Going through a divorce is hard, painful work for anyone. Watching your child go through one is excruciating. Your heart may tell you it's for the best or it's a horrible decision and one you know she will regret. All of that does not matter. Your opinions are inconsequential. What's important is to support your child in the most non-judgmental and unbiased way possible.
1. Accept the decision
There is no argument you can possibly make that the couple hasn't thought of and sorted through. This has been an anguishing choice and your two cents will only add to the guilt and pain they are already experiencing. Tell them how sorry you are. Just refrain from phrases and questions like, "I saw this coming." "What about the kids?" "I never did like him/her." And, "Just give it some more time."
2. Don't try to analyze it
Truthfully, this isn't your concern. There are always so many more layers to a marriage than any couple lets people see. There are probably things you'll never know about it. There may be things that are too painful to comprehend. All of this is not important in order for you to offer your support.
3. Don't take sides
Again, there are two sides to every coin. I've seen parents take the side of their child and others take the side of the in-law. This isn't a time to choose one or the other. This is a time to support both, regardless of your feelings.
4. Support, support, support
This is a time for declarations of unconditional love and support. "I'm here." "I have time to listen." "What do you need from me?" "How can I help?"
5. Don't be critical of the in-law
Judging and criticizing your child's spouse may seem supportive of him, but it's really just prejudice dressed up like concern. You may never have liked him or her. You may have prayed for the marriage to never take place. All of that is history. Maybe you think the in-law's family is to blame. Doesn't matter. Keep your opinions to yourself. If asked, "What do you think?" respond simply, "I'm here to listen and love you through this."
6. Don't try to fix it
Our natural tendency as parents is to jump in and try to fix things. We may want to suggest counseling or mediation or having a new baby to fix a broken relationship. We are not marriage mechanics and most of us have our own marriages to be concerned with. You can't fix what you don't understand and as much as you may feel like you understand, you don't.
7. Don't discuss your opinions with the grandkids
If there are children involved, your heart will definitely want to fix things for them, but you can't. All you can do is listen, nod and reassure them that you will listen when they need to talk. Don't bad-mouth either of their parents. The problem is that there is a little of each parent in them and if you knock a parent, you are knocking a little of them as well.
8. Provide a respite
When you see your child or speak with him, allow him time to step out of the divorce arena and just be your child again. Talk about things wholly unrelated to divorce. Take a walk. Buy an ice cream cone. See a movie. If he brings the topic up, listen. Don't bring it up yourself.
9. Take care of yourself
This news may devastate you. It may cause untold stress. Take care of yourself and your marriage. Don't let the bad news permeate your own relationships or cause you to question your parenting. Get enough rest. Eat properly. Your child can't draw water from an empty well. To be there for him or her, you must take care of you.
10. Accept the outcome
Whether things turn out legally as you would hope them to, accept the outcome. Continue to provide unbiased support for your child and your grandchildren. There is really nothing you can do that would remedy the situation. Acceptance will take the strain off your child and allow him to choose on his own whether or not to fight it or accept it.
Parenting adult children can be every bit as trying as parenting toddlers or teens. The stakes become higher. Unconditional and non-judgmental love is what is called for. Support your child and allow him to be the grown-up you raised him to be.