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.