Divorce and separation are some of the hardest things that a family would ever have to go through. Theology and reasoning aside, divorce is terrible and divorce is common. According to the American Psychological Association, more than twenty percent of first marriages end in divorce, and forty-eight percent dissolve by its twentieth anniversary. But we don't need these statistics because we've witnessed it first hand.
Something that was one unit is now in pieces, and this explosion is felt sharply when it takes place within your own family. Usually, the first step is taken by the parents.
The parents begin to figure out how to put those pieces of a broken family back together for the sake of their children. The children are supposed to let them. But where does that leave kids who are no longer little but are so new at being adults?
I was 19 when I found out parents were separating. My dad was cheating on my mom and my poor mother tried to work it out in secret so that no one would get hurt. It really hit me hard. My soul felt crushed. Everything that I grew up loving and knowing had just been thrown into question. Was my childhood a lie? Why was my dad not sorry for his actions? Where was the man that I knew as a kid?
For the next few years I had a skeleton of a man that resembled my father. He was so seeped in sin that it effected everything he did. You could see it on his face. My mother, on the other hand, blossomed. Not tethered down to my dad’s secrets, she clung to her faith and became more confident in who she was. She was able to find beauty in the pain and brokenness.
But this left me and my sister in a very dark place. From all sides, we were getting different pieces of advice. One would say to try to talk it through with my parents. Others would say that it wasn’t my marriage, so it wasn’t my business. I felt so sad and so lost. I am the type of person who wants to fix things and fixing my parents was no exception. But I was beginning to let my father’s sin become my own. His adultery was filling me with hate and anger.
I needed to take a step back and reevaluate where I was in my life. I was a year into college, trying to plan my life and make new friends. I knew I wanted peace and happiness in regards to my family, but why did I have to suffer in this way in order to achieve that? My dad was my hero...until I saw just how human he could be.
My earthly father was extremely flawed, but my Heavenly Father was perfect. This is where I started to slowly change. My Father would not let me go through this for nothing. Doesn't God promise to not give us more than we can handle? (Corinthians 10:13) With that knowledge I knew that I could overcome this. And if God in His humanness had to suffer a most painful and undeserved death, be ridiculed, mocked and betrayed by one of his closest friends, who am I to believe that my life should not include suffering.
I started to draw upon the life of Saint Therese, doing small things with great love. I knew straight away that I wasn’t going to be able to forgive my dad immediately (I'm no saint, but I'm trying!), but forgiveness begins with the desire, with the intent. Each time I was with him I would remind myself to love him where he is and try to see him as God sees him. Be patient. Be truthful. Be loving.
It wasn’t easy. It still isn’t easy. It’s extremely hard to watch someone suffer from their own sin when they refuse to turn to God, but I knew it was through those moments of kindness when I wanted to scream and yell that would pack more than any punch. I was going to have to be the example he was supposed to be for me. This has taken me years to understand and practice well, and yet, I still struggle with it.
Everyone’s situation is different. But there are things that you can do that will help you take a steady first step.
First, look around you. So many people are suffering. There is that saying that if you had to choose a burden to bear, you would always choose your own.
Ask for God’s grace to get through it. We all need God’s grace. It is a divine gift that empowers us to share in God’s life. We can see it made manifest through the virtues of Faith, Hope, and Love and the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Grace is the gas to our spiritual engines. We need it to keep going on our journey toward God. But the thing is you just need to ask and ask often.
Look to the saints. They all had their own struggles that they were able to use to springboard themselves closer to God.
Pray for the sanctity of marriage. It is the foundation of creation and life itself.
Find someone for spiritual guidance. Talking to a priest or a religious can help you to get a good outside perspective. I can always talk to my mom or my sister but it would kind of just go in circles. Someone that can give you a third party point of view that can help you grow as a person is tremendously beneficial. And there's no shame in therapy. Not an ounce.
Ralph Martin says in his book, The Fulfillment of All Desire: “Sin and evil are far more ugly and more horrendous than most of us can imagine; but so too are the beauty, glory, and goodness of heaven greater than we can comprehend.” Remember that God’s love is eternal and glorious. He never forgets you.
He is your Father and He wants you to cling to Him, in the worst of times and the best of times.
Briana Maggio comes from the beautiful Long Island, NY from a loving and crazy Catholic family. She attended Franciscan University of Steubenville and earned her MBA in Film Production at John Paul the Great Catholic University. Briana wants to impact the culture for Christ through rom-coms and sitcoms. She also drinks coffee and tea like it's going out of style.