Divorce Recovery 101

This is my follow-up post to “But You’re a Preacher”. I want to visit this topic once more before moving on. My focus here is broader, of course, than the previous post and- as I try to communicate with the cute little “101” addition to the title- it will only touch the surface of this complex challenge. And because I am in a “just the facts. ma’am” writing mood, I will cut the fluff and get right to the main points. As always I would appreciate your shared wisdom on this topic.

Here are some simple truths about divorce recovery:

  • There is no set formula. Recovery happens in different ways for different people.
  • There is no projected time-frame. Again, different people handle their recovery on different schedules. Anyone suggesting it is time “to get over it” to someone recovering from a divorce has usually never been through a divorce themselves.
  • Recovery can happen! For those immersed in recent divorce this is the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel. Eventually they can see it and embrace it.

Here is what I see as key elements in the process of recovery:

  • Survival. At first, this is the main priority. For anyone left in the shock waves of an unwanted and unanticipated separation and divorce, it is just about making it- one day at a time. And just a footnote here for those wanting to help during this stage- just be there for your hurting friends. Words and cliches like “time heals all wounds”- even spoken in the best of intentions don’t help. Just be there.
  • Counsel. I would highly recommend anyone going through divorce to seek counseling- specifically Christian counseling. A good counselor will help sort out all of the many powerful emotions felt in the aftermath of divorce and suggest helpful and healthy ways of processing them. Without this kind of guidance you may turn to other much more spiritually damaging ways to process the anger and hurt you feel. This path will not aid in healthy recovery and may only compound your challenges.
  • Write. This was a major catharsis for me. My counselor encouraged me- when I was overwhelmed with emotion- to write it all out, often in the form of a letter addressed to my ex-spouse. Write, then set the letter aside, sleep on it and then re-read it the next day. After this reading in the light of a new day- then decide to send it or throw it away. Many, many letters ended up as a crumpled ball in the waste basket, but just the process of freely expressing these emotions was powerful therapy.
  • Surround yourself with support. This goes beyond counseling to your friends. Close friends and family go through divorce with you and sometimes this process is too painful for them and a distance is created between you. Don’t dwell on that. Other friends may be there for you, but their attitude may not be helpful in a recovery process. So, try to surround yourself with folks who will be a positive support- folks who will gently help you move forward with your life.
  • Try something new. In my divorce recovery process I found two new passions- regular exercise and snow skiing. I joined a gym and turned into a gym rat. In some ways it was an escape, but the exercise had very positive results in aiding my recovery. I also found the beauty and thrill of skiing to be a releasing experience. Look for something new to get involved in- that is just your thing. It will be more helpful than your may realize at the time.
  • But don’t overreact. I did. I went out on a date one week after my divorce was final. Big mistake. I traded in my comfy truck for a Mustang which I could barely fit into. I corrected that about a year later! lol Let the healing take place naturally and don’t rush it by jumping into to things too early.  They could bring more complications than you need at that point in your recovery.
  • Acceptance. This has to come- this acceptance of divorce and life as it is. This is not about defeat but about a new reality- one in which there are unique opportunities to serve God as a single person. Related to this, there also has to be an acceptance of the fact that many of the “why” questions will not be answered- ever. This was not easy for me- at first- but eventually it no longer mattered.
  • Forgive. This is the most important point by far. This too will come- in time- by letting God lead and working through the recovery process. Forgiveness is the vital element in recovery and being able to fully engage life again. At least it was for me. When I wrote that letter- and mailed it- it fully opened up the next chapter in my life. I was no longer held prisoner by anger, bitterness, hopelessness or any other negative emotion. Unless we fully forgive we will not fully recover.

These are the bascis which helped in my personal recovery journey. The best news in all of this- no matter what form healthy recovery may take- is that God is faithful through it all. His constant source of love, acceptance and hope is the anchor of real recovery. Don’t- in reacting from being put in this unwated divorce situation- neglect your relationship with him. Regardless of how it may “feel”, he will never leave you or forsake you.

Wow, such a short course on such a complicated issue, but I hope you know- if you are going through a divorce- that healing and recovery is not only possible, in God, it is assured. Hang in there with him and see where he takes you on this journey. Wherever it goes- it will be refreshing.


