Divorce: one grandfather’s heartache

Southern Cross: People Matter

People Matter was a regular column by Phillip Jensen in Southern Cross, the monthly magazine of the Anglican Diocese of Sydney.

Originally Published:
Jensen, P 'Divorce: one grandfather's heartache'. Southern Cross, May 1999.

Tagged: children divorce family

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“Children's children are a crown to the aged, and parents are the pride of their children.” Proverbs 17:6

Walter was a kindly grandfather. Though not a church goer, he said he could talk to me because I was a minister. I think it was because he had few friends with whom he could share his vulnerabilities.

Retired from a successful career, he lived quite comfortably. He and Joyce were celebrating fifty years of happy marriage and were both in good health. Yet constant sorrow hung over him.

Whenever we met he would talk about his grandchildren. How they were doing at school, at sport, and all about their latest achievements or disasters. Yet each story was told with a touching despondency.

Walter and Joyce lived for their children. Family was their chief delight and from a Christian point of view—their idolatry.

With their youngest child settling just a couple of suburbs away, their retirement was to be full of the joy of their three grandchildren. They looked forward to a new generation to love and care for—this time without all the responsibility and tiredness.

But that is when it all went wrong. Their son left his wife. He did not seek much access, so Walter took initiative to see the grandchildren. The children loved seeing them—but the children's behaviour was deteriorating as they passed through puberty with the trauma of divorce.

When their daughter-in-law started a new relationship—awkwardness turned to embarrassingly difficult. Embarrassing to pick up the children, a struggle to keep up with their troubled, youthful exuberance, and seemingly impossible to discipline.

Last year a government report estimated the direct costs of divorce as three billion dollars annually. The report guessed the indirect costs would be double. But what cost the broken hearts of Walter and Joyce?

Our children and our children's children should be part of the blessings that God has created for us. Our society's careless promotion of unfaithfulness and easy divorce, is an expensive expression of human sinfulness. Worse still, it is not only the guilty who have to pay—children and grandparents also bear the costs.