Divorce is one of the realities of modern family life, but that doesn't mean that it's easy to handle. News that your child is getting a divorce can be extremely devastating to a parent, especially if there are grandchildren involved. If you’ve been on the receiving end of such news, you’ve probably experienced a wide range of emotions, and that's completely normal. These five emotional reactions are fairly common for parents whose child is getting divorced.
Read on for five emotions you'll experience when your child divorces.
Grief for Failed Dreams and Relationships
When a child divorces, a relationship dies, and their parents will typically grieve for that relationship. Your child will probably still have a relationship with the ex-spouse, but it won't be the loving and satisfying relationship that everyone hoped for when the couple married. Even if you had early doubts about the relationship or didn't like your child's spouse, you probably hoped that these feelings would be proved false over time. On the other hand, if you have a close and loving relationship with your daughter- or son-in-law, you are facing the potential loss of that relationship.
Grief is a natural reaction to these circumstances, so make sure to allow yourself to fully go through the grieving process.
Guilt About Your Own Role
Most parents have experienced trying to steer children out of a relationship that they don't think will turn out well, and most have found it an exercise in futility. Even though adult children are responsible for their own decisions, parents will almost certainly question themselves about whether they could have done something to avert the divorce. If the parents of the divorcing child have been divorced or have had troubled relationships in their own pasts, they could feel that somehow they negatively affected their child's ability to sustain a marital relationship.
You shouldn't allow yourself to fall into the trap of feeling guilty about the failure of your child's relationships. It’s impossible to go back and test what might have happened if things had been done differently, so feelings of guilt are non-productive and should be avoided whenever possible. "You could be the best mom in the world (whatever that means), but you can’t protect your child 24/7. If something bad happens, beating yourself up might get in the way of being a strong ally," says Marika Lindholm, Ph.D.
It's very common to feel torn between your feelings for the divorcing parties, even though one is your own child. Parents know that their children have faults, and clear-headed parents will recognize that their own child must bear some responsibility for the failure of the relationship. If you had developed a close relationship with your daughter- or son-in-law, you may even feel that your own child is largely at fault. On the other hand, some parents turn all of their sorrow and anger against the daughter- or son-in-law.
However you may feel that the blame should be portioned out, it's important to recognize two things. First, it's impossible to determine what really goes on between two people in a marriage. Second, it's not your role to determine blame. Try to steer your energies in more positive directions, such as spending quality time with your child and grandchildren during this difficult period.
Worries About What the Future May Hold
Uncertainty about the future almost always creates worry. Suddenly, nothing in the future of your child and grandchildren seems secure. A divorce can impact employment, emotional stability, geographic location, and a host of other factors. You need to focus on what is constant: your love for your child and grandchildren. The classic advice to focus on the things one cannot change and accept the things one cannot change is definitely good advice in this situation.
Fear of Losing Touch With Grandchildren
Fear is a natural reaction to a divorce in the family. One of the major fears of those in this situation is a loss of access to grandchildren, especially if custody seems likely to go to the parent who is not their child. This fear isn't actually unreasonable, but it's one area in which you can take some meaningful action. Although you certainly can't ensure a continuing relationship with your grandchildren, you can take steps to make it more likely, such as avoiding blame and staying as neutral as possible to both parties in the divorce. "The salience of the grandparent-grandchild attachment does not diminish during and after divorce," says Edward Kruk, Ph.D. "Grandparents often play a vital role in helping grandchildren adjust to the consequences of parental divorce, providing a sanctuary for the emotional needs of their grandchildren at a time when parents, faced by the multiple losses and transitions attendant to divorce, may be less emotionally available and responsive to their children."