"For with God
nothing will be impossible."
-Luke 1:37 NKJV
Feel like you just got run over by that train? That chug-achug- a-choo-choo steam engine of D-I-V-O-R-C-E that hits you hard right in the chest, then finishes the job by nailing your caboose? We-Michelle, Rosalind, Connie, and Carla-have all been stranded on those tracks, and we want to start by sharing our stories with you. Through our stories, we learn from each other-to live, laugh, and love again!
Women, by nature, are the story tellers, the collectors and keepers of memories (good and bad!) and traditions. We women are the ones who scrapbook (or at least collect the supplies to do it someday). We are the ones who write the Christmas newsletters every year. And we are the ones who hang little Olivia's latest artistic rendering on the fridge. We want to show the world our story (and it doesn't hurt that Olivia's stick-figure rendering of Mommy is oh-so-flattering: always skinny and with hair that's truly blonde).
What we're saying is that women live and breathe the details of life. Think about the difference in the way men and women give directions. Men tell you about north and south and rattle off street names and mileage estimations. The only landmark they might note is a speed trap anywhere along the way.
For example, a man would say: Take I-65 North, exit Veteran's Parkway to Centerpoint. Go left for approximately 8.6 miles. Be sure to really stop before turning; there's a motorcycle cop hiding out. Turn southeast onto Bonita Parkway, and you're there.
We women tell the story: Okay, you know the road that Sam's Club and Target are on, right? Take that and go through lots of red lights toward Gallatin. Pass McDonald's on your right, and keep going past the park where the boys play ball. After you pass Wal-Mart, turn right, and you're there. If you go past the cute little consignment store with the really good stuff (which has an extra 25 percent-off sale going on right now) and the YMCA, then you've gone too far. Oh, and speaking of discounts, did I tell you Jackie can get you an extra 15 percent off at Ann Taylor? Yes, an extra discount on top of the clearance price, yada, yada, yada . . .
You get the point.
Our stories are like landmarks that highlight our journey through life. When you hit a rough crossing, it's nice to look up and see signs that remind you you're not the only one to have come this way. It is comforting to know others have traveled across these same hills and valleys and have returned to tell about them.
The freight train of divorce may have already hit you full force, and you're busy pulling the pieces of your life up off the tracks. Perhaps you have already made progress on this journey, coming to the realization that divorce sucks (You go, girl-acceptance is good!) but that it's survivable. Or perhaps you are caught under the weight of the train this very moment, or feel it barreling down upon you, and you know there is nothing you can do to stop it. You are crying from the pit of your stomach and don't even recognize the sounds coming from your throat. You are empty inside . . . utterly hollow. You feel terminally ill, as if you are dying.
You will get through it. The feelings are sheer agony, but you will crawl out from under that train. You might feel as though you're in pieces, because half of you has been ripped away. That's okay. Even if you are the one driving the Divorce Train, the actual process at some point will feel a little like open-heart surgery without anesthesia. For when marriage occurs, the Bible says that the two people become "one." And you can't split "one" without spilling blood on the tracks. But you can and will keep moving forward. At some point you will face the shock that life as you knew it is over and begin to realize that now you must find a way to regroup and move on. Here's how it began for us:
That's right, for me it was Mother's Day, two weeks before our ninth wedding anniversary, when I first heard the words, "It's over." I had packed my best nightie and flown up to where my pilot husband was to "surprise" him. (Guess who got the surprise?) I knew my marriage was on rocky ground, and I wasn't really happy after being together for fifteen years. (We dated for six years before our marriage.) But I had no idea how unhappy he was.
I had come from Nashville to Chicago just to spend the night with him during his layover between flights. The airport was nearly empty, and it was very late. I had been waiting for hours, but it didn't matter because I was really thrilled about surprising him. As he walked up the Jetway and I saw him standing there in his flight uniform, it took my breath away. It was the same feeling I'd had the first time I caught sight of him when he was sixteen years old and stood at attention in his Air Force uniform at a Civil Air Patrol meeting. My mind whirred as I acknowledged this weekend was exactly what we needed to rekindle those feelings we'd first had for each other so long ago.
