce more difficult to obtain. Why, easy divorce is as necessary to consumers as canned drinks.
The modern secular liberal enterprise seems to be an attack on the family from every angle, with familiar misguided “compassion.” This, of course, results in strengthening the government power they prefer. Weaker, less resourceful families mean more excuse for the professional “helping” phalanxes.
Of course I know some divorce stories myself — to say nothing of how many women have had abortions, just because of its frequency. But hard cases, as they say, make bad law. We have many bad laws now.
Just one divorce example: A woman who I believe grew up feeling lonely married a “good Catholic boy,” as she phrased it, but he turned out to be a bad drinker. Childless, she remarried and stayed married for decades to a non-Catholic, faithfully caring for him in his eventually declining health until his death.
They had four children. She ceased any public practice of the Catholic faith, but went into her coffin with a rosary in her hands nearly a decade ago. And her split-up had occurred even before the days of no-fault.
Only God may understand some difficulties that come before Him for judgment.
Arizona author and blogger Leila Miller (littlecatholicbubble.blogspot.com) examines often-overlooked damage of permissive divorce in Primal Loss: The Now-Adult Children of Divorce Speak.
As the title indicates, she focuses on harm to the children, often thrown into this trauma at a vulnerable age, but she also lets readers see divorce as a self-damaging escape by the married couple from having to face up to problems. Running away from them is offered as the too-routine but dangerous solution.
Not that separation is always unjustified, but Catholic teaching requires only one valid marriage for the lifetime of the partners.
The happily married Miller doesn’t do guesswork on what happened in the separations, but lets the now-grown youngsters speak for themselves.
Among the sufferings thrust on them are the loss of security, stability, trust, love, assurance, and the arrival of anger, suspicion, a sense of abandonment, and trouble placing faith in God. Although conventional wisdom may be that it’s all for the best, that very often turns out not to be true in the book. It’s like putting a smiley-face mask on a very ill person.
With the clarity of recalling some major tragedy in the news, these victims of divorce remember just how they learned what was about to be visited on them.
One woman recalls that she had just turned seven, and had two brothers, one nearly five years old and the other six months.
“I will never forget it,” she writes, “because the Winter Olympics were on and we were watching the ice-skating competitions. I sat and bawled in my mother’s lap while my brother sat on the floor next to my dad, crying. They held us, told us everything would be okay, etc. Even as kids we knew it wouldn’t be, and our world shattered all around us.”
Another woman notes that “an intact marriage and family provides that ‘safe haven’ for children to exist in” while they form their faith. She raises this question: “I truly wonder if the rise in divorce rates has contributed to the huge problem of teens being so fragile mentally.”
When we see older teenagers and young adults today at colleges and universities demanding “safe spaces” where they can feel secure, and protected against uncomfortable thoughts, one might indeed wonder if they were deprived of some necessary emotional development as they grew in our divorce culture.
Like abortion, permissive divorce doesn’t affect just a few people for a day, but generations and family trees, in ways large and small.
I hadn’t thought of this particular difficulty, but if, say, blended families show up at a gathering, it can be stress-out time over indicating who’s your favorite from the two sides to be with.
Most of the book gives people’s reactions that Miller assembled, not her own thoughts. Right up front, she tells readers this isn’t methodology or social science. “This book is people telling stories, and that is all.” Putting out the word on her Facebook page, seeking volunteers, she chose 70 contributors and gave them the same eight questions to answer.
“This book is also a way to begin to right a wrong, a wrong to which most of us are oblivious: Children of divorce are not, as a rule, asked how they feel about their parents’ divorce — not as a child and not in the decades that follow,” Miller writes.

Obligations To Others

In the foreword, Jennifer Roback Morse, Ph.D., founder and president of the Ruth Institute, warns of how the Divorce Industrial Complex has become a powerful force to maintain the family fracturing process, “and why the downhill slide into new, more devastating, and more permanent forms of family breakdown seems to be accelerating.”
The Ruth Institute describes itself as a global nonprofit organization “to end the agony and injustice of family breakdown.”
Roback Morse begins by saying, “The Divorce Ideology is one of the linchpins of the Sexual Revolution,” and goes on to observe that “people in our time resist hearing that they have obligations to others that they did not explicitly choose to bear.”
This isn’t the age of the “pro-choice movement” by accident.
“The happiness of the current romantic couple always trumps the happiness of the child. Always,” says one survivor who was six at the time of divorce.
Another, who was seven, says, “As they say, the parents who quit on their marriage make the decision to put down their cross and leave it for their kids to pick up.”
And a woman who was 12: “Divorce is simply a bloodless form of child sacrifice, nothing more, nothing less.”
Advice from a woman who was eight: “. . . accept that marriage is not the key to happiness — God is! Marry someone who loves God more than you, otherwise, that person can never love you enough.”
Although the passive role of the Church in modern U.S. society isn’t brought up much as a complaint, a woman who was 32 says, “In a way, how the Church hands out annulments feels like another betrayal.”
And a man who was six says, “The Church has done a miserable job about making clear the evils of divorce, at least in the United States.”
We’re reminded that with the Devil at work in the world, attacks on marriage and the family are part of his to-do list, but that faith in God and reliance on the Eucharist and Confession are powerful tools at hand.
As for problems in forgiving parents, a priest advised a former seven-year-old: “Pray for them. Let God do the heavy lifting. Simply tell God that you haven’t forgiven them, and that you need Him to help you heal.”
There are stories of hope, too. A family prays when the school friend of their fourth-grade daughter suffers over her own parents’ potential divorce. When things don’t seem to be improving, the father of the fourth-grader actually meets with the other dad, encouraging him to fight to save his marriage. This works.
And a woman who comes to realize “how we had been destroying each other” successfully sets out to make changes. “That was a dark, dark time in my life that I wouldn’t wish on anyone. But the beauty of the storm is the rainbow afterwards.”

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