You are invited to check out this new blog by Danny Holman. Danny is the preacher for my home church in Greenville, MS. 



20 Responses to Divorce Recovery 101

  1. Darin says:

    Danny, thanks for that. It is good information to have even if you are not going through divorce. It can help as you walk with others.

  2. That Girl says:

    I remember timing myself to see how long I could go without crying. I’m not a very open person so I didn’t go to counseling. Maybe it would’ve been good but I made it anyway. God absolutely picked me up and carried me. There is no other way to describe it. That experience is what brought me to the love and trust and faith in God that I have today and I have to be thankful for that.

    I had a good group of friends for support. Jeff and I were able to continue in a loving friendship which helped.

    One word of advice to those who want to help. Don’t ever be negative about the ex. It forces us to “take up” for the one we love and it brings up the hurt again.

  3. Don’t overreact is a point well taken. Statistics show that a divorced person is generally not ready for a new steady relationship for at least 2-5 years after the divorce is final…at least that is what I was taught in my counseling courses at Harding Grad.

    And in working with children of divorce for the past several years, NEVER make your children “message carriers” or “pawns” in your divorce. Divorce is a grown-up problem. Your children did not cause it. They probably did not want it and they should NEVER have to listen to one parent bad-mouth the other! In fact, I tell my children clients to say to a parent who is putting them in the middle that they have the right to say in a clam, rational voice, ” Divorce is a grown up problem. I am a kid and I love my mom/dad. You need to talk to mom/dad about that.”

  4. mike exum says:

    It is a simplistic platitude to say that “Jesus is the answer” and saying it will not help, but it is nonetheless true, isn’t it? So let’s go inside of that a bit and explore what it means – how it can free the imagination.

    I popped in on the discussion a bit late for your last post. But I was hoping to stir up some thoughts on what role the broken church has played in our divorces. I believe that the splintering of the church has left her no room to criticize and no power to help. The church is the Body of Christ -says Paul. Christ is the image bearer – say the gospels and Paul again. Thus, the church bears the image of God into the world today. But this image is broken BADLY. And I think that broken image is a shame on us. Shame shame shame. Anyone who ever read my blogs knows that I am a HUGE critic of the church – especially my own heritage (Churches of Christ). My strong critique enflamed passions on some occasions. But I have not backed off. And now that I see how devastating our Christendom (post Luther) church has been on my marriage, I am quite frankly P*SSED OFF!

    However, I reconize two important things that temper this attitude (THOUGH IN NO WAY DENYING IT), 1) I cannot lay sole blame on the church – there is PLENTY that stops with me personally and 2) it is not enough to blame and leave it at that. Though it is necessary to evaluate where we are and how we got here in order to have bearings on a way forward, we must ultimately make our way to “recovery” as you have termed it here.

    I am making a plea for Christian Unity here, but it is based on an observation from a broken marriage. This is a new twist, as I see it, and extremely visceral. But we absolutely must patch together our love for the WHOLE BODY of CHRIST, not just our little segment or our pet preachers, doctrines and stances etc etc. Basically, I am saying, HUG A BAPTIST TODAY! Do it quick; do it today lest we invite Hell on Earth.

    I am sure that there are no problems in this life that God’s mere presence will not mend. If he would but express himself to the damaged places, they would smarten up quick. We are his image bearers. We absolutely MUST criticize ourselves and love our neighbors, rather than the otherway round, so that his image will shine through and heal our marriages!

    This may all sound like desperate rantings, and they are, but sit with it please. Consider it carefully. The implications are real and deeper than readily manifested. There are authorities and powers in the air waging war with us. My marriage is a casualty of that war. The church was NO help to me. Shame on us. But let us love with Christian charity as the Body of Christ and see if that won’t effect our marriages too.

    Blogger formerly known as Messianic Gentile

  5. dannydodd says:

    Darin, feel free to share this- with anyone- if you think it may help.

    Terri and Tammie- great contributions both- shedding some more light on this from your individual perspectives. Talking trash may be an easy reaction but it does not help any- period. It only contributes to the alienation.

    And Mike- wow- this is a new twist on the topic, for me anyway. I do see some connection here- fractured churches and fractured families. My first reaction is not as passionate as yours, but I will think on it.

