Perhaps one of the most difficult aspects of going through a divorce is saying yes to the change, your “new normal.” Even many spouses in troubled marriages (not abusive ones) would rather work to fix what’s wrong instead of ending the relationship! Most often, though, the abandoned spouse is forced to embrace a life he/she doesn’t want and ask the children to do the same. It’s unfair, unjust, and a horrible reality to face.
How do you cope with this new reality? I recently received this note from a reader asking this same question:
My divorce was final Oct. 15, just a few months and it feels like I’m barely afloat in a life full of constant tears. I want to move forward but all I can do is look back at what went wrong. I still love my ex-husband but am so angry. It was so important for him that I go through RCIA, etc. so that we could have a Holy marriage in the eyes of the Catholic faith. When he told me on Valentine’s Day (same holiday he proposed) that he wanted a separation, I asked him what about our vows & why did he have me go through RCIA, first Communion, confirmation if it was no longer important to him? His response was, “Yeah, I’m sorry I put you through all that… I don’t believe in the Catholic faith anymore.” This still is such a shock to me because God and my faith has been my saving grace through this divorce. My Priest has stated that he said this to me because it takes away the guilt he’s feeling about being the one abandoning our family. There are days I believe that 15 1/2 years were a waste of my life and there are other day’s I’m thankful that he not only gave me my three wonderful kids but the Catholic faith also. I know it’s been a short year of pain, but I want to know when this pain will go away, when will I stop loving him and when will I be able to forgive him?
These are big, important questions and deserve much more time for a response than can be dedicated here, but I would like to offer some suggestions on how to cope that can be a beginning:
1. The first 3-6 months after your spouse walks out are typically spent trying to get your feet firmly planted on the ground as you recover from the shock of what’s happened. Divorce is shocking. Being abandoned by someone you trust is shocking! Extreme emotions are normal and you need time to get them under control. Try not to make any big decisions during this time if you can help it, and don’t be hard on yourself because of the way you feel. It’s normal.
2. Unfortunately, this pain will accompany you for a long time. The best thing you can do is find ways to manage it so it doesn’t control you. It’s important for you to give yourself permission to feel bad because otherwise, the temptation is there to ignore it. Ignoring it will only backfire on you so give yourself permission, but also give yourself some parameters. For example, if you’re having difficulty making it through the work day because of things that happen or strong emotions, promise yourself that you will take a few breaks to be alone and can be upset during that time. That makes it easier to deal with people without breaking down in front of them.
3. Try to remember the proverbial fire you are walking through will be a cleansing one. I’m sure it doesn’t feel that way now, but one day you will look back and see that God was with you and working your circumstances for your good. Until that happens, let these experiences, as awful as they are, draw you closer to Christ. He will give you consolation and solace, especially if you seek Him in the sacraments.
4. Wanting to forgive is already winning half the battle. Many people believe it is impossible to forgive their ex-spouses so desiring the ability to forgive means you’re way ahead of the game. Just keep in mind that forgiveness is something that must be practiced every day. One day you may feel you have forgiven your ex-spouse and the next the anger may overtake you all over again. Don’t worry, this too is normal. Just take it day-by-day and one day you will have achieved the forgiveness that lasts.
There is life after divorce. You won’t always feel as bad as you do in the beginning. But your divorce does not define who you are and you must remember this as you move forward. This too shall pass, even though it seems impossible. Let this experience change you for the better… make you stronger, wiser, and a better person for the experience.
Got questions? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow me on Twitter at @lisaduffy.