35 Emotions You Might Feel After Your Parents' Divorce

Are You Feeling Overwhelmed?

It's so hard to be honest with ourselves and others about the effects we feel when our parents break up.

That is because our parents' divorce is devastating. We naturally put up walls of denial and silence and keep a certain distance between us and others. Yet, these techniques, in the end, fail us every time. That is why I want to talk about the emotional effects of your parent's break-up and how to deal with them.

The fact of the matter is that you are an innocent bystander, experiencing a tragedy for those closest to you. You cannot experience this without it having a profound impact on your life. Judith Wallerstein, an expert on the effects of divorce on children said, "Divorce is not just an episode in a child's life. It's like a natural disaster that really changes the whole trajectory of a child's life."

Ari put it in his own brutally, honest words: "My parents have been divorced since I was five years old; it still affects me today. Through their madness and horrible parenting, I somehow managed to survive. It's hard, but it is something that we all, as victims of parental divorce, have to do!"

Like Ari, you no doubt have experienced a lot of different emotions as you attempt to cope with the radical changes divorce has brought to your life. For example, Denisse spoke about her rage: "I didn't want anyone to talk to me about what was going on and I just wanted to be left alone in my pain. I got really angry at my mom for leaving me."

Whatever you are feeling is normal!

Whatever you are feeling, no matter how horrific, is really normal. It may not be healthy, but it is normal. Yet it can be so hard to talk about those feelings. Even to begin to explain how you feel can be paralyzing. Nonetheless, until you face your pain and put it into words, the pain will continue to haunt you and control you. It is absolutely critical to attempt to describe to yourself and others just how devastated you feel.

Journaling is a great way to begin putting a name on the pain you are experiencing. The following list might help you put words on what you are feeling.

35 Emotions You Might Feel After Your Parents' Divorce

 As a result of your parent's divorce, you might feel...

  • Shocked
  • Numb - sometimes there is an absence of any emotion
  • Terrified
  • Confused
  • Bewildered
  • Ashamed of yourself because you think you did something wrong.
  • Guilty - like somehow it's your fault your parents split up.
  • Angry with yourself because you didn't do things differently.
  • Angry either toward your parents, or just angry in general.
  • Sad - "I can't believe it's come to this."
  • Grieving the loss of being a "normal" family
  • Abandoned by the parent who moved out of the home.
  • Afraid of losing your other parent if one parent already left.
  • Embarrassed - not wanting anyone to know things are going to be different in your family.
  • Disappointed
  • Depressed - like things will never get better
  • Suicidal
  • Worried about what is going to happen to you and who will take care of you.
  • Helpless or Powerless
  • Unloved
  • Pushed-aside
  • Rejected
  • Protective of one or both parents.
  • Responsible for your brothers or sisters.
  • Distrustful
  • Lonely - you feel you don't have anyone to talk to, BUT remember you can talk to a HopeCoach
  • Hopeless
  • Withdrawn
  • Worthless
  • Distracted
  • Exhausted
  • Unable to sleep
  • It's difficult to trust God
  • Longing - longing for closure or longing for the way things used to be
  • Relief - if your parents fought a lot or one parent was dangerous

This list might be pretty overwhelming to you. You may even have become aware of feelings you never knew you had. But don't give up. You can face these emotions and go on, and not just as a survivor, but as an overcomer.

God is With You in this Journey

If you are questioning why God would let this happen, that's o.k. God can handle your questions. Pray to Him. Tell him how you feel. Ask him to help you day by day.

And remember that God will never abandon you as you go through this hard time. He's waiting for you to pray to him for help  In the Bible it says, "Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Deuteronomy 31:6)

After journaling it is important to talk to someone safe about how you are feeling. HopeCoaches are available to talk about the many emotions you may be feeling. You can also comment below about how your parents' divorce is affecting you today.

Dawson McAllister
Dawson McAllister, also known as America's youth pastor, was an author, radio host, speaker, and founder of TheHopeLine. McAllister attended Bethel College in Minnesota for undergraduate work where he graduated in 1968, began graduate studies at Talbot School of Theology in California, and received an honorary doctorate from Biola University.
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4 comments on “35 Emotions You Might Feel After Your Parents' Divorce”

  1. My parents are going through a breakup. I've only had a mom my whole life, and always wanted a dad too. 3 years ago, I finally got one and have never been happier. but they split yesterday. both of them say that it isn't mine or my step-sister's fault, but I can't help but feel otherwise. I just turned 17 a day before their split.

  2. Forgiving is easier said than done. Yet, if you can forgive, there is an opportunity to move on with a sense of closure. This is a true human capacity that is talked about a lot, but difficult to navigate in practice. Some people just "forgive" but the words are empty. Some are so mad that forgiving is the last thing on their minds. I encourage a discussion about forgiveness. What makes it so hard? Why do we hold on to our hurts for so very long? Life has enough hardships and holding on to past hurts just allows us to nurse the pain.

  3. My parents broke up when i was like 6 months old now theyre still fighting i know i cant do anything but i just wish i could im 12 and im doing this on my school ipad i think im deppresed only because no one likes me and i fell like my family hates me i keep switching schools and i cant focus or be happy

    1. Justin, You are going through a lot right now. We are proud of you for reaching out for help and understand it takes a lot of courage. We want you to know you are not alone. It's important that you talk to someone about the depression you are feeling. Switching schools is very hard. You are always the new kid and sometimes that affects your self-esteem too. You mentioned you can't focus or be happy. Those could all be symptoms of depression and anxiety and may be due to your fighting parents and changing of schools. They may be temporary, but it's still important that you continue to talk to someone about how you're feeling. Do you have a guidance counselor at school you could talk to? They are trained to listen and help students with issues like yours. Also, we have a partner that specialized in children and parent's divorce. To find out more go to: https://www.thehopeline.com/partners/i-am-a-child-of-divorce/

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