Monday, October 31, 2016

A Child of Divorce Writes About "The Absent Father"

Everyone has a story to tell about those unforeseen twists and turns that render lessons, realizations and redemption.

That theme formed the centerpiece of our upcoming anthology The Life Unexpected: An Anthology of Stories and Poems. Due out at the end of November, the book is a collaboration between the Women's Writing Circle and Just Write, another Philadelphia-area based writing group. It features women with diverse backgrounds and life experiences writing memoir, fiction and poetry.

In this guest post, Terri Kiral kicks off our author series explaining what inspired our stories. Terri shares how writing her short story, "The Absent Father," for our anthology offered a path to self-discovery and healing. Please welcome Terri to the Women's Writing Circle ~ Susan


My parents separated in 1963. I was two years old. In the early sixties divorce, especially for a Catholic woman, was almost considered a stain, like walking around with a scarlet letter “D” on your shirt. You just didn’t talk about it. Even the church scorned her. No Holy Communion for my mom.

For half of my life, I held many feelings inside, mainly because feelings, at least the uncomfortable ones, like the divorce itself, weren’t discussed in our home. It wasn’t acceptable to be sad. Mom said, “There are others a lot worse off than you are.” Even as a kid, I understood that. It made complete sense to me. Until I grew up.

Others being “worse off” still makes obvious sense, but not validating my feelings . . . that doesn’t. Suppressed emotion doesn’t stay forever hidden. It creeps up in all sorts of places. I spent my fair share of time with therapists working hard to uncover a plethora of deeply embedded emotions. It’s a slow process. A little over a year ago, choking back my tears, a common occurrence during therapy, I struggled to find adequate words to explain my sadness. My therapist patiently waited and listened, then she gently suggested, “You feel gypped.”

Three simple words.

“Yes!” I exhaled, not realizing I was holding my breath, and my shoulders slumped forward. I felt a moment of relief as a 54-year-old splinter was plucked from a wound. I never got to know my dad. My life was a series of related chain-events after that.

I! Felt! Gypped!

I can’t speak for all children of divorce, but I know for me, the effects of being without a dad laid deep, muddy grooves that I have repeatedly scrambled and slipped out of again and again. They affected my physical health, tainted romantic and social relationships, manifested in unwise choices, and tampered with my self-esteem and sense of belonging.

Children read all sorts of uncomfortable, downright painful, scenarios into their position within the divorce. Some parents, lost in their personal struggles, unconsciously inject false suggestions that work like a poison to an already infected heart. In addition to my personal experience, I have seen first-hand, other children emotionally scarred by the false, bitter words of a scorned parent. It is sad.

I am far from na├»ve about the saying “it takes two to tango.” I have held both positions, that of scorner and scorned. I harbor no anger toward any one person for my loss. I have always understood that some things are not intentional. And I’ve always known my story was one of them, but that never lessened the sorrow.

I spent a lifetime choking back my feelings in believing that revealing them would somehow make me appear less than, or worse, pitiful. My healing process is hard work and takes guts. I take great strides in trying to be more open. Writing "The Absent Father" placed me in a position of vulnerability, but it’s a tremendous cathartic help on my path.

I hope my story will help newly-divorced parents recognize how important it is for their children to have both parents active and present in their lives.

If two adults, all those years ago, could have put their differences, bitterness and pain on the back burner, I’m guessing I might have had a dad. Of course, I’ll never know how any of that would have played out. My childlike imagination wonders why everyone can’t just be honest. Why is there a need to be right, to blame, point a finger, and smell like the proverbial rose?

Is it possible to meet somewhere in the middle, in that healing field Rumi longingly speaks of? Holding on to that possibility prompted me to finally write this story, one of many more to come.

How about you? Can you share how writing a story helped overcome loss?

Terri Kiral enjoys sharing moments of her life through her writing and hopes her stories will create opportunities for others to examine and embrace their own. She is a certified yoga teacher (RYT200), a dedicated meditator, avid reader, and eternal student of life. She lives in Pennsylvania with her husband, Andy and cat, Pyewacket. Connect with Terri on Facebook or follow her blog at

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