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An Open Letter for Separated Parents and Children
I received the letter below via email. It was written in response to an article I wrote. I was so impressed by the ability of the person to speak her mind so clearly with such insight. Her message struck a chord in me, validating my work trying to help separated parents resolve their differences peacefully. Her writing points to the impact and tragedy of parental conflict on the child and how it carries on into adulthood. She has graciously granted me permission to make her letter available in an effort to help separated parents and their children understand these issues.
Hi Gary –
This is a very interesting article.
I am the adult child of divorced parents who hate each other with a passion.
They hate each other more than they ever loved me it seems. I am now 59 years old, never married, no kids. I am not rich and have not enjoyed particularly good health. Generally I have a positive view of what life is supposed to be about and that I am a worthy individual.
It is very disconcerting to me that my selfish parents express their disgust for one another more than they have ever express their appreciation for me.
Somehow – I learned that I am great and lovable. I am happy to be on this Earth. I did not choose my parents. They chose one another.
I wish they would address their hatred of one another directly to each other.
By always expressing their hatred for one another to me, it diminishes my capacity for my own joy and also makes me respect them less and less.
They are both old now (in their 80’s).
I try to make peace with them but they are impossible. How can either one expect me to express hatred for the other – like I have to choose which one I would rather die first? And then in the next breath tell them I love them. It’s really an untenable situation for a child – small or grown.
I suggest you bring this point up when discussing family conflicts with children of divorce and their parents. I am sure the parents have no idea that their offspring has a wish that one/both would die because of their hateful attitude toward one another.
Recently my father – who has never been very nice to me – was hospitalized. I mentioned this to my ailing old mother (who I speak to regularly). Her reply was so nasty. I told her he was the only father I had, by her choice, not mine. She seemed pissed off that I didn’t wish he dropped dead in the hospital. I pointed out to her that when she had a stroke some years back it mentioned to my father. He reacted with compassion for ME – because he knows that is the only mother I have, because of HIM. He is far from perfect, but at least he made a diplomatic remark. How would he feel if I said I wished HIS mother would drop dead?
Do you ever hear children of divorce wish their parents would drop dead? This is the reason why. The parents have no respect for the children’s feelings.
If the parents hate one another so much, they should talk to one another about it.
I got so sick and tired of listening to each parent tell me how horrible the other one is.
Don’t they know I already know that I have two parents that are a real disappointment in many ways? Try that psychology on the parents and maybe they will let the children have the peace they deserve.
I did not marry nor did I divorce either one of them. They made a lot of trouble for me. They should shut up about it already. I am sick of listening to their negative remarks about one another. I have eyes and ears of my own. I have experienced their hurtful conduct quite enough without having to listen to them trash talk one another and expect me to be happy about it.
That is why kids of divorce wish their parents would die. Because each of the parents can never shut up about how horrible the other parent is.
I know this sounds very harsh, but is a real feeling among children of divorce. Because I am an adult I try to have an understanding nature. But no child could be expected to comprehend this. And frankly, it is exhausting as an adult. At least I am partially equipped to identify and articulate these things. Dependent children are in an extremely vulnerable position.
Good luck with your work in family therapy. You are doing a great service.
Direnfeld, MSW, RSW
Call Gary for your next conference and for expert opinion on family matters. Services include counselling, mediation, assessment, assessment critiques and workshops.
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