How Do I Know When I’m Healed After Divorce?


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.



  1. David-1103033 October 21, 2015 Reply

    We need to remember the truly Catholic perspective in all this: that spouses who have separated, usually resulting in civil divorce, should be seeking to reconcile and continue in their marriage, even waiting a decent amount of time to see if the issues that caused it can be fixed; and not immediately and automatically be seeking to “move on.” Instead, the first suggestion here is to seek an annulment, essentially used as a Catholic divorce, as a means to possibly free oneself from their spouse. Though we pay lip service to the fact that they are still married, practically we do the opposite. The overall suggestion here is that one is “healed” the more they distance themselves from their marriage/spouse. How far we have sunk in the past several decades, when the approach first mentioned would have been on a Catholic’s mind rather than distancing themselves from their spouse as their ultimate goal. Of course, there is no mention of the biggest victims, children, and how “moving on” hurts them. Or how about witnessing to one’s vows and remaining in one’s divorced state despite whatever happens/whatever the other spouse does, a shocking suggestion in today’s day and age!

    • Joan-529855 October 27, 2015 Reply

      David, no truer words have been written. Please continue to be an advocate for MARRIAGE in this divorce/annulment torn faith. Unfortunately many respondents in the annulment process do not have a voice; an even greater tragedy than civil divorce. And of course, as you mentioned, the greatest tragedy of all is the children and how “moving on”hurts them. The Catholic Church has gone backwards in support of marriage by “streamlining” Catholic divorce so that in a month tribunals will no longer be necessary, a diocesan bishop will have the authority to decide on annulment petitions without a second opinion from another tribunal. AND all appeals after the first decision will be handled by the diocesan bishop with no chance of an appeal to Rome. “Catholic divorce” is the greatest tragedy in the Catholic church, brought to us by none other than the mentally incapacitated Henry VIII. Why the Church would want to follow such a despicable man is beyond me. What a better way to destroy the Church than by destroying the very foundation…..the family. Yes, my marriage is annulled, however I was the respondent, not the petitioner. Unfortunately over 85% of petitions for annulment are granted in my diocese, which is actually lower than most. Pray for the family. Pray for the Roman Catholic Church.

      • Lisa Duffy October 27, 2015 Reply

        Joan – Gotta get your facts straight in regard to the changes.

        1. Only a small percentage of annulments qualify for the “fast track” process which is 45 days (not a month as you state). All other cases will take as long as they take (typically about 18 months). Fast track annulments do not render tribunals as “no longer necessary.”

        2. Appeals can still be made against the judgement of a bishop. The decision in the second instance is what was removed, not the ability to appeal.

        3. An annulment is not a Catholic divorce. A civil divorce assumes to dissolve a marriage union where an annulment simply declares whether there was a valid bond or not.

    • Lisa Duffy October 27, 2015 Reply

      David – It really pains me to read the misconceptions you provide as advice like stating an annulment is a Catholic divorce. While I’m sure your intentions are good and you wish to “educate” other Catholics on how to behave after divorce, you comment with the assumption that all divorced people share the same circumstances and it’s always a very cut and dried issue. But, you’re wrong.

      Contrary to what you incorrectly assume, many people, including myself, fought valiantly to save their marriages and were bold enough to put their pride on the line and ask for reconciliation despite the other spouse’s moving on to another relationship.

      Nowhere have I stated or implied that going through the annulment process is simply a means to separate oneself from their spouse. Because losing a spouse to divorce can be similar to losing a spouse through death, there is a grieving period and when the grieving is over, it’s time to move forward. That is the message of the article.

  2. Joe-1144621 November 14, 2014 Reply

    I am divorced as well just was not ment to be did everything to keep it but can only do so much. I am a catholic and love the faith and church and god and hopefully I can find love again and god will understand that sometimes things are out of your control. lot of good read and good responses in here for sure.

  3. Joe-977649 June 29, 2014 Reply

    Like a cancer that won’t go away. Divorce is a man and/or woman made living death. True love is without end so why does this have to happen? We need to stop wasting our precious time and learn to do more to Forgive and Forget and Live the right way.

