Seeking advice - moral support of divorcing child

I’m kind of at my wits end and looking for fresh ideas. My wonderful 42 year old daughter is going through a divorce 3,000 miles away. She has two young children, 5-1/2 and 2. Her priest husband went through a clinical depression (untreated) during 7 months of unemployment and never snapped out of it (or even admitted it). Somewhere along the way he ‘broke’. He has become verbally abusive, distant, has an internet girlfriend and wants a divorce. However, he won’t file, leave or make any attempt to repair the marriage or his mental state. She is devastated and depressed. She has somewhat accepted that the marriage is over, but can’t seem to accept that her children have to go through a divorce and the deprivation of being children of divorce (she was, and it was very difficult for her). She has not worked since the older child was born so she has no income of her own. Their house is up for short sale and they have a huge credit card debt from living off the cards during the time he was unemployed.
She is depressed and can’t seem to take any positive action. I’ve encouraged her to see a councilor, to see a lawyer, to file herself…she knows she needs to but hasn’t/can’t. This has gone on for three months now and it’s killing me…not to mention damaging her and the kids.
So, sorry for the long back-story…my question is, does anyone have any ideas for helping/supporting her through this and getting her to the point where she is able to move forward?
Any thoughts will be appreciated.

That’s hard. There’s not much you can do from such a distance except to keep in touch, let her know she can call any time, day or night.

Assuming she has internet access, would she accept help in the form of links to resources, support groups, attorneys, credit counseling?

You didn’t mention going to see her or having her come and visit you, so I assume that’s not an option. Is that possible?

What do you mean by “priest husband”? As a disengaged, de-programmed Catholic, to me that’s a contradiction in terms.


That is tough; you can offer all the support in the world, but you can’t make her do what she needs to do. Could you maybe encourage her to do some small things to get her started on moving forward? Maybe she’s paralyzed by being overwhelmed by everything sucking at the same time.

She is unable to act or respond because she is refusing to see the situation for what it really is. She needs some realistic non-judgmental honesty from someone (that would be you) in order to get her to take those blinders off. Once the blinders come off and the reality of the situation hits, she will react and do what needs to get done. Survival mode will kick in.

Encouragement and compassion is not what she needs right now. There will be plenty of time to hold hands and sing Kumbaya with her after she and the kids are safe physically, financially, emotionally and all that.

Laying it out like it is to someone who is in pain is not always easy, but it needs to be done or this is going to turn into more of a disaster than it already is.

She doesn’t want the kids to suffer “the deprivation of being children of divorce”? Is being the kids with the father who is not seeking treatment for his mental illness because he is too busy living in a fantasy world with his internet girlfriend, a mom who can’t snap out of it long enough to do what she needs to do, broke, unemployed and about to living in a shelter and on welfare family more noble than “my parents are divorced”? I don’t think so.

She has a small window of opportunity to cut her losses and start again before things go even more to shit than they already are. Show her reality, then show her that window and pray that she makes the jump.

You can’t hide marital discord from the kidlets. My daughter was about 5 1/2 when her father and I went our separate ways; she says now that the best thing she heard from me was that it wasn’t her fault (kids are pretty self centered). Her brother was about 3 - he doesn’t really remember his Dad living with us (kids are both in their late 30s today).

You help your daughter by listening. Let her vent her unhappiness etc and don’t try to fix things for her. Just be there. If she wants you to do anything she will let you know.

Let her know that you’re thinking of her and rooting for her team. It will help.

an seanchai

The problem doesn’t appear to be “divorce”, but “two people with depression, both too bummed to do anything positive, living together, with nobody else in the house who can take up the slack” :frowning:

Could you take care of the grandchildren for a month or three?

My sympathies on the situation, HillKat.

Since sympathy is all we offer in MPSIMS, I’ll move this thread to IMHO where the advice-givers hang out.

twickster, MPSIMS moderator

HillKat - the best thing you can do is to be there for her. Call her every few days and check on her. Don’t be judgemental, just listen and offer to do whatever you can. That will mean a lot knowing that she has at least you that is there for her.

