Judging by the content of many emails I’ve been receiving this last month, it seems that many of you out there who have gone through a divorce and have been struggling to rebuild your life are beginning to turn a corner. Congratulations! As slow as it may have seemed to get you to this point, that is a significant change for you… when you start seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.
Approaching this point naturally brings up an important question: How do you know when you are healed?
Many years ago when I was seeing a Catholic therapist, I asked the same question one day as we discussed my progress. His answer was one I hadn’t expected. He told me that one day ten years from then when I was married and happy, I would see a movie or hear a song or come face-to-face with something else that would conjur up memories of my ex-spouse and the divorce, and it would make me cry.
This certainly was not the answer I was looking for, but he went on to explain by saying there was nothing wrong with that happening. I was human and to expect that my divorce would one day no longer have an affect on me was to have false expectations. But the test would be how I handled it. Would I feel sad, let it pass, and then get on with what I was doing? Or would I let it ruin my day and make me fall apart? The choice was mine.
Personally, I agree with him. Through personal experience and hearing stories others have shared with me, I don’t believe a person is ever fully healed from their divorce. It’s a traumatic and life-changing loss that affects you deeply. It becomes a part of who you are and for that reason, I believe the memories of what happened will always hurt, even in small degrees.
But they will fade into the background, if you let them. And there will come a point where you will feel as healed as you can possibly get. And a lot of getting to that point depends upon the choices you make now, just like the one that my therapist pointed out to me.
So what is the gauge for knowing you’re ready to move on? The best way I can describe is it’s like feeling an itch. It was feeling this sort of interior itch that told me I was no longer able to stay where I was and it was time to move forward. Time for the next step. That itch didn’t hold any other particular answers, just that it was time to move on.
So as you move forward, here are some suggestions that will help provide clarification:
1. Go through the annulment process if you haven’t already. If you do this with an openness to the truth and with the simple intention of asking God to show you what your new direction in life is, instead of doing with the intention of getting remarried, you will experience healing on a level all its own. It will help you completely close that chapter of your life and give you the freedom to move forward with whatever decision the tribunal makes.
2. Read any or all of these specific books:
- How To Forgive Yourself And Others, by Fr. Eamon Tobin
- A Heart Like His, Fr. Thomas Williams, LC
- I Believe in Love: A Personal Retreat Based on the Teaching of St. Thérèse of Lisieux, Jean C. J. d’Elbée
- Lady In Waiting, Jackie Kendall/Debbie Jones (for women)
- When God Writes Your Love Story: The Ultimate Guide to Guy/Girl Relationships, Eric and Leslie Ludy
These books really help prepare one’s heart to look forward with hopeful joy.
3. Go to Eucharistic Adoration as much as possible to seek guidance and inspiration.
4. Be social, but don’t date until you have a decree of nullity. You need social relationships to help you heal, just do it in groups instead of one-on-one with the opposite sex. That way, you can take it slowly and have your feet firmly planted on the ground.
Most importantly, now that you are beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel, make most of this time to firm up your relationship with God so the most important relationship you have is the most solid one. It will help you as you navigate the new chapter of your life.