When my ex-husband walked out the door into the arms of another woman, my ego tanked. I felt rejected, abandoned and overwhelmed with two little kids and my family shot to bits and pieces. It was difficult, at best, to keep the self-defeating thoughts from taking over. I was shaken to the core and everything I believed about love, commitment and Christian marriage now seemed naive in the face of betrayal.
Looking back, I can see that in the mess of divorce, these emotions are a normal part of the grieving process after a relationship suddenly ends. Over time, though, I learned how to use my sadness to find something better.
When Tragedy Strikes
The death of a relationship, whether from divorce, tragedy or a breakup, leaves us with emotions we aren’t equipped to deal with. Anger, sadness and self-criticism can overwhelm us if we focus too much on the what, how and why it all went wrong.
While it’s natural to go through a season of deep inner self-reflection and grief, we are at risk of staying in the bitterness if we don’t forgive, accept and move on. At some point, we must confront the death of the dream, acknowledge our loss and begin to plant the seeds of hope for not only recovery, but a full restoration. Everyone grieves differently, but if you are still non-functional two years past the trauma, then it’s a good idea to seek professional help. After my divorce and the tragic loss of both of my parents, getting through the first year was by far the hardest, but then time, grief and a great counselor did their work to dull the pain.
Your Wounds Shape You
When adversity strikes, I know it feels like the pain will never end. It’s important to remind yourself that “this too shall pass.” There are some days you can call it a victory if you simply get out of bed. Accept the emotional highs and lows as a normal part of the end of a relationship. Tell yourself, “My emotions aren’t the truth, but an indicator of my heart and its brokenness and need for the great Healer.”
Remember to offer yourself grace and accept that, even in your miserable state, you are still loveable. God, in his infinite grace, “first loved us” so we could extend love to others. You are a valuable and worthwhile person. No man or woman defines your identity. You are complete in Christ alone. Let the pain do its work and don’t fight the sorrow. You will be a different person on the other side if you allow God to do his healing work within you.
Choosing Life Or Bitterness
I recently met a woman who shared with me that she was just emerging back into society after a 10-year depression that started when her ex-husband left her. When I asked her what changed, she said she woke up one day and realized she was wasting away her life on a man who could care less. She knew it was time to shift the focus off herself and instead onto helping others. She decided to release the bitterness and rediscover life. She enrolled herself in a grief group and started training to become a counselor to help others through the process. Her greatest pain was about to become her greatest ministry, but until she chose to forgive and allow God to heal her, she was stifled and trapped in a sea of despair.
When you experience tragic loss, expect to feel abandoned, wounded and rejected. Find a Christian counselor and work through the facets of this relationship before you jump into another one. Remember, you will go into the next relationship with all of your same problems unless you start to deal with them now.
Another great way to heal is to find a group of like-minded friends and believers to do life with. Finding people who understand and support you is like an energy drink for the soul. We need Jesus with skin on, and God gives us one another to carry each other’s burdens and cheer one another on. Find your team!
Your divorce or loss is not who you are. You are not a victim. This is one more experience that can help you grow into the person God created you to be. Hope is always as close as a prayer and a humble heart crying out to God.
Three years after my divorce I married a wonderful man and we are blessed to share a relationship ministry together. I get to teach pre-marital classes at our church and at “Divorce Care,” the very same group that ministered to me. Don’t waste your sadness. God has big plans for your future. Let Him do the work and believe that He can use the worst pain to fulfill his purpose in your life.
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