Then they bring those wounds to the Holy Spirit in prayer, he said, and invite healing in. They also help facilitate further conversations with parents, spouses, friends, and therapists as needed.
“We also provide them resources on our blog to follow up with a support group. We give them recommended reading, so we give them a lot of the tools that they need in those different avenues, and we're constantly creating more things,” Dan said.
Jennifer Cox was one of the first participants in a retreat for Recovering Origins, when Life Giving Wounds was still taking shape. Cox’s parents divorced when she was 7 in what she said was a kind of “best case scenario” divorce, at least on paper. Her parents were respectful to each other, they lived close enough to one another that bouncing back and forth between them was not too difficult. They both remained very involved in her life, attending her swim meets and other school events. Jennifer graduated college, became a nurse, and owned a home. By all measurable accounts, she was a successful adult.
“When I was in high school or my early twenties, if somebody said to me, ‘Wow, I'm so sorry that your parents are divorced. That must be really hard for you,’ I just would have looked at them like, ‘Okay. Well I mean, thanks, but I'm fine’,” she said.
But Cox started to notice something was wrong around her late 20s, she said. Although her life was seemingly going well, she experienced depression and anxiety, despite having normally been a very positive and upbeat person. She struggled with self-confidence and had an outsized fear of failing.
She now recognizes that many of those wounds came from a place of not wanting to disappoint her parents and make life even harder for them. She said she also realized early on that she took it on as her “job” in the family to make her parents happy, so that they would not be sad because of the divorce.
“I started therapy, I started really digging into some of my struggles and a lot of the dots connected back to my parents' divorce,” Cox told CNA. “And I was shocked, honestly. I just had no idea, because my parents divorce was a ‘good divorce’ and we had minimal issues. I have good relationships with both of them.”
The beauty of the retreat, Cox said, was being able to unite her wounds to Christ and to realize that she could use them to help others.
“When he was on the cross, Jesus suffered and had the ultimate woundedness of obviously physical wounds, but also the huge woundedness of being rejected,” Cox said. “Then that was redeemed. He rose again...he did that for all of us.”
“So for me, and specifically this wound of my parents divorce, in being able to acknowledge it and share my story...it makes it worth it somehow.”
Cox now volunteers with the ministry and helps coordinate content for their Instagram page. She said she would recommend the retreat to anyone whose parents have separated or divorced.
“If their parents are divorced, I’d want them to really take the time to reflect, to see where they are, did their parents’ divorce affect them. I think there are so many people walking around struggling with all sorts of things, but not realizing that there might be this route to (healing) that maybe we need to focus on. Think about it, pray about it, bring it to the Lord. Don’t ignore it, really lean into that.”
Samuel Russell is another participant in a Life Giving Wound retreat who now volunteers with the ministry, helping edit their blog.
Russell is a convert to Catholicism but grew up in a Christian environment, he said. Two years ago, when he was engaged to his now-wife, there were family issues and wounds that arose as he prepared for marriage.
Russell’s fiancee was the one who found Life Giving Wounds, and recommended that Russell try one of their retreats.
As someone about to get married, Russell said he was struggling with not having grown up with a marriage that lasted.
“It was the question of: Am I able to do this? Is this something I can actually do, live with? The phrase in the vows - ‘To have and to hold all the days of my life’ - not having that modeled, and having actually a broken model of that, it’s like you’re carrying that with you into something where you're planning to say: ‘for the rest of my life’.”
“It was a challenge trying to grapple with the psychological level of, yes I can do this,” he said.
Russell said one thing that really struck him during the retreat was a song, Waiting in the Wound, by Michael Corsini.
The song “helped reframe how I think about Christ because...The song implies that Christ is already there. He's in that wound that you know you have and he knows you have. He's just waiting for you to come so he can heal it,” Russell said.
Russell said he encouraged other adult children of divorce to explore their own healing when they felt ready.
“I want people to know that they're not alone in their suffering or grief on this issue,” he said. “And it's okay to address it now, or address it in the future at a time when you feel more comfortable exploring it.”
Dan said he hopes that Life Giving Wounds helps spark more conversations about healing from divorce in the Church, where sometimes there can be a stigma attached to the topic.
“I think the stigma is there for different reasons, like ‘Oh, I don't want to bring up woundedness, that’s such a sensitive topic,’ or, ‘I don't want to treat them as fragile,’ or, ‘I don't want to upset their parents’,” Dan said.
“I would just say, I'd rather err on giving voice to the pain than saying nothing at all,” he said. “(Adult children of divorce) are getting the message, by and large, that this is something not to talk about, I can't go to the Church and talk about this, I can't go to the priest to talk about it. I haven't heard many homilies from priests about divorce and the effect on children. I don't know any I've heard in the last four or five years.”
Like countless ministries this year, Life Giving Wounds has had to cancel their in-person retreats for 2020, due to the coronavirus pandemic. However, the ministry is hosting an online retreat starting in October, the details of which can be found on their website, LifeGivingWounds.org.
Bethany said while they are disappointed to cancel their in-person retreat, they are hoping the online option makes it even more accessible.
“If you're a child of divorce and you have seen ways that it's affected you, it's a retreat to go on. Or, if you're not even sure, if you’re thinking okay, I've never really taken a good look at this, it's a great retreat to go on for that, too. There will be people of all different places on that spectrum,” Bethany said.
“No matter what happened with your parents' marriage, no matter when they divorced, no matter if they ever even were married, if your parents are not together, then the retreat is for you.
“You’re not alone,” Dan added.