My sappy dream state quickly snapped back to reality as I realized my hubby was not exactly thrilled to see me. How did I know this? Well, the reception was not exactly warm. He hesitantly walked over to me and, in an annoyed tone, asked why I was there as he quickly ushered me down the terminal and away from his coworkers. Then he abruptly said he'd left his cell phone on the plane. I stood there giddy and smiling like a complete idiot while he went back, supposedly to retrieve it. I just didn't get it. I had a romantic evening on my mind. He definitely did not.
We walked from the airport to his crash pad. A crash pad, for those of you not familiar with airline pilot lingo, is a house or apartment pilots share in the city they are based in so they have a "home away from home," a place to "crash" after a tough day of flying. It was not humorous at the time, but now I can laugh as I think of how ironic it was that the "crash pad" would be exactly the place where our marriage "crashed." (Hint: You can laugh at this, too, and at anything else you can. It will help balance all the tears.) I couldn't put my finger on it, but he was definitely acting very strangely. He had been this way for months, but I just thought it was the pressure of training and starting his big new job with the airlines.
You could cut the tension with a knife as we sat down in the living room of the thankfully empty house. He picked a single chair, and I lounged on the sofa, wondering all the while why he was not joining me. I knew I looked okay. I had recently lost nearly fifty pounds (pounds I had put on in the process of having our daughter and son) by working out at the gym, push-mowing part of our five-acre farm, and barely eating. I knew we'd had a tough couple of years with new babies, building a house, and job changes. So I was now very anxious to start our evening of romance in my new skin. The thought never entered my mind that I was going to hear the words "It's over" come out of his mouth.
But that's what he said. He was not a "talker," and that night was no exception. He just sat there and said, "It's over." For a moment I didn't even understand. Then it hit me that he meant our marriage. With those two little words, I felt like my heart had been carved out of my chest. I couldn't breathe; I felt sucker-punched.
At a moment like that, a thousand things go through your mind: Is he gay? Cheating? What is wrong with me? Surely, we can find a way to work it out? When I asked him why, his answer was simply that he didn't love me anymore and that he wasn't sure if he had ever loved me. Wham! Another one to the gut.
I didn't think I could hurt any worse. I was obviously mistaken! A blurry memory of a white dress and glowing candles in a little church flashed into my mind. Then the tears started as I thought about our history and all that we had built together-a home, children, dreams, sacrifices I'd made for him. Now he was calmly saying it was all for naught? I sat horrified at the thought that my babies were not conceived in love.
Despite our rocky times, I had never doubted I loved him. And I'd never thought I would be hearing otherwise from the man I had built my life around. Everything I was, my very identity, was wrapped up in him and his flying. Our wedding cake had said "Copilots for life" on it, for heaven's sake! One of our baby announcements claimed that our "aircraft company" had released a "new model with a wingspan of 191/2 inches and a gross landing weight of 8 pounds, 3 ounces, with full-screaming throttle." Now all of that was suddenly gone.
No matter how long you have been married, divorce is the death of a covenant, a dream, your family. It is the end of a season of your life. It can feel like the end of your whole life. I begged and pleaded and asked my husband why. He said the news shouldn't come as a shock since he knew I was unhappy, too. I thought about that. About how frustrating it had been to see that even when he was home from trips, he didn't seem thrilled to be there and was often on the computer or talking on his cell phone in the backyard. I remembered all of the fights over the previous year and the horrid things I had said trying to "shock" him into wanting to be with me and the children instead of taking on extra flights. I had even used the "D" word (Divorce) myself in describing how miserable I was and how lonely I felt.
I guess he couldn't take the hysterics and begging, because he retreated to one of the bedrooms. Frantically I tried to get a grip. I slipped into my nightie and did the best I could-with puffy eyes and post-nasal drip from uncontrollable crying-to seduce him, thinking that would make everything all right. He turned away from me as he had in the past, especially in the last few months. I sat there in the dark, alone, crying myself to sleep, and thinking of my shattered marriage and my precious babies at home. They were just two and four, and I knew this "crash" would affect them for the rest of their lives. Happy Mother's Day to me!
As I boarded the earliest flight out of Midway Airport the next morning, I absolutely could not stop crying. I was completely numb, and the tears just kept falling. I barely recall my husband making a halfhearted attempt to board the plane. The flight attendant must have felt sorry for me when she saw that I wasn't even paying attention to my running nose, because she provided some tissues.
