(October 15, 2010)
I was talking to a young woman the other day. She is going through a very difficult time and feels her marriage is over. She spoke about the arguments, the tension, and how her young children are showing signs that they sense the instability of the home. “I know divorce is hard but I think it would be easier than what we are all going through.” My heart sank at her words and, with a silent plea that God would direct my words, I said, “No. Divorce is not easier. It is taking on another setting that will be difficult and painful.”
It is hard to believe sometimes that it has been 15 years since my own divorce. My first husband died very suddenly five years after the divorce from heart disease. He was not yet 50 years-old at the time of his death. I am grateful that we spoke forgiveness to each other before he died. I know many people who have not been given that chance.
Divorce is very much like death. It is the death of a relationship that you believed would last your lifetime. It brings a crushing grief that has no concluding closure, especially if you have children. Let’s look at some of the characteristics of grief as they apply to divorce:
- Regrets “Table for one at the Regret Party!” “I wish I would have said…”, “I wish I would have done …”, “Why did I …?” It can feel like an never-ending tape that runs and runs through my head. The insidious point is that most regrets have some connection to the truth. There are things to regret. What I learned is that a ‘regret’ is only helpful when it produces a ‘lesson learned’. Learn from my mistake and move on. (By the way, I have no control over resolving a regret that my spouse said or did something.)
- Anger and Blame This more than any other aspect of the divorce process takes so much energy. And yet it is an emotion and a task that seems almost essential to the process. In order to make sense, I must find a place (a person) on which to put the blame. I must direct my anger to that person. Otherwise, I might have to deal with anger at myself or even God. Here again, the truth is my spouse to whom I direct my anger and place blame has some ownership for our situation. But does the anger and blame help me? Do I feel ‘better’ angry? Does my anger and blame help my children?
- Sadness It is uncomfortable to say ‘depression’ instead of ‘sadness’. However, I personally do not know anyone who has gone through divorce (or death of a loved one) who did not experience depression for some period of time. Sadness is sorrow about an event. Depression is when the sadness causes inactivity and difficulty in concentration. This is especially hard when there are demands from a job (few employers give you ‘bereavement time’ for divorce) and children who need parental stability and strength.
- Forgiveness I have spoke about forgiveness many times in the daily devotions that I send out. Forgiveness is not letting my spouse ‘off the hook’. It is letting go of the aforementioned anger and blame that takes so much of my energy and moving on to more constructive pursuits – like getting on with the life that I now have. It is putting that energy into helping my children in the new life that they now have.
Whether it is an organized divorce support group, your church, or 1-2 friends who are committed to walking with you through this very difficult season, help is essential to not only surviving but actually living. It is in putting on the ‘strong face’ or ‘faith face’ that shuts you up in a lonely box with only your own thoughts and wisdom to get you through. Just as a lawyer or a doctor who defends or treats himself has a fool for a client/patient, so is the divorced person who thinks they have all they need within themselves to get them through the crisis and move on in their life with joyous victory.
And that is the ultimate goal. When you are in the place where I currently live, you want to have come through that terrible valley called ‘Divorce’ and find yourself in a better place with your mind, spirit, and family intact. If you can come together for your child’s graduation or wedding and genuinely smile at your former spouse, then you are in a good place. If when you consider remarrying, you bring little baggage into the marriage, you have embraced forgiveness and learned valuable personal lessons. You have grown.
“When you get to the end of your rope, tie a knot and hang on.” – Franklin D. Roosevelt