WRT the kids. Children are damn resilient. More than we, as their parents or grandparents, give them credit for. Considering the high divorce rate in this country, half of those kids friends are from divorced families. They’ll do fine. There’s not a stigma of being from a divorced family.

Russian Orthodox? My mother’s priest is divorced.

It may be that you need to tell your daughter that it’s not her fault either. Sometimes when a person feels strongly about keeping a marriage together at all costs - or considers a spouse can’t help themselves due to mental illness, drug use, serial affairs, etc., they see the breakdown of the marriage as their own inability to be strong. Your daughter needs to know that it may be the kindest thing to all parties to simply acknowledge that no one’s needs are being met the way things stand.

Your daughter may well feel a debilitating guilt with respect to her husband’s problems and thinks she MUST stay and try to get him help and/or work it out.

No matter what, it’s a very difficult position for you to be in - I wish you the best.

Those 3000 miles make this pretty tough. It would be great if she could leave him but she may not have a support system in place out there.

Are you in a position to offer to have her move in for a bit until she can settle in and then continue once she has moved out to help with childcare?

(Probably not, but I know if I were in the position of your daughter, this would be what I would crave but never ask for from my mom.)

Short of that, just be there for her day or night and try to help her get out safely and efficiently. As long as the kids know it’s not their fault, this should be less traumatic for them at this age than if they get older in this bad situation.

You may need to have her fall further, though it may the hardest thing you can. Part of it had to be a willingness on her part to receive the help you are offering. Perhaps the only thing you can do it let her know you are there for her when she is ready.

Are you able to go out there and help her through this? If you’re not working and can go out there and stay with her for a couple of months, that might help and comfort her.

No words to offer to thank your all for the support and reassurance.

Unfortunately, most everything here I’ve tried. I talk to her daily. I’ve laid out the ugliness of the situation. I’ve sent her links to resources, offered to pay for a lawyer, therapy, what ever. She knows I’m there for her and on her side. I’ve told her if she wants me to stop pushing I will. She says no, she needs it. She understands what she has to do…BUT she doesn’t do it. She knows there is always room for her and the kids here…always! But she has good friends and the 5 year old is in a wonderful school and etc, etc. She doesn’t want to come back this side of the country.

I think I"m headed out there. I can’t afford the time off work, but I think I’ll take a week (that’s really all I can do…) and go out for her birthday next month. She agrees it would help all around; with the depression of the birthday and has promised to be ‘ready to start working this big time’.

Cross your fingers and toes for me, please :frowning:

Ferret Herder got it in the next post. He was ordained Episcopalian.

I feel for you. My family is going through something similar, though without the children and a little further along in the process.

What has helped for us: A close friend who has been a godsend. This friend has been there to drive my relative to the lawyer, spend the night with her when she got too low, and push and advise. It helps that the friend is several years older, opinionated and quite pushy. I think she made my relative move out and pushed her into getting a lawyer and starting the process. Those things are much easier for someone who is actually there. Does your daughter have a girlfriend who is close enough that you could enlist her? You say she has good friends, do they know what is going on? I wouldn’t expect anyone else in the world to go to the lengths this woman has, but a caring trusting person who is actually there really helps.

The other thing that I think has really helped is that we have split the duties. It really just naturally works that way due to our personalities. My job is honesty and tough love. My mother’s job is to listen. We’ve never vocalized this to my relative, but she knows, and calls the right person for what she needs. If she just wants to cry, she calls my mom. If she needs real practical advise or just a kick in the butt, she calls me. It also works for us because no one has to try to do everything. Do you have another daughter, or a sister, or someone else your daughter is close to who could help carry some of the load? You don’t want to try to do it alone and 3000 miles away.

These are the things that have helped us. Maybe your visit will help move things along, but you’re at the start of it and there will be a long way to go. I wish you both the best. I don’t know if it helps, but I wanted to let you know that you aren’t the only one.

Again, thanks to all. This has been very helpful. You’ve confirmed I’m on the right track and made me feel better about not being able to do more. You’ve let me vent, and I really needed that! Every post has been read, and re-read. Each has been valuable.