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There was a hole on the wall.  She stared at it with the tears coming anew.  This hole was not the kind that needed spackling and sanding, but the kind that needed time and space to replace the vacancy.  She had just taken down the wedding portrait of her son and now former daughter-in-law.  The divorce decree had been signed and the woman who had frequented their kitchen table would now be permanently absent.

There are similar hallways in houses we have all been in.  Black and white photos of founding family members, baby pictures never being replaced to the teenagers they now are, and the wedding photos of unions made.  My own parents’ wall still holds a picture of me in my wedding gown smiling into the future next to my brother and sister.  The photo is 18 years old and I have been divorced 8 of those years.

It felt cold to remove an important part of their family’s story – the story that brought her two boisterous grandsons.  She wondered if she was making the right decision to remove the framed photograph.  Would it hurt her son’s feelings?  Or would it renew his grieving if she left it to hang?  Would her grandchildren notice it gone? 

She stared at her daughter-in-law’s young, smiling face.  It was not about the photo on the wall that tugged so fiercely at her heart.  It was the question of who this woman would now be to her.  She was losing her own family member.  Having taken on the protective parent role for her son, she neglected to realize her own grief – her own loss.

Divorce runs deeply through a family – oftentimes leaving extended family members with little to no closure.  After the spouses announce the separation, families typically rejoin their respective sides – typically only focusing on the negative.  Their grieving and loss is an afterthought.

While the former family may now be absent, it does not erase the story that preceded your present.  Look to the value their presence brought to your family.  Make time to do your own grieving as you continue to support a loved one through divorce.  Acknowledging and healing from your own hurt will strengthen you to fill the hole in your heart by fostering love in your family.

Angela Dunne