Separation & Divorce – The Grieving ProcessBy
The death of a marriage is very very similar to the death of a loved one. In some ways, it can be worse (in my opinion).
For me, the death of my husband’s love for me and the subsequent destruction of our marriage was the worst thing I’d ever experienced. The extenuating circumstances, of course, have a lot to do with the level of pain involved.
As I went through separation and divorce, I felt, and still feel, that the only pain that could have been worse would have been the death of one of my children.
From the time my marriage was dealt the first really destructive blow until the day the divorce was final was a period of 2 1/2 years. That was a time of intense pain, disappointment, fear, panic, denial, hope (occasionally), strength… and weakness.
For well over a year, I cried at least once every day…but it was usually more than once. Up until that point, I had cried maybe once every 5 years, if that! In other words, I’m not a crier by nature, so this was way out of character for me and it was horrid.
What would make the tears start?
- a thought – a memory
- a song playing in the background at the grocery store
- the sight of couples
- the sight of families with both a mom AND a dad
- a thought – a memory
- a commercial on tv
- thoughts and memories!
How do you work towards making the crying stop?
- stop dwelling on things that upset you! This takes practice. When you realize what’s happening, stop and forcefully tell yourself, “Stop thinking about it. This is not helping.”
- say a prayer for help – especially ask for help from the Holy Spirit. Strength is His specialty!
- let time take its course and know that it will work its magic
- whenever you can, do things that make you happy
- spend time with friends and family
- watch movies with happy endings!
- watch funny movies! laughter heals…
- focus on your children
- take the time you need to grieve but don’t allow yourself to dwell on grieving! Some people find that giving themselves a set amount of time during the day to grieve helps. Try it.
The other thing that was really difficult to handle during that time was simply the act of waking up in the morning and realizing that, oh yeah, I’m living in a nightmare…
Separation and divorce are HARD! It’s a huge loss of not only your current love and life but your plans and dreams for the future and even the memories of your past because they become a source of pain. And, of course, it’s a huge loss of innocence for our children. They also go through a terribly frightening time over which they have NO control.
Quite often, the spouse who is left is also the parent who remains with the children. This is a blessing as well as an added difficulty. Here we are dealing with horrendous feelings of betrayal and trying to cope with our losses…and we need to push that aside as much as is humanly possible and help our children to cope with the situation and try to understand what they’re dealing with and not really being able to fully understand that. And try to figure out how best to help them. Of course, also quite often, the father is forced to leave the house even if he’s not the one who wants the marriage to end. Then, he finds himself not only without his marriage and home but without his children! That is truly a tragedy and these fathers, especially, need our prayers.
For over a year I was virtually a zombie going through the motions of surviving and helping my children to survive while TRYING to move forward into a new future that we were all being forced into. It was truly living in hell.
But there’s strength in you that you can (and must) tap into. I look back on those years and marvel at what I was able to accomplish while seemingly running on autopilot. And that’s a source of pride for me (I know…pride is a vice but everything in moderation, right? )
Knowing that I could function (and function well) under such terribly difficult circumstances has opened my eyes and made me so much stronger. I absolutely know that I can handle anything that life throws at me and come through it okay. That knowledge is a gift from God.
For those of you who are currently experiencing separation and divorce, please know that you, too, will come through it and know happiness again. During this time, don’t hesitate to depend upon friends and family who are offering their help. Let them bring you meals, or take you out or take care of the kids so you can have some time to yourself or loan you money or listen to you as you rant and rave and cry for the umpteen millionth time or….whatever. They WANT to help and your letting them do so makes them feel good AND it helps YOU and your children immensely.
IF you’re not near family and friends who can help, join a group for divorced and separated Catholics. (even if you DO have friends and family nearby, this is a good idea) Hopefully, your parish or a parish nearby has such a group. There are also groups online that can be very helpful (THIS one comes to mind! Feel free to leave comments or contact me through my email at the bottom of the left hand column if you’d like. Actually, this post is the result of a comment left on another post.) Sometimes simply having a place to vent and people who let you know that you’re not the only one going through this is SO helpful.
Know that you DO have the strength to get through this. Lean on your faith, your loved ones, and your inner strength. It IS there.
Know that your children WILL be all right in the end. Just keep loving them and don’t, under ANY circumstances, spend time telling them how awful their other parent is…that may make you feel good in a particular moment but it will hurt your children. If there’s reason to physically or emotionally protect your children from their other parent, then, by all means, do that but there’s still no reason to tell them that their other parent is a low life. Explain whatever is absolutely necessary to explain to them with great gentleness and caring – not vindictiveness against your spouse. Tell them that their other parent is going through a difficult time and is making (or has made) some poor decisions. Ask them to pray for their other parent. And explain to them what needs to be done or avoided in order to protect yourself and/or them at this time (but only if there’s truly a need to protect yourselves from your spouse). And be sure to get the help that you need according to your particular situation. In other words, take the high road (have integrity) at all times. It might be hard right now but you’ll be so glad you did and the benefits are great. (that was off topic but I felt it was important to talk about….)
Just this week the following website was brought to my attention – www.catholictherapist.com . You can go there and, hopefully, find a Catholic therapist in your area!
One last thought to leave you with….my divorce was final almost 7 years ago. I still experience the rare moment when I grieve over what happened and even have a few tears come. However, I AM happy again. I can honestly say that life is good! My children are doing remarkably well and I have hope for all of our futures. I thank God for that and I know without a doubt that my faith, even though it was very weak for a while back then, is what got me through hell and into joy again.
May God bless you and bring you peace!