Thursday, September 3, 2009

Divorce—It’s Partially My Fault

As soon as they sat down, Jenny asked Jessica, "How did it go this week?" Jessica shrugged. "All right, I guess. It's still hard to accept that my parents are getting a divorce. I'm glad you told me about the grieving process. I think I have been experiencing denial and a little depression this week." Jenny responded, "Some people show their denial by refusing to talk about a problem or even admitting there is a prob­lem. Some may admit there’s a problem but deny that they are affected by it. Denial is a defense mechanism, but it usually isn't healthy. Eventually you must admit that the divorce is happening and that your life will be different because of it." Jessica nodded slowly. "I understand. I really didn’t want to believe Mom and Dad were getting a divorce but living in a dream world isn't healthy.” Jenny continued, “I wrote down a number of different feelings you might go through. Do you see any that might apply to you?” Jessica read the list, “shame, embarrassment, anger, guilt—hm, I guess I have been feeling a little guilty." Jenny encouraged Jessica to open up and share her feelings.

Jessica hesitated at the painful thought. "I think Mom and Dad's problems are partly my fault. Back when I turned thirteen, I felt pretty independent. So one night I violated my curfew— on purpose—by about a half-hour. I remember Dad shouting, “You make it very hard on your mother and me when you do things like this, Jessica. Marriage isn't easy, and your behavior doesn't make it any easier.” That's when I realized they weren't getting along very well and that I might be part of the problem." Jenny said compassionately, "It saddens me to hear that you feel responsible for your parents' breakup, and I can see how you might feel that way. But parents have to deal with life's difficulties, including disagree­ments with their children.” "But Dad said—" Jenny quickly interrupted. "Your dad may find it hard to accept full responsibility for his problems, but pointing to your mis­behavior incorrectly shifted some of the blame away from him to you." Jessica pondered Jenny's words for a moment. "So it's not my fault after all?" "No, the breakup is not your fault and get­ting your parents back together is not your responsibility either.” Jessica sat back and released a long sigh. "That's kind of a relief." "It should be," Jenny said. "You don't have to feel guilty anymore."

Jenny then asked how the rest of Jessica's life was going. Jessica sheepishly admitted that she felt so bummed out that she had ignored most of her chores around the house. Jenny surprised her by dialing Natalie right then. In less than two minutes Jenny had arranged for Natalie to come over later in the day to help Jessica catch up on her work at the house. After getting past a flash of embarrassment, Jessica sensed a wave of relief. Knowing that Natalie was coming to help her seemed to lift that weight off her shoulders. The rest of the time flew by quickly, and they agreed to meet again the next Saturday to continue their chat. Jessica left that day grateful for Jenny's loving concern and practical help. She smiled and felt very hope­ful for the week ahead.

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