Unlike the death of a loved one, where friends gather around to comfort, grieve with you, bring you meals and attempt to help you through your mourning, divorce often causes friends and family to scatter like leaves on a windy day. Not knowing what to say or how to relate to both parties in the marriage, many people resort to silence and distance. Those going through a divorce are often unsure how to navigate the waters of being single again and don’t know how to talk about the pain, disappointment and loneliness they are experiencing. The strong beliefs held about the permanence of marriage can lead many undergoing a divorce to feel a strong sense of shame and failure, causing them to withdraw even further. They may not feel welcomed at church or in groups where they sense judgement and condemnation.
I still believe strongly in the importance of strong, healthy marriages. I believe this commitment and permanence is as important to a healthy community as stable leadership is to an organization or business. As a counselor, I desire to help married couples who are struggling and sliding toward divorce to find the insights, personal growth and courage to fight for the family they have built together. But I do believe that we live in a world where wounds are often deep, abuse can scar a heart and leave it unyielding, anger and addictions can destroy the motivation and desire to find the path toward unity. A marriage cannot be built by one person and sometimes the only option available, especially if there is abuse or one spouse leaves, is to end the relationship.
This is extremely sad. It broke my heart, causing me intense shame, embarrassment and loneliness. I wondered what others were thinking and definitely cared too much about how I was perceived and whether I was now being judged as I had judged others. Ouch!
In a divorce support group I attended, one of the women shared advice she had received from her counselor, “What other people think of me is none of my business.” Genius! This advice was a game changer for me, even if it is hard to live by at times. I was the only one who could make decisions for my life. Of course, I wanted to seek wisdom from God and feedback from supportive family and friends that had earned the right to speak truth to me. Ultimately, however, I am the one who has the responsibility to follow the path I believe God has for me.
Healing from divorce takes time and a conscious effort to change some of the unhealthy patterns that contributed to the pain of the previous relationship. Take that time, find a counselor, get involved in a support group and allow God to shine the light of hope into the future. In the next post, I’d like to share a few things that helped me as I journeyed through the aftermath of my divorce. I'd like to hear what has helped you too. See you there!