Life-Giving Wounds is a ministry for adult children of divorced or separated parents. Adult children of divorce or separation often feel alone and lost, and are searching for lasting healing and love.
The southern California chapter of LGW is supported by the Dioceses of Orange, San Diego and the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. Our inaugural retreat will be March 1-3, 2024 at Mission San Luis Rey.
Friday, March 1 at 6 PM to Sunday, March 3 at 3 pm
Mission San Luis Rey Retreat Center
4050 Mission Avenue
Oceanside, CA 92057
$375 for single occupancy
$325 for double occupancy
Registration is now open for southern California residents only.* Please submit the form below and pay the fee to secure your spot.
The following questions will help the team best serve you and organize small groups. Thank you for answering them honestly. The information you submit will be kept confidential except to the retreat team.
* Those from outside of southern California who wish to participate can send us a note to [email protected]. We will contact you after January 15 if spaces are available.
For more information, check out the FAQs at the bottom.
If you have a question that is not answered here, please feel free to get in touch with us here.
What is Life-Giving Wounds?
Please visit this page to see the mission and vision of Life-Giving Wounds.
What does “ACODS” stand for?
ACODS is a short hand for “adult children of divorce or separation”, referring to all those whose parents are no longer together for whatever reason.
What makes Life-Giving Wounds unique vis a vis other healing ministries and programs?
The Life-Giving Wounds ministry is specific, peer-to-peer, spiritual, and Catholic.
First, we offer specific attention to how the wound of parental divorce, separation, or family brokenness is affecting a person’s life; that’s the key concern and focus.
Second, Life-Giving Wounds is largely run by adult children of divorce themselves, making it a peer-to-peer ministry. We also give opportunities for participants to develop friendships with those who understand this struggle and pain from the inside; these friendships are also powerful witnesses of God’s love and healing.
Third, we create the environment for God to bring spiritual healing, which we understand as cultivating a person’s faith, hope, love, and joy, and not (first) psychological healing or general self-help (see FAQ on psychological healing, below).
Fourth, Life-Giving Wounds is a specifically Catholic ministry developed from the rich treasury of grace and truth found in the Catholic Church teachings, spiritual practices, and the sacraments. Prayer and the sacraments play a key role in the ministries we offer.
Can non-Catholics, non-Christians, or the religiously unaffiliated attend Life-Giving Wounds events?
Yes, we welcome people of all faiths, and those who don’t belong to a faith; the shared commonality is a desire to find greater healing after one’s parents’ divorce or separation. All we ask is that participants realize that different Catholic Sacraments and spiritual practices will take place during a Life-Giving Wounds event, such as Mass, Eucharistic adoration, praying with Scripture, the Divine Mercy Chaplet, etc. For non-Catholics, we are happy to “walk through” the schedule in advance, in order to make sure they are completely comfortable with the Catholic environment. Participants are also able to opt for journaling or quiet reflection in lieu of a particular religious moment.
What type of healing is offered on the Life-Giving Wounds retreats and support groups? Is this “self-help,” psychological healing, counseling, or something else?
The ministry of Life-Giving Wounds primarily focuses on spiritual healing, with the goal of participants knowing more deeply that they are beloved sons and daughters of God and growing in the virtues of faith, hope, love, and joy. Ultimately, we hope that all participants can come to see the wound of their parents’ divorce or separation as a profound resource for love. For this healing to occur, witness and friendship are essential: witness from those who know this pain and have progressed on the path of healing, and friendship with those who “get it” and can accompany each other. These elements are a key part of all retreats and support groups.
However, we believe psychological healing is an important complement to the Life-Giving Wounds ministry, and we both encourage participants to consider attending professional therapy and provide, when possible, lists of local trained and trustworthy counselors and therapists. We also integrate sound psychological principles and advice into our programs. But our retreats and support groups do not include psychological counseling or therapy.
How does this ministry fit with the mission of a parish and parish life?