    I wonder if anyone else will pick up your thought and comment on it?

  6. Royce says:

    What do you think the odds are that two people would ever find themselves in divorce court if they treated each other in these ways?

    longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.

    Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
    Love never fails.

    I suppose a good question to ask anyone considering divorce would be, have you tried these things? Perhaps you should consider them before making your final decision.

    (I speak as a person who has been divorced. My former wife did not exhibit many of these characteristics. Sadly, and to my shame, I did not either.)

    His peace,
    Royce Ogle

  7. Teresa says:

    In our society we all need to “get ready” for divorce. As Christians we never think it will happen to us, but about half of us reading this post may well experience it first hand. If you don’t experience divorce in your own relationship, it will in some way touch your life: a friend, an elder, a child, a parent. The effects are far-reaching. It is good for us to share this dialogue about dealing with divorce before we are in the emotional middle of it. Thanks Danny for bringing it to the table!

  8. dannydodd says:

    Royce- you bring an important element into this discussion. Maybe if we had more focus on divorce prevention, then maybe we would not have to talk about divorce recovery nearly as much.

    And Teresa is right on the money- unforetunately everyone’s life today will be effected by divorce in some way. The way to prepare is dialogue. That is one very postive thing about the nature of blogging- it allows us to do just that in a much wider scope than ever before.

  9. J D says:

    Great post. But I liked your Mustang.

  10. Survival is something that must come first. It is amazing how difficult simply getting out of bed could be or even eating … I lost 24 pounds in six weeks.

    It is good to see some folks blogging about this theme for it is so important. I thank you for it. I wrote about tears on my own blog and giving yourself permission to grieve is important to. Coming to a point where we say I must go on is also quite difficult and writing and talking about it are cathartic. We need to give people permission to be angry.

    I appreciate your post. Thanks for sharing it.

    Seeking Shalom,
    Bobby Valentine

  11. Great post -you made some good points.

    There are a whole raft of emotions that we go through when we are getting divorced (rejection, guilt, anger, grief) but once we have worked through them we can grow stronger.

    There is life after divorce and quite often it is a better life.

    The most important point is that we need to learn to love ourselves before we can love someone else.

    Annie O’Neill

  12. xybatt says:

    Bobby, after anger comes bargaining………….hang in there! My divorce gave me something to do in the Lord. Blessings are funny things.
    I find that most people solve their pain with another relationship….immediately. Bad choice.

  13. dannydodd says:

    JD likes all Mustangs- it is his dream car! lol

    Bobby, I remember going through the same thing. It is not a diet anyone would want to undertake though- that is for sure.

    I checked out Annie’s website and blog. She seems to have some very good resources for those going through divorce.

    I like what Jim said, that blessings are funny things- we never know where God wil take us when we give ourselves to him.

    Thanks Matthew for the encourging words and the visit to the blog!

  14. Preacherman says:

    Powerful post.
    Great and wonderful points.
    You are being a testimony and help to so many hurting people right now.
    God bless you brother for all you are doing and continue to do for those who are experiencing divorce.
    I hope you brother had a wonderful earth day! :-).
    I pray that God blesses your week in a wonderful and powerful way.
    In Him,
    Kinney Mabry

  15. Adam G. says:

    Excellent post. The part about avoiding cliches and talking a lot to people going through divorce is valid for a lot of life issues, such as grief recovery. I know. Well meant words can really hurt.

  16. Adam G. says:

    Regarding Royce’s comment, it is very difficult for one marriage partner to continue exhibiting those aspects of love without reciprocity. It does take two to tango, and if one person just takes and takes and takes but never gives and keeps criticising, there comes to be a limit. We are only human, after all.

  17. clint vaughn says:

    i didn’t read anybodies comments, i hurt so bad over my wife divorcing me i was married 25 yrs. raised 4 children she met a guy on my space and convinced my children she was justified divorcing me. now none of my children and i speak they are 3@23yrs age and 1@26yrs age this is horrible to me sometimes i think this is just some horrible nightmare it has been 2yrs now and i still hurt i wish i could not feel anything like they all do

  18. Chris says:

    Great post. It’s good to see people reflecting on their experiences and posting after experiencing healing.

    For those looking for guidance through the process we offer some great resources at Fresh Start Divorce Recovery.



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