Smiles were hard to come by in this week’s DivorceCare group, as we worked towards understanding the deep sadness everyone was feeling. The reality of what was lost was beginning to set in. It’s not just the marraige that we lose; the relationship, the partner, and the frustrating loss of control. It’s the plans and dreams, relatives, and friends that we shared. It’s the traditions, time with kids, professional or social status, just having someone to bounce ideas off of. This list goes on… Each little loss unseen until we find ourselves face-to-face with it. That’s a lot of small, but deeply painful, things to work through. For instance, imagine if I used to take my niece to a place to get ice cream. Now it’s summer, the kids are on the loose, and I just drove by that place. Now it hits me. We can’t go. She’s not my “niece” anymore because that was his side of the family. What does that make her? My ex-niece? So a child is pulled away, and we’ve lost something special. Ouch.
That’s just one example of a secondary loss. As we move through the weeks and months following our break-up, we start to realize the extent of the losses. Friends we shared choose sides. Favorite restaurants aren’t so appetizing anymore. Vacations to the lake change to someplace new. The dreams for the future dissolve. As a result, we are hit with intense sadness. There’s no death to warrant laying it all to rest, but the losses have to be mourned just the same. Grief creeps in, in it’s own sneaky way. What makes it so hard is because this is divorce, not a death, the expectations are different. We’re expected to show up for work, perform like we always did, remember everything we’re supposed to, and go on with our normal routines. I’ve included this song here because it describes this experience so well.
No one facing significant losses can skip over grief. It has to be processed in order to heal. If we try to cover it up, numb the pain, or brush it off, we might feel a better for a little while, but it’s not going to go away until we deal with it. There’s some things we can do, though, to work through the pain and help ourselves along.
Why are you down in the dumps, dear soul?
Why are you crying the blues?
Fix my eyes on God—
soon I’ll be praising again.
He puts a smile on my face.
He’s my God. – Psalm 42:5 MSG
Joy is so often found in the rearview mirror. We have to remember what was good in order to acknowledge what was lost. We can also find hope in remembering how God made things good in other things we’ve been through, hope that He can do it again. That’s what King David was talking about when he wrote the psalm above, his own personal cure for depression.
Fix my eyes on God—
soon I’ll be praising again
He was reminding himself to remember the times he had reason to dance and sing praises to God. We kind of get to do the same thing. When the pain aches deeply, we can close our eyes and remember what God has done for us in the past. This takes a little practice, but when we can do that, remember how God has eased our pain before, we can know that He will do it again. That’s exercising the faith grown from our own personal experience. That’s what David was doing when he wrote that Psalm. Think back. What prayers has God answered for you in your life? When we remember how God has made us smile before, we can know that He will make us smile again.
Let’s take a deep breath and try something new. This activity is recommended in the DivorceCare 365-Day Devotional, and I like it. It gives us a place to start from to work through these losses and moving beyond them.
- Think of things you have lost in the past, before this divorce: friends, jobs, pets, other relationships, family members.
- Write down these losses and read them out loud. One by One.
- Now think of the current losses from the divorce: daily helper, financial support, status, time with kids, cook, housekeeper, driver, bill-payer, lover, friend, partner. Get specific!
- Now read your current losses out loud, too. One-by-One.
Speaking them out loud might feel silly, but it will help us to recognize, even respect, what we have lost. That acknowledgement is a key step in our recovery, and will help us heal more quickly. These things were once important to us, things we loved, maybe still love, and were a part of our daily life. This exercise gives us a chance to remember the part we loved, mourn the part we lost, and say good-bye. That will bring closure, and with closure we can begin to see beyond the losses, the sadness, and the pain. With closure, we can remember and accept, and we can smile again.
“I’ve come to see that it’s through the deepest suffering that God has taught me the deepest lessons…” – Elisabeth Elliot
You are not alone. Others have recovered from divorce, and so will you. If you’ve found a way to manage your pain that was helpful (and healthy), will you tell us about it? It’s in our struggles that we really come to know God and know ourselves.
Your story can bring hope to someone today.