Visitation Ended but the Loss Continued

Suddenly, I was at the top of the stairs watching my father leave. That scene repeated every time my father ended his visit with my sisters and I. However, this happened 50 years ago.

I was jolted back while reading the article, When Life Sends You Immense Pain.1 Before getting to the traumas Craig Giantz experienced in adulthood, he wrote about how he felt as a boy when visitation with his father ended.

“Seeing my father was like seeing my hero… It was like everything we did had joy embedded in it…. But alas that dreaded time would come. Time to go home, Sunday night. Oh, the pain I felt. I remember going home after our visits and just crying and crying and crying, missing him so much.” “Every love song or break up song reminded me of my father. My broken heart transferred those feelings of the abandonment of my father into those songs.” “I never spoke of this pain as a young child. I just accepted my situation the best I could. What did I know?”

That was me!

Dad was my hero too. Spending time with him was pure joy. Suddenly seeing him only 3 to 5 times a year increased the joy…and increased the pain. I didn’t cry when he left, but I hurt. The ache of missing time with my father throbbed well into my adulthood.

What I experienced was a twinge of grief. The loss of what could have been. Pain that comes with having zero control of my hero leaving for weeks or months. Though we did talk on the old-style phone regularly, it still left a huge hole.

Can you relate?

Did you have a twinge reading his account? Did your mind go to a different scene of loss or pain? Maybe you said goodbye to your mother every few days. Not everyone will have that twinge. Some were dragged to visitation. But for those who are feeling it right now, here are some tips that can help.

  1. Turn toward the pain. Allow your adult brain to feel what you did then; or what you wanted to feel then, but didn’t allow yourself to. Cry. Laugh. Yell. Talk. Whatever feels natural
  2. Share your “scene” with someone. I stopped being amazed how little adults with divorced parents share with others when I realized even my sisters and I hadn’t talked about the divorce.
  3. Learn more. The book, Choose a Better Path walks you through various “scenes” you may have experienced and points you toward ways to heal.
  4. Don’t put it on the shelf and leave it there. Time doesn’t heal all wounds, it just causes them to surface in weird ways and at inopportune times.

The paradox

Christians are commanded to ““Honor your father and mother”—which is the first commandment with a promise” (Eph 6:2), but can we do that while addressing our pain? Yes! It’s important for adults with divorced parents to realize that missing Dad doesn’t mean Mom did a lousy job. My mother worked hard to keep a roof over our head, food on the table, clothes on our backs, and so much more…but I still missed my father.

But it was God who brought me to a place of releasing the anger, embracing forgiveness, and allowing real love to flow from me to my parents. God wants to do that for you too.

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