CARLA'S LIFE LESSONS The Shock Stage
When you are delivered a wounding blow like the words, "I want a divorce," your first reaction may be to curl up and die, to wander around in a daze, or to just sit and wallow. It's okay to do any or all of those things-in fact, it's normal during the shock stage.
The trick is to get up and go on. Work on turning your focus outward. Keep a schedule and routine so that your shock and grief don't become isolating and overwhelming. Consciously make that effort, as impossible as it may seem, so that you can eventually concentrate on the important things you'll need to do.
I was lost in my memories. I remembered the vacation we had taken with my husband's parents a few months earlier. I had felt like I was in Las Vegas with a stranger; it was obvious he was uncomfortable even then. While his mom and dad were out grooving to Wayne Newton, I had thought we might stay in and do some "grooving" of our own in the privacy of our own room. Let's just say that didn't happen. He left the hotel room to get ice so many times I though he might be trying to build an igloo in the desert.
You would think this would have been a red flag to me, but it wasn't. And it was pretty much the same at home. Now it was clear to me my luck would not change, even in Vegas. I thought of how he didn't even want his picture taken with me at Hoover Dam when his parents offered. Sitting there on the plane, crying my eyes out and thinking of all this, I started to wonder how long he had been planning to tell me. Then my thoughts turned again to our sweet babies at home: How on earth could he do this to them? Their innocence would be lost forever.
I had a car at the Nashville Airport but could barely walk, much less drive. Thank the Lord for my sweet angel friend Melissa. She left work and picked me up as I tried to figure out how I would ever be able to pick up the pieces of my life.
For me, it was Father's Day (What is it with holidays?), a day that started out beautifully and ended up as the worst day of my life to this point. I was left with a bullet that landed in my heart and created a hole that can never be filled again. The bleeding has finally stopped, but the hole is still there. (At this point you may be thinking, This chick watches way too many "Mafia" flicks, but this is the truth as I remember it.)
I was driving home after spending a week away, taking our older daughter to do her internship. The drive home was lovely. The sun was shining brightly, and I was eagerly looking forward to seeing my husband. He had called me several times during that week, and we'd had good conversations, all ending with "I love you." When I got home, as I was putting things away and going through the mail, I noticed that he seemed particularly quiet and deep in thought. He was watching some sporting event on TV but didn't seem very interested in what was going on. He was distracted.
I felt bad because it was Father's Day and I had wanted to cook him a special meal, but I arrived home late in the afternoon. So I told him I'd take him to dinner at the restaurant of his choice. After dinner, I suggested we go have coffee. He said he didn't feel like it. I immediately knew something was really wrong because he always wants coffee. I asked him what was going on, and he said we needed to talk. (Hint: This was a red flag! Most men do not enjoy talking!)
My heart sank. He'd had a physical three days earlier. I thought he was going to tell me he was sick with some terminal disease. No, I'm not just being a dramatic Italian. What he told me was actually worse. I never could have conjured this one up, even in my over-imaginative mind.
What he said still seems so surreal. We sat in the car, and he proceeded to tell me of an old high-school sweetheart he'd been e-mailing for the past three months. While I was away, he went to see her. During the one week that I was gone, he decided that he no longer loved me but instead was in love with her. He also told me that he had been unhappy with me for the last ten years or so, that he was planning on leaving me anyway, and that now was a good time because our kids were grown up and we wouldn't have to deal with custody issues.
I was shocked at this admission because I'd never known he was unhappy and literally had not seen any signs to prove it. I was also confused, because just three short weeks before, he had taken me on a romantic weekend getaway to a bed and breakfast where we discussed our five-year plans and dreams. In short, until that moment, if I'd had one million dollars, I would have bet every last dime of it on the security of my marriage. I say that just to give you an idea of how shocked I was when he laid this on me. I totally did not see it coming!
Now I heard the scream of the whistle as the high-speed train hit me. Then my mind tried to reason it away: This won't last. This is just a phase-a midlife crisis. We can fix this. He's just gone temporarily insane. After all, we have been married for twenty-six years. We can't just throw that away.
It was so not fair! Our two girls were grown, and the younger one was just getting ready to move out. It was finally going to be our time to be alone and rekindle our flame. Well, he was rekindling, just not with me!