The ministry of Life-Giving Wounds aims to point participants back to the importance of the sacraments and parish life. While our programs are meant to be turning points in people’s lives, we believe that for healing to be fully realized and sustained, a person must be actively involved in the sacraments and his or her community in the parish. For this reason, we seek to connect in a new way the importance of parish community and the sacraments for the healing of their wounds. Thus, this ministry is in service to the parish as we aim to foster stronger involvement in parish life.
How does this ministry fit with pre-existing diocesan ministries?
The ministry of Life-Giving Wound can easily be integrated into young adult, adult faith formation, and marriage and family life ministry. Often young adulthood is when people recognize that their parents’ divorce has indeed impacted them deeply, and so our ministry is of great interest and need to young adults. It is also especially well-suited to be a resource for engaged couples and could be a regular part of marriage prep ministry in order to strengthen a couple’s love. Likewise, it is an excellent marriage enrichment resource as well.
What if someone thinks he or she is not emotionally ready for a retreat or support group like Life-Giving Wounds?
We encourage people to attend the retreat or support group only if they feel emotionally capable of processing difficult situations and experiences from the past, as that is a key part of the retreat. We don’t want to put anyone into a position they are not ready for. We must allow healing to happen in God’s time, not our time. Also, if someone is seeing a counselor, psychologist, or spiritual director, then we highly recommend that they run this retreat by them in order to see if he or she thinks it is wise for them to attend at this time in their life. Remember, there will always be future opportunities.
What if someone’s parents’ divorce or separation is no longer an issue for them, or never was an issue. Would it still be worth attending?
We recognize that many people have already found significant healing after their parents’ divorce or separation, have been successful in their lives, established strong relationships, and feel close to God in their faith. Nonetheless, many participants tell us that this ministry opened their eyes to things they never thought of, which they found life-changing and important. (You can read some testimonies here.) Also, the reality is that often we can push things out of our mind that are still affecting us.
Put another way, we may need time to “thaw out” from painful experiences, so it is good to talk with others in similar circumstances to see if there is anything we can benefit from. The Life-Giving Wounds retreat doesn’t focus on the past in order to get “stuck” in the past, but to better live in the present. Therefore, we believe that this ministry has something to offer all adult children of divorce, no matter the amount of healing they have already received.
Is this ministry for adults whose parents divorced or separated a long time ago, last week, etc.?
Yes, this ministry is for adults of various backgrounds, regardless of when their parents divorced or separated. We regularly have a mix of people whose parents divorced or separated when they were very young children, to whose parents just recently divorced or separated, and everything in between. All groups are usually represented and we seek to speak to the common wounds of all groups.
What do you mean by saying that this ministry is for adult children of ‘“separation”?
We use the word “separation” broadly to refer to a variety of familial situations – parents who are currently separated but not legally divorced; parents who were separated for a time and reconciled; parents who are living a “separate existence” under the same roof due to high-conflict, addiction, mental illness or other severe dysfunction; cohabiting parents who dissolved the cohabitation; parents who were never really “together”; and any other situation where one’s parents are no longer together in a relationship but are separated permanently. We have found through ministry that these adult children often experience similar pain to adult children of divorce, although they have their own unique situations as well. Situations that fall outside of our scope and focus, which we are not best suited for serving, include but are not limited to: wounds associated with a death in a family, and losses associated with adoption. These unique wounds deserve specific and unique pastoral care that go beyond the scope of what we offer.
Is this ministry for adults whose parents received a declaration of nullity (annulment) following a civil divorce?
Yes. We regularly have participants who have gone through their parents’ annulment process, and who come to our programs and benefit from them. We have discovered through their participation and witness that adults who have gone through their parents’ annulment process face virtually the same issues as other adult children of divorce and separation, with the added layer of the declaration of nullity, which can be experienced as either something further positive or negative.
Why does Life-Giving Wounds focus on young adults and adults and not children?
The pioneering psychological research of Elizabeth Marquardt in Between Two Worlds and Judith Wallerstein in The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce shows that it is often not until young adulthood (or later in adulthood) that children of divorce have enough time and distance away from their parents’ divorce or separation to take a step back and see how it is truly affecting their lives. During childhood, most children, like their parents, are in survival mode and are not in the best position to examine the effects. It is also often the case that the major, negative impact of parental divorce upon children occurs in young adulthood, when there are relationship difficulties, and causes a person to realize that there may be a problem here to explore in more depth.
