(quote) Joan-529855 said: What does a single mom do/say when a dad has disowned his children, who are now all in their 20's?
BTW, their father was very active in their lives up until he turned 40 (and diagnosed bipolar). I remind them of his mental illness but they don't get it and frankly neither do I.
The following is based on the assumptions that his Bipolar Disorder is a significant issue in his life, it predates the breakup of your family, and it played a significant role in your divorce.
Much if not all of his behavior is likely connected to his Bipolar Disorder. Bipolar is particularly insidious because the afflicted may pass through periods of apparent normalcy. But what defines them is the extreme moods, the cognitive distortions, and the inappropriate coping behaviors that they bury themselves in. When properly medicated, they may achieve a more-or-less functional work life for awhile. But healthy relationships are extremely rare.
Your kids are now young adults. You need to start the process of helping them understand SOME of the grittier details of what is going on with their father.
What the experts say:
"Bipolar disorder is a serious mental illness."
"The exact cause of bipolar disorder is unknown."
"There is no cure for bipolar disorder."
"Choice of medication can be difficult because all (bipolar) drugs have significant adverse effects, drug interactions are common, and no drug is universally effective."
"83% of cases of Bipolar Disorder are classified as severe."
"The course of severe unipolar and bipolar disorder seems to be progressive in nature irrespective of gender, age and type of disorder."
The chance for relapse is 73-87% within 5-years, "even with continual/aggressive medication".
You don't mention the elapsed time between onset and his diagnosis. For BD, it averages 7-10 years. That's bad. But even worse, the professionals say that characterological damage sets in after only 5 years of untreated symptoms.
"There is a high risk of suicide with bipolar disorder". (over 50% attempt; 20-30% succeed, mostly men)
Furthermore, Bipolar Disorder rarely exists alone. There are many other psych disorders (Borderline Personality Disorder, Major Depression, PTSD, OCD, psychosis, etc.) and problematic behaviors (alcoholism, suicide, coping lies, impulsive gambling/shopping/eating, etc.) that are typically comorbid.
The cognitive distortions that are a part of the disorder usually result in a view of the world that is inherently disordered. Black becomes white. Reality is redefined so that they are "sane". Others are often blamed for everything that goes wrong. They often self-diagnose themselves as "all better" and stop their meds and therapy.
Frankly, IT IS A BLESSING that they are not exposed to his condition or to his dysfunctional family. Bipolar Disorder has both a genetic component and a nurture component. Your children need to understand the disorder so that they are prepared for whatever the future may hold for them. They each have at least a 30% chance of developing the disorder themselves.
Perhaps something along these lines:
"Your father has a very serious mental illness. When he was well, he loved you dearly. When he became ill, his old self that we loved and depended upon was lost to us. Remember the good man that he was. Pray that he cooperates with God's plan for him. But always remember that his present condition is NOT YOUR FAULT. Nor can you fix him or help him. That is not your job. He is in the hands of medical and psychiatric professionals. They are doing their best. Pray for them too."
Under the assumption that there were significant home life problems before and after he left, you may want to consider individual and family (group) therapy for yourself and your kids. Catholic Charities often offers such services, but you may have to ask around to find an insightful therapist with experience in the particulars of Bipolar.