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The Fear of Caring for Divorced Parents


I grew up with young, divorced parents; to me it felt normal. By the time my twin sister and I were two years old, we began the tradition of a back and forth life that included double holidays, two birthday parties and shared summers. Because we never knew any different and our parents were amicable, there were few complications. We went about our lives believing the ugly monster that can consume those involved in divorce had peacefully passed us over.

I somehow thought the impact of divorce ended once the kids grew up. I was wrong.

Last week my mother was in town to visit and attend her high school reunion. As her friends gathered to commiserate the old days, the topic of conversation quickly turned to their parents.  Stories of parents who had recently passed and tales of the trials and tribulations of caring for aging and ailing loved ones filled the air.

It was the first time I had really heard that divorce monster growl.

I began to think about how I would care for my parents. The logistical difficulties of caring for two people who live 1,200 miles apart began to swarm in my head. Both of my parents have remarried, so my spinning head added in the care of their spouses as well. I quickly felt overwhelmed, and I wasn't even in the midst of being their caregiver yet.

Being the logical problem solver I like to think I am, I decided that I would care for my father who lives just 30 minutes from me, and my sister would care for our mother who is four hours away from her home.

And then I heard that little growl again.

My sister is in the military, and there is no guarantee that she will always live on the East Coast near Mom. And, there is no guarantee that I will continue to live here, near our father. How in the world would we ever make this work? How can we ever make it so that their children are an active part of their care?

I have never wished that my parents would have stayed together for the sake of us kids. But now with the daunting task of their care swimming in my head like the theme from Jaws, I wish they would have stuck it out.

I know it seems selfish, and I truly believe it was best that my parents went their separate ways, but I don't know if I'm prepared for what comes next. I am terrified to think I will spend my time reliving that back and forth life in a failing effort to do my best for everyone.

I have a feeling that perhaps that ugly monster of divorce has always been there; he's just grown some sharper teeth lately. The good news is that I have some time to start planning before I have to take on my parents' care.

So I am all ears for those of you have experienced caring for divorced parents. What were your biggest challenges? How did you make things work? And please tell me there are some hidden blessings in there somewhere!

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Thoughts and stories from others
  1. January 14, 2018 at 11:50 pm | Posted by Teresa Edwards

    I'm an only child and my parents r divorced. I live w/ my mom and stepfather in Virginia, dad lives in Florida and his wife died 2 years ago. I was soo thankful when his neice (by 2nd marriage) became his health care advocate because to be honest, I do not wanrto live in Florida. Well, 2 of them fell out, he's moving back home and i found out today I am now his caregiver. Trying to find him home health care. How in tje world do people take care of parents who live in another state? Guesz I'll find out, but any advice is welcome. Btw I just turned 50 and am going through the final stages of my own divorce and dont have the money to go back and forth up and down the East Coast comstantly. Feel awful and guilty.


  2. April 6, 2014 at 10:15 pm | Posted by alma

    Im my mother's caregiver. Im only child with divorced parents. I have the support of her family, but im often struggling about decisions and of course money. I am only 24 years old, beginning in my professional career, and living with my father. I dont have the option to be a full time caregiver of my mom, as I do not even have my own space. My aunt is taking care of her for the moment, but I cant know until when I will have her support. Money factors are disturbing my life, as my mom have a lot of debts, and I cant solved them. I just want to start my life, and achieve my goals in order to help my mom. Is this selfish?


    • April 8, 2014 at 10:48 am | Posted by Cat Koehler

      You aren't selfish at all, Alma! You deserve to have your own life, a happy life. Make sure your parents are safe and cared for (and that doesn't have to be done by you), and go get your life. You can do both if you want, it will just require some planning and some help. Good luck! Cat


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