Living Again After Divorce

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Like a biting arctic wind, Roger's note stung bitterly and cut deeply into Ruth's heart.

From outward appearances Roger and Ruth's twenty-eight year marriage seemed to be very happy and secure.

One afternoon, however, after a very pleasant lunch date with Roger, when Ruth returned home, she found a note on her pillow. It read, "Dearest Ruth, "you have been a wonderful wife and mother. I could never have asked for anything more." After more flowery compliments, Roger continued, "But I'm in love with another woman. I've left home. You will hear from my lawyer very soon."

Ruth was devastated. It took several days to get over the shock before she could even cry. She pleaded with Roger to come home, but her pleas fell on deaf ears. She was left with divorce papers, shattered dreams and a broken heart.

Sadly, Ruth's story is being repeated many times every day. In the U.S.A. there are two divorces for every four marriages. And by the turn of the century half the adult population will be single. In other Western countries there is also a high divorce rate.

Divorce is one of the most painful experiences any family can experience. It's not only the death of a marriage, but also the death of dreams and hopes, and can be more painful than physical death which at least has a finality to it.

A broken arm takes six weeks to heal.
Broken hearts take much longer.

Of one thing we can be sure, however, even though God hates divorce (as well as everything else that is harmful to people), he loves divorced people and families and wants them to be healed and made whole. The healing or recovery process may not be easy but it sure beats staying in the valley of despair. So, if we have experienced the tragedy of divorce, how can we recover, grow through it and allow it to make us much healthier persons?

First, acknowledge the loss. After the initial shock it's tempting to go into denial either by refusing to face the reality of what has happened or by burying our feelings of hurt, anger and grief. So the first step in recovery is to face the reality of the situation and be truly honest with how we feel.

Second, accept the pain as being normal. Pain is nature's way to tell us something is broken and needs fixing. Whether a broken arm or a broken heart, the pain needs to motivate us to get the help we need to heal and to take proper care of ourselves.

Third, realize that this, too, will pass. With divorce it is easy to feel that life is over and that we will never love again. However, if we work through the recovery process, the pain will pass and we can come out much healthier and more mature persons.

Fourth, don't waste your pain, invest it. The greatest way we can invest our pain is to use it to motivate us to grow and become better persons, and then support others who are going through divorce and help them to see that they, too, can survive and become happier, healthier persons.

Fifth, give yourself time to heal. A broken arm takes six weeks to heal. Broken hearts take much longer but not forever. As we work through the recovery steps, we will heal. For some it make take up to a year or more. But if we still haven't resolved our pain after say two years, chances are we haven't faced or dealt with our feelings and that is keeping us stuck. If this is your case, I suggest getting professional counsel to help you work through your loss and the recovery process.

Sixth, do your grieving now. With all loss there are many emotions such as hurt, anger, guilt, and deep grief all of which need to be expressed creatively otherwise they will be acted out destructively. Find a safe person to share them with even if it has to be a professional counselor. If we put walls around our negative feelings we also block out our positive feelings. A vital part of the healing process is to weep and even sob out our grief. As Jesus said, "Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted."1

Seventh, forgive to be free. Failing to forgive keeps us bound to the past but to make genuine forgiveness possible, we need to resolve and get rid of all our negative emotions of hurt, anger and grief. Unless we do this, we will take our negative emotions into all our future close relationships.

Eighth, let go of the past. I've worked with people who were divorced as long as twenty years ago and were still hanging onto the fantasy that their ex-spouse would return even though they had remarried. We need to work through our pain, then let go of it. It helps to hand our failures over to God, ask for his forgiveness for our part in the marriage break up, receive it by faith and then forgive ourselves. Then leave it with God and get on with life.

Ninth, guard against a rebound. Rushing into another romantic relationship too soon can cause us to avoid facing the pain of our marriage breakup and then, if we marry before resolving our past, we are just as likely to repeat it.

If we marry before resolving our past,
we are just as likely to repeat it.

Tenth, get into a support group. None of us can make it alone. We weren't meant to. We need to be connected to safe, supportive, accepting and non-judgmental people. We got hurt in hurtful relationships and get healed in wholesome relationships. The Bible says, "God sets the lonely in families."2 He does this through other people and the closest thing we can get to a family is a small support and recovery group.

Eleventh, realize that failure is never final and that the only real failure is not to get up one more time than we fall down.

Twelfth, call on God for help. Any failure or divorce can be "God's wake up call" to show us that we need to get into recovery and grow. Especially pray that God will show you the truth of what you contributed to your marriage breakup and why you were attracted to the person you married in the first place. The danger is that what we don't resolve we are destined to repeat.

Remember that no matter what you have ever done or failed to do, God loves you and wants to make you whole. As his Word says,

"Consider it pure joy, my brothers [and sisters], whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything."3

With God's help, the support of safe friends, and working through the recovery process you will find healing from your hurt and a greater measure of wholeness and spiritual enrichment.

NOTE: For more in-depth help be sure to read the author's book, How to Mend a Broken Heart available from your local bookstore or from ACTS International at:

1. Matthew 5:4, NIV; 2. Psalm 68:6, NIV; 3. James 1:2-4, NIV.

Written and Copyright 2001 by Dick Innes

2001 ACTS International. Used by permission.