Caroline Moss is an author and host of the podcast "Gee Thanks, Just Bought It," which helps people find the products they need to make life easier, better and more productive. Now with this column, "Asking for a Friend," she's helping people with the advice they need to make life easier, better and more productive. To submit a question, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
My parents just told me (via Zoom) that they’re splitting up after 35 years of marriage. It was unexpected, and I am an only child. Even though I am 31, I am taking the news hard. I haven’t lived at home for 13 years and I have a marriage and a child of my own but it’s really affecting me in a way I didn’t expect it to. Is that weird? Is it normal? I don’t go to therapy and never have, so I don’t know if this is something people go to therapy about.
I just feel like I am a little confused, and normally I would talk to one or both of my parents. Without a sibling, I don’t have someone in my exact shoes who can commiserate with me. My husband gets it but he also has his own stuff (and lots of siblings to shoulder family drama, so he can’t relate to the only child thing).
I am not really sure what I am asking! Maybe if you think it sounds like something a therapist could help with? Or maybe what to say to my parents?
Adult Child of Divorce
Well, first of all, I’m sorry to hear about your parents. That just ... sucks. Divorce is never fun, no matter how old you are. And not having siblings to bounce things off of or lean on? It sucks more! You are totally valid in all of your feelings, no matter how surprised you are to feel them.
That being said, yes, a therapist can help you. Did you really just ask me if issues with parents are a reason people go to therapy? HELLLOOOO, it’s basically, like, the only reason! I’m just kidding with you, but for real, people of all ages — especially adults! — deal with their parental problems in therapy. If you’re wondering if your problems are legitimate enough to warrant therapy, the answer is that everyone’s problems are legitimate, and having a surprisingly emotional reaction to the news of your parents divorce is something most therapists have dealt with before. You are not bringing anything new or "weird" to the table. Your feelings are valid, and they can be worked through and discussed and worked on through many avenues and channels. Therapy is the one I am most familiar with.
I'll warn you to say that therapy can be overwhelming in the beginning of your exploration. Finding a therapist can take time (and a little trial and error), and if you’re not used to speaking to a mental health professional, it may take a few sessions to get into a groove where you feel comfortable opening up about personal issues. Be prepared to talk (a lot!) and be prepared for there to be no right or wrong answers ... and definitely no quick fixes.
But if you feel comfortable, go to therapy. Run to therapy. Therapy is helpful and humbling and wonderful. Your therapist will want to talk to you endlessly about your feelings on your parents divorce. You will get a new perspective and it will be both liberating and depressing, but it will be a very healthy way for you to process how you feel with a truly neutral party who does not side with either of your parents but who sides with you. That will be powerful; I promise.
And you absolutely deserve it.
Have a question for Caroline? Email us at email@example.com.