We went to see the production of the play, Next to Normal, last weekend.  The whole time I was watching the production, I was thinking about one of our children.  When a child goes through the divorce of their parents, something is their soul can break.

This one, this beautiful child now adult, is a mystery, tucked inside a conundrum, wrapped up in an enigma, tied with a riddle bow.  This one has been the child that has kept us on our knees.

Some stepfamilies will have at least one child who never fully accepts the divorce and remarriage.  They frequently will begin to self-medicate, to numb the pain of divorce, and the feeling of rejection by a parent. Once they become an adult, there is very little that can be done, through the courts because they are of  legal age.


Trying to make good decisions for what is best for the child and family is difficult.  The stepparent usually parents with their head – logic and rules; and they may appear a little apathetic.  The birth parent usually parents with grace, mercy and unfortunately some divorce guilt. Somewhere in the middle is the right answer.

I wish I could tell you the perfect answer for this; but, with all of the counseling and advise that we have received, I am here to say that there is not a perfect answer.  We have done tests, been to countless hospitals and who knows how many phychological evaluations, and the advice we receive from family and friends piles higher than the laundry.  Then, we are told by the professionals that they are not sure of the diagnosis, or what exactly should be done.

“But here are some pills, and we will tweak them until we get them right” one of the doctors said.  Then when we watch as our child begins to lose all of his personality, then, they say he is stable.  Thank goodness we have finally found a doctor who will listen and not just instruct and not give a pill for any and every symptom.

In the play, Next to Normal, the mother, who is mentally ill from a tragedy in her life asks a question,

“What happens when the cut, the burn, the break, was never in my brain, or in my blood, but in my soul?”

I think when our children have been so devastated by the divorce, we want them to have counseling, or an anti-depressant.   However, it is not their body or blood but their soul that is damaged; and, all the doctors in the world cannot put them back together again.

When a soul is damaged, boundaries need to be put in place.  You need the logic of the less empathetic stepparent, and the grace and mercy of the empathetic birth parent and kick divorce guilt and rule book  to the curb, people!


There is Hannah in the Bible.  Her husband’s wife, who could bear him children, tormented Hannah, and the Bible tell us she was “bitter of soul” because she has no children of her own.

And there is Mary, the mother of Jesus.  She walks into the temple, and Simeon says to her, that because of the appointment of her child in this life, that her “soul” will be pierced.

“The sprit of a man can endure his sickness, but a broken spirit who can bear?” (Proverbs 18:14 NASB)

There is no bearing a broken spirit, a broken soul.  When it comes to the point of breaking, it is long past a broken heart, it has gone deeper into the mind, the soul and the spirit of a person.

Let us make some encouraging observations here:

Hannah and Mary were wounded in their soul because a sorrow that was beyond their control in their family.

The important point to see here is that Hannah’s time of a bitter soul, brought forth a better day for Israel.  It was a new day in the land when Samuel was the priest over them.  And though Hannah suffered greatly for a time, she was given the honor of a mighty, man of God for a son.  She was also given more children after Samuel.

Mary guarded Jesus with her life; and, she dedicated her life to the care of Jesus, only to watch them tear apart the tender skin that she once washed and bandaged boo boos and kissed goodnight. I can only image what she must have gone through in her heart, and in her mind, and in her spirit watching him die such a violent death.

Though she suffered for a time, her son brought forth a new day for all mankind, for now the true high priest was among his people forever.

A broken soul does not sneak up on God.  He never looks up from His Holy work and say, “Oh, Darn, missed that soul. O well, lets see what we can do to fix him or her.”  No, never!  Like it or not, God has taken into account the suffering, the broken soul and it is part of His plan – his bigger plan than what we can see.

We try to understand the infinite, from a finite position. 

Go to the counselors with your treasure that has a broken soul, do what the doctors order – We do.  We encourage the proper medication, but we stay in constant prayer.  Know that the body will improve as the soul heals.  And only God can heal a broken soul.

Our job is to prayto speak life into our loved one.  It is also our job to set healthy boundaries.  A broken soul can drain the life out of the caregivers; and, caring for them can drain your finances, also.  Decide as a team what is best for the whole stepfamily as well as what is best for the loved one.

Have a support group to pray for you and to listen to you, when it gets difficult.

There are no easy answers when the mental health of someone we have birthed and love more than our own life.  There is no quick fix for a broken soul.  Hold on to each other, stay in the Word, stay in prayer, and trust God to have a bigger picture for the life of your family than this crisis.

I would be honored to pray for you today.  Would you leave a prayer request?  And if you do, would you pray for the person before you?  I will put each of you on my prayer list and continue praying for you.


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Diane W. Bailey is the founder of The Consilium – an online community of wisdom and purpose for women over 45 years of age. She is a published author. Her books include String of Pearls – From Tears to Treasure, and 30 Days To A Better Stepfamily. She creates her own line of precious metals bracelets. Diane lives in the Deep South with her husband Doc. Together they have created a stepfamily, each having two stepchildren and two birth children, and share three grandchildren, one black lab named Charlie and one long haired tabby cat named Lil Girl. Diane’s passion is to encourage women to be all God has created them to be by pressing past fear and daring to live life as an adventure. Some of her life adventures include traveling to Israel, speaking, entrepreneurship and backyard farming with Doc. She loves Gumbo, fried shrimp and seeing all sunsets across water.

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