  4. Patty-1005326 August 30, 2013 Reply

    What an interesting article Lisa. Thank you for your perspective. I have been working on healing after divorce for going on 6 years. I actually even joined a divorce recovery group and eventually lead it. How I perceived I was “recovering” was when I started singing in the car again, when I went to church to give thanks and when I looked around and wanted to help others. In the divorce group someone said divorce is like when you cut yourself, you bleed , it scars and you heal. However, the scar is always there for you to see and reflect on-sometimes when you press on it, it still hurts. I thought that was an interesting way to look at it.
    I was married for 19 years and my ex husband left my teen aged sons and I, to be with his high school sweetheart. He helped her get out of a bad relationship and is now helping her raise her 3 children. I was left to raise our children alone. I was very angry like Lesley. I understand her pain and frustration. How can someone just check out of being a father- who was this person I married? I chose to forgive him and move on as a single lady, i pray for both of them. I can’t help feeling this is God’s plan for me, because this terrible life event helped me evaluate my relationship with God. He is now such an integral part of my life; I talk to Him daily – the divorce was to me a mixed blessing. I appreciate the advice about the annulment – that must be the reason I felt compelled to join this site. That is my next step…Thank you and God Bless

  5. Elena-1001912 August 29, 2013 Reply

    Lisa, you write some amazing stuff! Thanks for this thread.

  6. Pat-540596 July 30, 2013 Reply

    I meant @ Lesley. Sorry I misspelled your name Lesley. I hope you’ll read my post about annulment from Catholic Church. It’s purely religious church matter. Civil court marriage is still valid.

  7. Pat-540596 July 30, 2013 Reply

    @Leslie. I completely understand what you have been through. I’m also divorced with two children after almost 23 years of marriage. My husband left us for another younger woman, so I filed for divorce to make him pay for child support and make things legal. Annulment does not make your children become illegitimate. It simply make certain whether both parties , the man and the woman were honest and mentally comitted in their right mind in the sacrament of marriage before they got married in church. Like in my case, my husband was legally married with another woman before me without legally divorced from the first marriage in another country. On top of that, my ex was baptized as a Catholic when he was a baby but was also rebaptized as a Mormon when he was a teenager. All these informations were withheld from me until after the divorce. To make the story short, I got an annulment from the church but that does not make my kids illegitimate because the truth came out after the divorce (he had no kids from the previous marriage). It just proved that the father of my kids has no sense of commitment to a legal marriage document in church or in court, even though he obey the court’s law to pay his obligations in child support. Annulment only nullify the church marriage in Faith not the court marriage. The civil marriage will still remain valid in your case. I hope this will help you.

  8. Paul G. July 30, 2013 Reply

    I’m in the process of healing from a divorce. It seems to be taking so very long…I often wonder if there is a key…or the right words. Even God seems too distant and ‘seems’ not to care.
    I even stopped going to Mass. I pray the Rosary daily, but wonder if God hears when a person is in mortal sin?


    • Lisa-727959 July 31, 2013 Reply

      Hi, Paul,

      I’m so sorry to hear of this difficult time you’re going through. I’d be happy to discuss it with you if you’d like. Just email me at and I’ll help in whatever way I can.

      Sincerely – Lisa Duffy

  9. Lesley-987241 July 30, 2013 Reply

    How dare you pontificate and tell people not to date until they have annulment papers. Sometimes I am ashamed to be a catholic the church is so unforgiving if people do not stay married to the same person all their lives.

    I don’t want to receive any more of these bulletins as they upset me too much. My husband LEFT me and our children, but they were still his and as a result of a marriage. I refuse point blank to get an annulment which makes my children into illegitimate children how dare you even suggest that.

    Take me off this stupid circulation list immediately so I don’t receive any more of this rubbish. I didn’t sign on to the dating site to receive all these bulletins.

