Single Parent Families: The Need For Communion

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One of the difficult things to cope with once a marriage breaks up is the new reality that is presented to children, their parents, their relatives, and in their Church family. How does the family function without mom and dad being together? We all know life goes on and we all find ways to cope. There are tons of books written about divorce and how to help families cope with marital break up. So this won’t be a “how to cope” note.

Someone responded to my reflection from last week sharing the struggle with “fitting into” the parish after the divorce. He or she felt a loss of belonging once he or she became a single parent. I don’t know how common this is among single parents. But I do know at the other end, the sadness I felt when couples I knew got divorced, especially when they appeared to be strong and united in their faith. I felt as if I had to do this awkward dance. How does one stay balanced without taking sides, or maybe does one take sides?

The fact a couple is no longer one but two is a difficult change to cope with, especially for children. So can a parish do anything to help someone like the person I mentioned to better connect him or her to the parish? This is hard to answer. Some type of grieving process needs to go on before one can connect again (assuming that is possible). It seems that if one has not grieved the break up of the marriage, one will not be able to connect or feel as if one belongs to a community until that grieving process has happened. In other words, parish members can try, and try again, but nothing will work unless the person seeking connection is ready for it. As for the person who wrote to me, connection was something he or she was seeking.

Secondly, I mentioned the “awkward dance” I felt I had to do with couples when they divorced. It makes no sense behaving like everything is fine when it is not. Perhaps if we could give ourselves permission to discuss this awkwardness with someone who is going through a divorce, it might help to have a more meaningful conversation. We may find the feeling is mutual. If we can learn to speak with each other with care and concern and without criticism, maybe some good things can come out of this. Once again, thanks to all those single parents who are walking on this journey — one for which they did not ask. May the Lord give them the strength to carry the Cross they have been given.

The blessing of the Lord be upon you,

The unworthy +Paul

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