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Divorce: The Pain of It – The Healing of It

(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

Just a Man… Who Belongs to God

Posted 9/22/10 on

Six years ago today my son, James, died. Cancer was the foe.

I have been blessed today to hear from many, many friends. His, mine, ours. This is an instance where I appreciate the social media. It has carried many encouraging, healing messages to us all.

“He inspired…”, “He was an inspiration”, “He was brave”, “He made me smile”, “He had a beautiful smile” and “He was a giant in the faith”.

James would have laughed, maybe even rolled his eyes, not taking the words seriously. He didn’t see himself that way. Those of us who knew him, day in-day out, didn’t see him that way either. He was just James with the silver car, the ever-present cell phone, who loved drumline and worshiping God on his drums.

And that is the way he should see himself. Nothing special. Not perfect. EXCEPT

  • He wore the helmet of salvation that reminded him where he was going while he was dying.
  • The breastplate of righteousness, the righteousness of Jesus, is what made others inspired
  • The belt of truth told him what he needed to know, when he needed to know it. He was prepared.
  • He walked in peace for five years with a word that can strike fear in the hearts of all who hear it.
  • With the many who were at his right and his left, he kept the shield of faith close; trusting God for what he could not understand.
  • He wielded the sword of faith as his Mentor taught. “My God can heal me but if He should choose not to do so – I will still worship Him” (Daniel 3:17-18)

James in and of himself was nothing special. But from the moment God conceived him, he was a gift. And it was Jesus in him that made him the James we remember and draw inspiration.

He inspires me to run my race. Everyone’s race is different and everyone is held accountable for running their race. Run your race as to win the prize! I know James is enjoying his prize!” – Janet Webb Lister, September 22, 2010

Grief: The Journey Continues

from Jody Neufeld (June 7, 2010)

Most employee handbooks distributed when you begin a new job are rarely read in the first 90 days. They are usually dropped into a drawer and pulled out when a specific question arises. Questions like: My mother-in-law just died. Do I get any paid leave?

Since working for a hospice over 12 years I have been astounded that the ‘norm’ for paid bereavement leave is three days! Most companies will approve a week when the death is a “close relative” like parents, children, brother, sister, and immediate in-laws. You probably won’t get paid for it but they won’t fire you either.

In what universe is a human being able to handle all the paperwork and personal tasks that are required after the death of near relative much less compartmentalize their emotions and slam the door on that compartment so they can function in the workplace? It is no surprise that companies may find the employees reporting ‘minor’ illnesses like migraines, flu, ulcers, and difficulties in achieving their ‘normal’ production level. Well, duh!

It has been almost six years now since my son, James, died of cancer in September 2004. This summer two of his friends celebrated milestones in their lives. The first got married. The second graduated from college. I rejoiced for both of them and yet, sobbed off and on those days. James would not be going to college. James would not be getting married. And I so I grieved for what would not be.

Grief is a sneaky emotion. Sometimes you can see it coming but most of the time you don’t. I have learned some things that help me pick myself up and move on:

  1. Don’t expect to be super-human. Being human is hard enough. I did not go to the ceremonies of these two men. There were valid reasons for not going but I also did not force myself to go. I sent cards and prayed sincere prayers for them.
  2. Do something that helps you to release the grief. Listening to music that James enjoyed or flipping through pictures and remembering his life brings the emotions gently to the surface for me and are caught in a few tissues.
  3. Get up the next day and put one foot in front of the other. Moving on is not about racing on or leaping on but making progress forward. It may be a small step forward but it is making the choice not to set up camp and live in a spot. It has been a few months and few weeks since the respective events. And I am better than I was before the events.

Grief drives us into habits of serious reflection, sharpens the understanding, and softens the heart.”        – John Adams (1735-1826)