    • Lisa-727959 July 31, 2013 Reply


      I’m sorry to know you’ve been through such a horrible experience. I’ve been through it myself, so I know how terrible it is. However, the annulment process does not, in any way, illegitimate your children. This is a common misunderstanding that many people have. You can check this in Canon Law 1137 where it plainly states this:

      If your husband left you and your children that is not your fault and you are welcome and encouraged to participate in the sacraments and parish events.

      The annulment process is there to help you heal and help you find your new direction in life. You obviously are still very angry about what happened, and your anger is just. But it would be difficult for you to be happy in a new relationship when your heart is full of anger. To be fair to anyone you date, you should be free of that and ready to love. I encourage you to reconsider the annulment process so you can find that healing.

      Sincerely – Lisa Duffy

  10. Ruby-991269 July 28, 2013 Reply

    I was in a very violent and abusive relationship. As a Catholic, I held on to my marriage for fear of being discriminated against and also of the fact that the church may not agree to an annulment. I felt very trapped, alone and scared; but when I finally came out of it, with the support of my family & priest, I feel much better and happier. However, sometimes I feel there is a part of me that I have lost forever.
    I kind of agree with John that it may be difficult being totally healed because a lot of times, my mind is occupied by my very busy schedule but there are times when occasions or events remind me of the pain or suffering that I went through.
    I still persist in asking God to heal me totally.

  11. John-973410 July 27, 2013 Reply

    Thank you for this realistic post.

    This particular point stood out for me: “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,…”

    I have had to make some very difficult choices but I am happy with those that I have made. I have found meaningful fulfillment in meeting with my Parish Priest and seeking spiritual guidance.

    In a song by the Main Ingredient, “Everybody Plays the Fool” it pretty much sums it up for me.

    I remain hopeful that someday I will find my “match”. Thought I did but it was not meant. Distance is a killer.

    In the end, when we reach the bottom of the barrel we can either burrow further into the wood, or…we can look up and begin to dig out.

    It’s nice to know that I am not “unrealistic” in my sentiment that this 20 year marriage will forever be a part of me, it’s just that now that it’s over, I am moving on to a new chapter in my life. Yes. I may look back. However, I am not going to live in the past. It’s prologue.

    Good article.

  12. Donna-989959 July 26, 2013 Reply

    I found the daily practice of reading or chanting the Psalms healing. It was like for me standing with people across the ages and of course knowing that Jesus read the Psalms as well. The whole psalm was read like in the monastic tradition not like traditional mass ( only snippets) Also finding as many places and times to sit and pray or write. I take a contemplative life seriously. There is no ‘self’ racing past my soul. I don’t find that there’s another way to become as humble and grateful for what we have. Though I was working full time, caring for ‘crumbling’ parents and raising my son on my own.. I was found when I found the time to be whole with those simple words in the Psalms. If one reads the whole Psalms you can see how they reconcile– start out beseeching and end with gratitude.

  13. Jeannie-822585 July 26, 2013 Reply

    I’m so glad you posted this. So many men contact me who are divorced when my profile says clearly that if the man is not free to marry then we won’t be a match. I’m cordial with them and wish them well and then they get upset with me. I hope they read this article about not dating until they receive an annulment.

  14. Kieran-986231 July 25, 2013 Reply

    Thank you for this validation. It is true that healing really takes time. I know I have more healing to do, but so far my healing has been incredible because I have intentionally taken the time to really devote myself to it rather than distracting myself with another relationship like my ex did, or anything else other than God. It’s wonderful to be able to view something traumatic like a divorce as an opportunity to heal and draw closer to God. Suffering is a blessing. Now I’m looking forward to reading those books. Thanks again!

  15. Debbie-514749 July 25, 2013 Reply

    God is amazing….

    I had a moment like you described today…

    I recently met a very good man… but inexplicably, my soul fills to the verge of tears when ever I think of him. While dropping flowers off at my church this afternoon, it dawned on me that this man very poignantly reminds me of the struggles my father bore throughout his entire life. There are similarities in my friend’s life, as well as my own that seemed to have marked our souls with like burdens.