He said it was only our musical backgrounds that brought us together. That we were too young when we married. That we got married for the wrong reasons. And that after all these years, we'd grown apart. (Sometimes, I think there's a book out there called How to Dump Your Spouse because it seems as though the lines are always the same, doesn't it?)
He told me about conversations we'd had in the past that I did not remember the way he did. They were completely different. It made me think I was going crazy. This, I find, is a common factor with couples that are having problems. I really believe they play out a conversation in their minds and then believe they verbalized words that in reality they only thought. I could particularly see this happening in my husband's case because he was not a communicator. He didn't like to confront. He believed issues of conflict would resolve themselves over time.
I begged for a three- to six-month run with a counselor before throwing in the towel on our twenty-six-year marriage. He declined, saying counseling doesn't work. My daughter made an emergency trip back from where I had just taken her for her internship. Both my girls ordered a family meeting, as they were both devastated after hearing this news from their dad. They cried like never before, begging their dad to try to work things out. I'll never forget what he told them that night as they sat there with tears streaming down their faces. He said, "I can either stay and make the three of you happy, or I can leave and make myself happy; and I choose to leave."
When he made up his mind, there was no reasoning with him. He told me he was leaving for a month to think and pray= about the situation. I was encouraged, but I begged him to not have any contact with her for that month because his thoughts would be cluttered and distorted and he wouldn't be able to hear what God was saying. He said he wasn't sure he could do that.
Over the next few days, I felt so desperate. I took a long, hard look at myself and asked for his forgiveness and just one chance to make things right. I repented, groveled, and begged my husband not to leave. I assumed all of the responsibility for our marriage failing. I told him I'd go anywhere and do anything it took to salvage our relationship. He assured me that he had not been physically intimate with the other woman (Sound familiar, anyone?) but that he loved her, not me, and that was that.
According to him, there was no hope. It was over.
I think it is so important at first to grasp hold of your feelings and live in that painful moment. You won't stay there forever, but ignoring your feelings, hiding them, or "stuffing" them definitely won' t make them go away. I get so perturbed when I hear people say, "I don't have a right to feel so bad when other people have it so much worse." Bull. Sorry, but can we be real here for a moment? No one knows how you feel, so let yourself experience the pain. If you don't, trust me, it's going to come out at some point.
I can honestly say that when divorce occurs against your will, it feels worse than death. I really think it would have been easier on me if he had died. With natural death, eventually there is closure. No one chooses to die. But in divorce, leaving is a choice.
After my begging for a week, he decided he was moving out anyway. The night he left, my younger daughter taught him how to do a load of laundry. He had never washed one load of clothes in twenty-six years.
Afterward, I sat in one of the corners of my home, which now felt too large, and sobbed like a baby. I was trying to come to terms with what was happening, but I was on an emotional roller coaster that was out of control. Within one week my life had taken a drastic turn. Everything was changing. For the first time in my entire life, I was alone. My husband was gone. My children were gone. I had to figure out how I could possibly survive without him.
It was the weekend of Valentine's Day. We sat in a cozy, romantic restaurant, having a wonderful evening together, laughing and talking without any interruptions. We didn't talk about the baby or problems from work and ministry. Nor did we have any disagreements or arguments. It was a fun time-just the two of us.
We sat talking about our future together, and our past. We couldn't believe we had just celebrated three years of marriage last December. We'd had stress and tension in the relationship. We had a toddler who took up a lot of my time. I was operating an in-home daycare five days a week and sometimes during the evening. My husband was a graduate student working a full-time job and also serving as ministry leader at our church. There was no balance for all the activity going on in our lives, which affected our marriage. So this alone time together was something we both needed and wanted.
At least I did. Sitting there that night with my husband, divorce never entered my mind. I thought we were both on the same page, headed in the same direction. We'd vowed in December that we were committed to the marriage and were determined to make it work despite everything going on in our lives, and we were reaffirming that commitment that night.
Cut to the weekend after Valentine's Day. My dear, sweet husband encouraged me to go on a little getaway trip with my son to visit family so he could enjoy some "alone" time with God. Why would I think twice about it? I respected his desire. My husband spending time with God would only benefit our marriage and give him some time to really seek the purposes God had for him. Plus, spending time with family was always positive.
