Divorce is a great loss and a crisis which has a huge impact on the lives of everyone involved. If you have experienced, or are experiencing divorce, my heart goes out to you. I know about divorce. My parents were divorced when I was 12 years old. It was painful and destabilizing for my whole family.
In my years of counseling I have heard many divorcees voice the same concerns. Many express their feelings of loss, betrayal, and confusion. This isn’t the way the story is supposed to end. For many divorcees the question becomes, “Now what?”
Divorce is not the end of the road. It isn’t easy, and it often is not what we would have chosen, but there are still choices you can make as you deal with this new situation.
“I am so tired of feeling the way I do.”
Divorce is painful. There is nothing that will quickly take the pain away. It is something that has to be worked through. If you are experiencing divorce, you are dealing with grief, with rejection, with having your heart broken. Taking away the pain would make you miss out on the growing process which is so necessary to bring about real healing. And you might risk getting into a rebound relationship.
This is the time to work on yourself and personal growth and stabilizing your life. The grief you feel is real. It is normal and is a process that will eventually help your heart to heal. It’s OK to give yourself time to work through this. You don’t have to crumble underneath the weight of this transition. You can learn to grieve and grow.
“I still loved him and hoped his heart would change.”
It is normal to feel that you still love your ex-spouse because you gave your heart away and committed yourself to him or her. You took vows to love him or her until death do you part. Unfortunately, your spouse didn’t keep up their end of the contract. They broke it. You can’t make them change their mind and you wouldn’t want to force them to change their mind.
When you really think about it – you want someone to “freely choose to love you for yourself.” Because “love freely given” is real love. Real love has to come from the person’s heart and volition. Rejection and betrayal are painful. But, would you want your ex back because he or she felt pressured to come back to you? No. In fact, what you rejoiced in when you were first married is that this special person “freely chose you and loved you.” As much as you might want to, you can’t make your ex love you.
“I feel betrayed and rejected.”
The first issue is feeling rejected. Your ex-spouse’s rejection does not change who you are and how valuable you are as a person. The rejection is a choice he or she made – that choice does not determine your worth. You are still a person uniquely made – someone with purpose, talents, and opinions who can make a difference in the world.
The rejection you feel will cause you to feel angry. You will need to work through the anger and the resentment. Anger will help motivate you to work on improving your life — but, be careful because it can cause you to fall into the trap of bitterness.
“Nothing I do seems right anymore... my life feels like a mess.”
Processing your emotions can swallow up to 80% of your energy. That is why you feel confused, and why you feel troubled and question yourself. Your self-esteem has been greatly affected. To top everything off — you feel cut off from people because friendships change when a marriage breaks up. You lose some of your “couple” friends. You feel left out and isolated. You feel depressed because of the divorce and the depression makes you want to isolate yourself. There can be employment and financial difficulties.
I encourage you to fight the depression, which is at the core and causes you to tell yourself, “I am not worth anything, my life is meaningless, nobody cares about me, and I may as well give up.” Start making choices which will keep you going and growing in the right, positive direction. You need to make choices which will keep you working through the grief so you can get on with life after divorce.
"What are the choices I can start making?"
Get counseling and support. You can find a counselor in this AACC directory. Joining a DivorceCare support group is also a great idea.
Begin to journal your grief and feelings.
Start a job search if employment or finances are an issue. Get some help with your resume from someone you know who has some expertise in this area. Get some career guidance from www.crown.org.
Begin to make one goal a week which will help your life improve. Exercise regularly. Eat nutritiously. Develop a friendship.
Accept that life will be a challenge. But look at the challenges as opportunities to grow in faith and in character and in new skills.
Accept the reality that you are divorced. Read how to make the best of your life after divorce with books like Growing Through Divorce by Jim Smoke.
You are dealing with various issues here: the reality of the death of your marriage, the loss of your spouse, the rejection and betrayal, a broken life and dreams. This is huge! This is hard! But, let me say — this crisis is one you can get through to the other side. This loss is one in which God can bring hope and in which you can become strong in the brokenness.
"I don’t know how to work through the pain of divorce quickly."
There is no way to go through it more quickly. But as you do go through this process, your will experience character development and see hope and strength return slowly into your life. This will build a stronger foundation in your life and in your spirit. You can discover new blessings, new treasures, and even a new you – if you determine to make an effort each day.
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©2004 by Lynette J. Hoy, NCC, LCPC
This article was written by: Lynette Hoy, NCC, LCPCPhoto Credit: Sandra Chile