    My Dad committed suicide shortly before my marriage fell apart. I also lost eight babies, two a day after birth, & six miscarriages while inside the marriage. My living children in turn have suffered their own dramas from the dysfunction they lived with. There have been many moments of wondering if it will truly be possible to heal from it all.

    But God always gives us a chance to understand, to heal, to move forward. Surprisingly today… with my soul stripped before Our Lord in His secret tabernacle…. I found myself singing of all things… those inexpressible tears before Him & His invisible court…

    Oh word of God come into this space…
    Oh word of God, come send us your grace…
    Open our minds…
    Show us your truth…
    Transform our lives anew….

    Your blog is a tremendous grace & confirmation for me. I am fumbling with that itch… with an energy that demands expression… With my colors changing from soothing greens & turquoises to hot reds, oranges & pinks, (forgive me. I’m a florist. *smile*),…
    With an interior urge relentlessly pestering me to make changes… God really does heal!

    I’m grateful for your wonderful blogs & insights Lisa. They have been a real tool to foster recovery. God is so very good!

    His Peace….

    • Joan-529855 July 26, 2013 Reply


      Thank you so much for sharing your pain…your crosses to bear.

      Every second of every minute of every hour of every day I keep my mind focused on His love for me and the sacrifice He made so I could have eternal salvation. It is HE who heals me of my pain; it is HE who leads me beside still waters and restores my sole.

  16. Jim-201593 July 25, 2013 Reply

    I had an unfaithful spouse who left me and married a divorced man that she worked with. I was crushed and never thought I would be truly healed. However, healing truly did come to me as my relationship with God became stronger. I then truly forgave my ex-wife and the man she cheated on me with in my heart. I also asked God to forgive them and have mercy on them. From that moment on, the pain left me forever.

  17. Jeffrey-976998 July 25, 2013 Reply

    I can’t speak to number 2, as I haven’t read any of them. But 1, 3 and 4 are exactly the same things I suggest to others in this situation (though I add frequent reception of the Eucharist to #3).

    I know from my own experiences that following these steps could save you years (yes YEARS) of additional, and unnecessary heartache.

    I had intended to petition for an annulment immediately after the divorce. Literally the day I had begun to write it, I broke my hand and was unable to type. By the time my hand had healed, I didn’t want to think about it anymore and put it aside indefinitely.

    Then I met someone and began an 18 month relationship with her. It was very diverting and I wanted even less to do with looking back at my marriage, as was necessary for the petition. In the end, it came crashing down because I never knew if I would be able to commit. Nearly two years in total were wasted because I never knew if I even had grounds for an annulment. Such a thing can never be presumed.

    Add in an additional 17 months for the annulment process and the healing of a newly broken heart. Lost time for me? Three and half years and counting. Time that a middle-aged man who would like another child cannot afford to waste.

    If you’re tempted to not take number 4 seriously, I beg you to reconsider. It is terribly unjust to both parties to begin something that you have no idea if you will be able to finish, regardless of your intentions. In fact, this entire post is serious business and, in my opinion, one would ignore at their own peril.

    • Debbie-514749 July 25, 2013 Reply

      This is very beautiful Jeffrey …. and so honest & true…
      Thank you for sharing…

  18. Martina-464542 July 25, 2013 Reply

    I cried when I read this, I have been widow two times, the first time
    I were expecting my first child, I do not know which is harder if divorce or death, I pray for you.


    • Jack-752986 July 25, 2013 Reply

      Martina, I am very sorry for your losses. :praying:

      I have read that Divorce is often more difficult than Death. The reason given is that Death is a one time event. But Divorce is a deep wound that is constantly refreshed if either of the parties involved is so inclined.

      Prayers for all those so afflicted.

      • Linda-986664 July 26, 2013 Reply

        Jack, your words hit a chord with me and are so true.

  19. Nicole-993624 July 25, 2013 Reply

    This applies to grieving and healing at the loss of a spouse too. I cried when I read this. Thank you – I may look into getting those books you recommended as well.

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