The Day My Dad Left
A daughter’s perspective on facing her parents’ divorce and her journey to wholeness.
I remember my father’s red eyes and tear-stained face. He could not look his only daughter in the eyes and was unable to admit he had given up on his marriage. I followed him to the road and watched as he drove away.
When I was 15, my parents’ divorce shook me to my core, threatened my faith and undermined my confidence. The months following my father’s exit were haunted by his painful phone calls, suicide threats and an attempt to kidnap me. The turmoil brought me to my knees. When my tears ran out, so did my hope and peace.
Slowly I shut down my emotions and forced myself to feel nothing. I believed my broken reality would go away as if it had never happened. Instead, my body absorbed the emotional shock, and a year later I became ill and was bedridden for months. Nothing had prepared my young heart to face the crisis of my parents’ breakup.
As I lay on my bed suffering from a high fever, overcome with fatigue and wrought with emotion, I remembered how perfect our family had seemed just one year before. Now, my brother lived with my father, and my mother and I were left to fend for ourselves.
Finally I realized I had to accept reality—life would never be the same. Through broken sobs, I admitted to myself that I needed to make things right with God and release the bitterness that had grown in my heart. I had to forgive my father and stop trying to deal with my pain alone; I asked for help.
Support from Mom
Over the next few years, I struggled to put words to the anger I felt about the breakup of our family. My mother re-assured me that I was not to blame for the divorce, which is something I needed to hear. She protected me emotionally by revealing only glimpses of her brokenness. By doing so, she spared me from experiencing further personal pain and feeling responsible for her healing. This allowed me to see that she was being honest about her healing as well, and she assured me that I was not facing the unknown by myself.
As my mother worked through her life changes, she remained constant in her faith, steady in her commitments and secure in her role as my mother. We made it through the difficulties together. We leaned on each other, cried together and eventually began to laugh again. The security my mother provided was rock-solid. Never once did I question that she would leave my side. I knew I could count on her.
Support from friends
I preferred not to talk about some things with my mother because I felt it would bring her additional pain. So when it came to dealing with the fear that my father would try to kidnap me or when I was worrying about relationships, I turned to an adult family friend, who became a mentor to me.
She encouraged me to put words to my feelings, to face my fears, to be honest with my mother and to get real with God. It was comforting to hear that it was all right to tell God the truth about my ugly emotions.
God directed many people to love and guide me through the painful moments. My mother, friends, youth pastors and church leaders coached me through layers of thoughts and fears. They spent evenings sitting beside my bed while I fought through my illness. They allowed me to cry and be angry—and with it came healing.
A Scripture that continued to surface during this time was “You hear, O LORD, the desire of the afflicted; you encourage them, and you listen to their cry, defending the fatherless” (Psalm 10:17-18). This Scripture re-affirmed my hope that God would never leave me.
A new day
Recently I married the man of my dreams—the most incredible provision from God yet. As I walked down the aisle, I remembered all I had gone through that made it possible to stand healed at the marriage altar. God allowed the pain of the past and provided an amazing mother and loving friends to help me learn to trust Him—He is my faithful Father.
Janelle R. Schroy is a high-school teacher in Washington, D.C.
Help your child survive divorce:
• Pray for your children and assure them of your love.
• Encourage your children to admit their feelings to God and you.
• Find a youth leader, counselor or family friend to help your children work through their loss.
• Keep your personal emotions and healing from becoming a burden to your children. They need to see that you are healing but not feel responsible for your recovery process.