A common question among people trying to rebuild their lives after divorce is, what does it really mean to be healed? Does it mean you will never feel the terrible pain anymore?
The pain and suffering that results from going through a divorce can be debilitating. It is real, it is palpable, and you can’t just pop a few aspirin and make it go away. It is with you every moment of the day. Hearing a song, seeing a picture or encountering some other reminder of your ex-spouse can intensify the pain to the point it seems unbearable. In trying to imagine being completely healed and not having to suffer through the pain anymore, it might seem impossible, as if it will never happen. How could something so intense not affect you in some way for the rest of your life?
It is true that these traumatic life events affect us to our very core because we are frail humans, flesh and blood with hearts that were made for love. There will always be a place in your heart that is affected by what happened to you.
However, it is also true that in experiencing true healing, the pain will gradually fade and lose its sting. One day, it will become a dull prick to your heart that gets your attention, but doesn’t ruin your day or cause you to emotionally break down. Despite the memories that may come back without warning, they will be passing and will have no ability to disturb the joy and peace you have in your new chapter of life.
This might make some people sad, ironically, because if the pain has dulled and has no affect, it means they have let go of their marriage, and this can be a hurtful thought. They didn’t want to be divorced, they wanted to remain married and to let go of their marriage is unthinkable.
You might see yourself in this scenario, and if so, this is natural. Some people become very comfortable in their pain because it is a way of hanging on to the marriage they want so badly to have restored. The pain becomes their constant companion, much like their spouses were. As long as the pain is there, they have a connection to that person they love, even if they are steeped in resentment and anger. Somehow, letting go seems like saying they don’t care about their marriage. The pain keeps them tethered to the spouse they are unwilling to let go of. They would rather lead a life of pain and suffering than let go of the threads that keep them tied to their ex-spouse.
When I was going through my divorce, a wise man once told me that some day in the future when I was remarried and had children and a full life, I would find a memento from my marriage or watch a movie, hear a song… something that would bring back painful memories of my divorce and he told me it would hurt. I might even shed a tear. And you know what? He was right. That did happen but the great thing about that is, it didn’t wreck my day. Heck, it didn’t even wreck the moment. It just happened and then I kept going. There was great freedom in that experience. My first marriage was important to me and being able to still have a reaction to that devastating time in my life, but still be a happy person, meant everything. It meant I was truly healed.
The Anatomy Of Pain
There’s something really important to understand about the pain you are experiencing – pain is not a one-dimensional phenomenon. There are multiple layers of pain that are contributing to your overall suffering. For example, you may have had traumatic events during your marriage that are associated with this pain such as the loss of a child or an irreparable breach between family members. If you felt unloved by your own parents or even if you just have unresolved guilt over things you’ve done in the past, the feeling of failure that comes with divorce drags these other emotions out into the open. These are the layers of pain that are connected to the pain of your divorce. You may not be grieving your entire past, but it’s likely there are other events connected with your marriage that you are grieving as well.
This is why it is so important to take the time you need to properly heal. You need to be able to turn over every stone, analyze every detail until you make peace with it all and feel comfortable enough to detach from it and move forward. The worldly answer to grief—covering up the pain with sex, alcohol or drugs, etc. to feel better—is never satisfactory. It will never be enough. It takes grace to heal and grace to overcome. Only God can dispense the graces we need to truly heal.
The best recommendation I can make to anyone who is in this situation is to spend as much time in Eucharistic Adoration as possible because you will have the personal time with Our Lord that is essential to healing. If you do not have access to an adoration chapel, keep prayer in your day as much as possible and find other resources to help you heal. If you’d like my personal recommendations, click here for a free download. And don’t forget, you can send me your questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.