Looking back, I did think it a bit odd when I called him that Friday night and he didn't call me back. This probably should have been a red flag, but who knew? I dismissed it and assumed he was enjoying his special time with God so much that he forgot to call. I didn't call him again the whole weekend so as not to interrupt any prayer time he might have been having.
When I walked in the door that Sunday evening, he was there to welcome me with such a sweet smile. He asked me how my weekend had been, and I shared briefly how wonderful it had been to spend time with my family. Then he suddenly became serious and told me he needed to talk. Something in his tone, something in the way he said those words, made me respond with hesitation. I wondered what he wanted to discuss.
He began telling me how much he had enjoyed his time with God and how wonderful it was to get away. Then the conversation suddenly took a turn for the worse. He said (and sisters, can you believe this one?) God had "revealed" to him that our marriage was over. He told me God was releasing him from the marriage.
I felt numb. My mind simply couldn't compute what he was saying: What? What in the world is he talking about? I immediately ran away to our bedroom, got on my knees before God, and cried out to Him, asking if He had indeed revealed such a thing to my husband. In my heart, I knew that this was not of God-that there must be someone else.
To say that I was "surprised" is quite the understatement. Even "absolutely floored" doesn't cut it. There is no word in the English language that could describe how I felt. I couldn't sleep that night. I tossed and turned in a state of shock. "My husband is leaving me . . . My husband is leaving me . . ." ran through my mind over and over. I knew I had to get some rest because I had my babies from the daycare coming in the morning. So I tried to sleep.
But I couldn't. All I could think was, How could this be happening to me? I thought I had done everything I could to be a good wife and make a good life for my family. I had supported my husband in his schooling and his ministry and tried to love him with all of my heart. Yet now he was destroying all that we had built together.
The next day my husband stayed home from work. We tried to talk, but I was too numb to hear what he had to say. All day long, I was in shock. I couldn't even function in my job as caretaker at the daycare. All I could think was, How am I going to tell the parents that my husband is leaving me and I have to close the daycare for good?
I asked my husband if we could go to counseling. He told me he would go; however, he did not want to hear what the counselor had to say because he had already gotten his "Word from the Lord."
God gives you what you need when you least expect it. Two days later I was taking the trash out. When I opened the lid to the trash can, I noticed some bank statements inside. I took them out and looked to see who they belonged to, because I knew we didn't belong to the bank listed on the envelope. Well, you can guess what I saw-the statements belonged to my husband . . . with a different address. I couldn't believe it; he'd opened another account without letting me know.
I began to look at the statements and noticed a floral shop transaction on one of them-for Valentine's Day. I contacted the shop, explained to the lady that I was double-checking my statement and didn't recognize the transaction, and asked to whom the flowers had been sent.
She looked up the information. It wasn't good news. The flowers had been sent to another woman-someone I knew from church.
Now I was angry. I immediately contacted my husband, who tried to deny it, regardless of the proof. He tried to make excuses, explaining he'd had them sent from the church when her grandmother died. Which didn't explain the separate account. Or why he'd never mentioned it.
Of course there was no way, considering the circumstances, that we would end up doing anything other than arguing over the phone. I ended up hanging up on him. I was in so much pain. It was then that I truly began to realize I was losing my husband and there was nothing-I mean nothing-I could do to gain him back.
Sisters, if you are in this stage, you probably feel like you' re in a state of shock, especially if you weren't expecting your husband to leave you. Yes, it's painful right now and your world is probably upside down. So ask your friends and family to embrace you and bolster you. It is okay to scream at the top of your lungs or cry your eyes out. You are experiencing a loss that is devastating. God hears your cry and He knows your pain. Release yourself to Him and let Him comfort you and help you through this difficult time. Don't give up.
Unlike Carla, The Conz, and Roz, I knew long before the words "I want a divorce" were spoken that I was on a journey headed for disaster. I remember as vividly as if it was yesterday pleading with my husband, telling him where we were heading in the hopes that he would see it and agree we needed to be in counseling together. We had gone through a lot together in the thirteen years of our marriage. He had endured some personal and professional frustrations, but I always thought they were things we would get through. I kept thinking he was in some kind of midlife crisis and would recover. I had not "felt" love for him in quite some time, but I was raised to believe that love is commitment, even when feelings come and go, and that feelings can't always be trusted.
