June 6, 2015

Divorce, Estrangement and Facing The Giants


For being a noun, "estrangement" is such a negative and harsh  word. Even its etymology is negative: quarrel, estrangement, discord, strife, from Old French destance (13c.), from Latin distantia "a standing apart." Discord. Strife. Quarrel. As a word, "estrangement" truly sucks. When applied to divorces, as in spousal estrangement, it is more so: you're always at odds with each other and seldom see eye-to-eye on most things concerning your children.

But estrangement reaches its full apogee when it involves a parent and children. More than likely it will be a terminal condition, absent a Saul moment for an individual child or a miracle of God's Grace upon your children as a whole. Wrapped within the emotional cocoon of parental estrangement, children will always be at odds:

  • with the Fourth Commandment; 
  • with the virtue of Charity;
  • with a Step-Parent (i.e. how can a child estranged from a biological parent ever truly give proper respect to a step-parent?)

Even if positive changes in action and attitude occur with the parent who may (or may not) have been responsible for its birth, the seemingly unending shelf-life of estrangement will be forever owned - in the eyes of the children, anyway - by the Respondent Mom or Respondent Dad who "caused" the divorce and upset their world. Can they really be blamed for doing so? Worse still, if the estrangement has been caused through the neglect of established divorce procedures with children involved, it is an almost forgone conclusion that the estranged parent will age alone, devoid of any comfort from some or all of their children. 

Family Estrangement is a fate that Catholic Parents would not wish on friend or foe. However, when it comes to satisfying an ever-thirsty desire for personal happiness-on-earth, at least one Catholic Parent will willingly infect their own children with this deadly poison and won't even blink an eye in the process of doing so, even going so far as to parrot "It's not for me...it's for the children." 

Yeah.....right. Tell me again how it's "for the children" when:
  • your children are forced to live at odds with many Truths of their Faith;
  • your children are forced to choose one parent over another;
  • your daughters will be forced to choose between Dad or Step-Dad for their wedding march down the aisle;
  • your children will be forced to decide if they should let your grand-children visit you, when they themselves did not;
  • your children will be forced to answer "Why?" to the previous statement to their children, all without embarrassing themselves in the process.

Oh, yes...Estrangement is surely worth the price you paid for it, wouldn't you agree? Your marital happiness surely compensates for the children being forced to give up theirs, wouldn't you agree? The children must be forced to see that their earthly happiness lies only with you and yours, wouldn't you agree? No?...You don't agree? Then can you tell the world why-in-the-hell you did it anyway?

When you are the parent of children who are shackled to estrangement - despite your best efforts to cut them free - it is easy to simply give in to their wishes. And why not? You've been called pathetic and a liar by them. You have received no Father's or Mother's Day cards in years or decades. You receive barely a grunt in reply to your "Goodnight, I love you" each and every evening. Yes...it is hard - at times extremely so - to not fall into severe and lasting discouragement over your children's intransigence and/or the remembrance of your own marital mistakes that led you to this point in time.

But do not fall; do not fail! You took a vow and are living that vow right at this moment. To reject it now is to reject the spouse and the children that followed, but more importantly, you reject the Love and Truth upon which it is all based. To seek your happiness now - when your children need you most - borders on anarchy. You gave your word all those years ago...do they mean so very little, now?

I am reminded of a scene in the movie "Facing The Giants" that well paints the stark reality of the vows you are now living. In a little over 3 minutes of intense dialog, action and music, 3 characters tell you all you need to know about the path that lies ahead; the path you now find yourself painfully treading; the path that has caused you to question "Why am I doing this?"

In this film clip, you are Brock: in a position of leadership, but always stopping short of full acceptance of your role. You fear the pain that accompanies it, never having expected to at the beginning of your career. You are blindfolded, and on your back you carry Jeremy, who represents your vows, your separated or divorced spouse and your children. 

And beside you is Coach Taylor, who represents Christ, His Blessed Mother, St. Joseph, your Angel Guardian. Gently prodding at first with "Let's go, Brock", "Good effort, Brock", very soon the words sternly segue into " Keep moving!", "Keep driving!" "Give me your very best!" You grow tired and complain you can't do it - "It's hard!" "He's heavy!" "I'm about outta strength!" "It hurts!"  But Coach is there, crawling beside you, almost in your face, yelling loudly to break through the fear and the searing pain that encompasses you. As you finally collapse - "I don't have anymore!" -  and still not knowing how far you've come, you feel the blindfold being removed and the triumphant voice of Coach that says: "Look up, Brock..."





Listen carefully at the beginning and at the end of Coach Taylor''s talk to Brock: you can easily place yourself in Brock's shoes and equate all you are hearing from Coach Taylor to your defense of your Marriage, of your children, and yes, even of your former spouse. You can sense, too, the moment when the other players realize that this is no ordinary drill, this is no ordinary "let's see what you've got" call from the coach. They see in Brock a man expending every last drop of energy, strength and fortitude for the greater good, his progress always hidden from his eyes, the goal a still-dark spot somewhere ahead of the voice urging him onward. 

They see you.

When you think you've had enough of divorce and parent-child estrangement; when you think you can no longer absorb the pain, the misery, the financial jeopardy and the discouragement of walking the divorce maze; when you grow weary of the fight, the battle and the war. Remember, Dear Friends, the words that await you at the end of your final game, from the only Coach that truly matters: "...Well done, good and faithful servant, because thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will place thee over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord." 

Indeed will our hearts leap for joy when we hear those words: "Look up! You're in the end zone."


Copyright 2015 David Heath - All Rights Reserved