In The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce, Judith Wallerstein writes, “Contrary to what we have long thought, the major impact of divorce does not occur during childhood or adolescence. Rather it rises in adulthood, as serious romantic relationships move center stage. When it comes time to choose a life mate and build a new family, the effects of divorce crescendo” (p. xxix).
In general, too, those who experience a trauma like divorce or separation often need time to “thaw out” before they are ready to process that experience.
Finally, no national Catholic ministry currently provides the in-person and virtual services for adult children of divorce that Life-Giving Wounds does, so we seek to step into that gap.
What happens on a Life-Giving Wounds retreat?
Please visit this page for a better description of what the retreat entails.
What happens on a Life-Giving Wounds support group?
Please visit this page for a better description of what the support group entails.
Is there a training for leaders to do this ministry?
Yes. One goal of Life-Giving Wounds is equipping leaders to carry forward ministry to adult children of divorce or separation in their diocese, parish, or campus. This is so needed! To that end, we offer consultations over the phone, webinars, and a hands-on learning experience before and during the Life-Giving Wounds retreat. We also have a detailed Leader’s Guide that gives comprehensive direction on starting and maintaining a local ministry to adult children of divorce. We are always happy to speak with any leader to discuss the best way forward in starting or maintaining a local Life-Giving Wounds ministry!
How can I start Life-Giving Wounds at my parish / diocese / college, etc.?
Please see this page for how to create a local Life-Giving Wounds ministry.
I am thinking about sharing this ministry with my siblings, but I don’t know where to start. How should I go about doing this?
There are different approaches you could take. You could invite a sibling to go with you on the retreat. You could just simply speak about the effects of your parents’ divorce in your own life in order to open up a conversation, which could include mentioning this retreat or the website. Or if you have already made the retreat, then you could share about your own healing journey and how the retreat helped. Hearing about and seeing your own healing is attractive to others and will draw people naturally to this ministry over time. However, it is important to recognize that some siblings may not be ready to look at the wound for many years for a variety of reasons. Everyone “thaws” out differently from the pain of their parents’ divorce or separation, with very different timetables. For some, it may take decades. Healing happens in God’s time, not our own. Thus, pray for your siblings and that God opens the door for you to discuss this with them.
I am a divorced parent and I would like to better understand the wounds facing my children. May I attend a retreat?
The retreat is only for adult children of divorce, separation, or family brokenness who are seeking to heal their wounds. If you happen to also be an adult child of divorce or separation, then you may attend – if you do it seeking your own healing and not simply seeking information about your children. This retreat is not the place to find out information about your children’s struggles because having a divorced parent present can be a tremendous emotional trigger. Participants need a safe place where they can speak freely and not have the fear of accidentally upsetting divorced parents who do not understand their struggles from the inside. If you would like to learn more about your children’s wounds, then please check out our recommended reading and audio page.
I am a divorced parent and I want to suggest this retreat or ministry to my children. How should I go about doing this?
Before anything else, pray to God for your children’s healing and how best to approach this situation. Given your participation in the divorce (even if one was an unwilling participant or not the most at fault), it is very important for parents to suggest these opportunities with great humility, compassion, and a recognition of the pain caused to your children on account of the divorce. It is best if you start off with apologizing for the pain that the divorce has caused your children and that you are sorry for this reality without bringing up your own pain, attempting to minimize their pain, or defending your actions. Then, after that, please listen to your children if they choose to share anything and grieve with them to connect with them. At the right moment during the conversation that ensues, you could then suggest that you heard that this may be helpful for them and give them information. Please then give space and time for them to make this decision in order to address the wound because it is a very difficult thing to address, especially in cases after many years of silence on this topic, and no one likes pressure to go. Everyone “thaws” out differently from the pain of their parents’ divorce or separation and it is not uncommon that their pain is brought up many years after the divorce or at various points throughout life as the wound hits them in a new or fresh way.