Still, it became very apparent that if something didn't change, my marriage would end as a train wreck. As each day passed, it felt as if my dream of the happily-ever-after marriage went with it. It was all slipping away, and my overwhelming feelings of helplessness were unbearable. I kept thinking to myself, This can't be happening. This cannot be happening to me. This wasn't part of my plan. I am one of those "Till death do us part" kind of gals. What happened to our vows? What happened to the words "to hell and back"? (Okay, the wedding vows don't actually say "to hell and back," but we all know that's what they mean.)
On the other hand, I have always been an eternal optimist (or maybe the eternal ostrich), so even though I thought I knew where our marriage was headed, the shock of actually arriving there was unbearably difficult to handle. I found myself wanting to run-although I had actually been "running," or at least avoiding, for at least a year before my divorce, to the extent that I had tried not to even be in the same room as my husband! I kept thinking somehow the problem would go away. Somehow it would all disappear. I thought wrong. This Cinderella was losing her prince and somehow couldn't fathom it.
Once upon a time when we were dating, my soon-to-be husband whispered to me in the middle of an incredibly romantic date, "Michelle, I want to take care of you for the rest of your life." I melted when I heard that-what woman wouldn't? Did I believe him when he said it? You bet I believed him. Now, almost fifteen years later, the words "I want a divorce" were being nicely delivered to me while on family vacation in Colorado. I knew before the trip that he was going to walk away, but it was my last attempt-a dream vacation that would somehow make everything better.
It was so surreal, almost like watching a version of the movie of my life. I felt as if someone else had taken over my body because I could no longer feel my fingers or toes. I quietly asked him, "Why? Why is this the end of everything we have worked so hard to build?"
The only answer he could give me was simply, "I just haven't painted on the tapestry of my life, and you have." I couldn't believe my ears! Talk about shock! I don't know what was worse for me: his desire for a divorce or his lack of passion to try and save our marriage. Was I not worth even that? But he had made his decision long before he shared it with me, and there was nothing that would change his mind. He had already discussed everything with his lawyer and had begun the divorce proceedings before he even told me.
After he said he wanted a divorce, he shared that he had been unhappy for thirteen years and that he had never had the same vision I did for our lives. I think the hardest thing for me to swallow was the news that he had been secretly planning our divorce for two years! I was truly devastated to hear that while I had been racking my brain trying to figure out how and what would save our marriage, he had already removed himself emotionally.
After listening to him express his reasons for divorce, I immediately did a rewind in my mind and began walking through memory after memory to try and find some hint of when it was that I'd stopped pleasing this man. "Michelle, I want to take care of you for the rest of your life" was to play over and over again in my head throughout our divorce proceedings. He had promised me! Promised never to leave me, never to walk out on me, always to be there for me. What about those promises? So I turned the accusations on myself, wondering, Where did I go wrong? How could I have done something different? Mixed in with the questions was some guilt, because after years of fighting for something that obviously wasn't there, I had to admit I felt some relief. Then, I felt fear. After the reality that we were getting a divorce began to set in, the questions quickly changed to What will I do? How can I live without him? How will I sleep alone at night?
My former husband, the father of my four children, had been slowly closing me out of his life-physically, emotionally, and spiritually-for several years, and now it was all over. Just like that. I'd invested my life and everything in my soul and entrusted it to this person, and with the quickest stroke of the pen it was over.
Now you know a little of our stories. But how about yours? Do you hurt so badly in the middle of the night in that now all-too-empty bed that you literally think the pain will kill you-and sometimes wish that it would? Do you find yourself thinking, Who came up with divorce anyway? Obviously, it wasn't someone who understood what it means to have your heart ripped out of your chest!
The train of divorce may have been coming at you from a distance, barely visible, for a long time. Now it's right in front of you, barreling down larger and louder than you could have ever imagined. You see no way of escape, no exit. You see nothing but true hopelessness and despair, for you are not in control of someone else's decision. You just get hit full force and dragged along the tracks for the ride. Hang on, Sister. This too shall pass!
It's okay to feel shocked. It's okay to feel pain. Nothing prepares you for the knock-the-wind-out-of-you sucker punch of "I'm not sure I ever loved you. I want a divorce." You may have even known you were heading toward the "Big D," or you may even have been the one to utter those words, but the shock still comes. We don't care if you and your husband have been fighting for twenty years and you hate each other's guts, it is still shocking and earthshattering when you are told the words, "I want a divorce, and I mean it!"
It doesn't matter how long you have been married, be it one year or thirty. Just look at anyone who has experienced losing a child through miscarriage. The length of the pregnancy doesn't matter. Death is death, and it is still overwhelming. The baby may have only been ten weeks along, but his parents already had names, a vision for the nursery, and a valedictorian speech all imagined. Then, in one brief moment, the dream is gone.
Divorce, too, is like a death. In some ways, it is worse. It hangs around like the stink of a skunk on a country road in July. It will probably cross your mind that death would actually be easier since it would be more final. With death, eventually there is closure. No one chooses to die, like someone is choosing to divorce.
Welcome to the first stage of grief as it pertains to divorce: shock. It won't be your last stage. Like psychiatrist Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross noted in her famous "Five Stages of Grief,"2 which include Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance, along this train ride through divorce, you will also have pit stops at the stations of denial and depression (Goody, goody, right?) before arriving at the ultimate destination of acceptance. Some of your stops will be longer than others. You may even backtrack to a stage you already visited once or twice. Don't give up hope. Keep moving forward, and hang onto Jesus. He will see you through.
The final stages of grief are acceptance and, with God's help, forgiveness and healing. To survive your divorce, it is very important to understand that you have suffered a death and that you will fluctuate between all of these stages. Divorce ranks as the second-highest cause of stress after the death of a loved one, according to The Unofficial Guide to Divorce by Sharon Naylor.3 Please understand the stress you are experiencing is completely normal. Part of the shock of divorce itself may be the shock of hearing, "I don't want you anymore, and I really don't have a great reason." You are unable to control what is happening . . . you can't fix this, you cannot change another person.
Embrace your feelings at this time. You must let yourself grieve before you can heal. And you will heal. Right now, you are a broken woman, wondering, Why? How? What? But the day will come when you will be whole again. You will; we promise. Now repeat this phrase:
I will live.
I will laugh.
And, yes, I will love again!
1. Pray and ask God for direction and strength to make it through. He will walk with you through the hard times and carry you through the unbearable times.
2. Consider your options prayerfully, especially if your husband has already made the choice for you to divorce. Will you fight it? Wait calmly and pray it through? With the help of those who love you, formulate your response and game plan.
3. Find someone "safe" and "neutral" to talk to- preferably a pastor or Christian counselor. Try not to use a family member, your attorney, or anyone of the opposite sex, as you are too vulnerable in many ways right now. Also, do not confide in your children. They are still your kids, not your friends. And their dad is still their dad, no matter what!
4. Remember to do all you can to take care of yourself physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Try to keep comfortably busy, and stick to some kind of routine. Write it down, find an accountability partner, do whatever it takes to stay healthy so you are not adding sickness to your heartache.
5. Seek out those who will help you. Now is not the time to play the "Little Red Hen" who can do it all herself ! You need time to cry and time to absorb the blow you've been dealt. Have someone take the kids to and from school, take a weekend away, do whatever it takes for you to safely come to grips with your new reality.
Breathe-Breathe in and breathe out. This seems simple for the rest of the
world, but we all know it's not very easy for you at this moment.
Cry-Allow yourself to cry without guilt, but remember to try and dry up the waterworks in front of the kids.
Eat-You must eat. We know you don't have an appetite, but you will pass out if your blood sugar drops. Carla has the ambulance ride bill to prove it.
Sleep-Sleep will be nearly impossible, but you must give it your best effort. Your eyes will look bad enough from the crying, much less the bags that will develop with sleep deprivation.
Say "no"-Keep your routine, but don't volunteer for any extra stuff. Try to get out of any big commitments like supervising the second-grade Christmas pageant. You have enough stress right now. The last thing you need is sixty seven-year-old children hyped up on candy canes and parents calling you to ask why little Jacob couldn't be one of the angels.
Survive-Really, we mean it! Satan may plant some really bad thoughts in your head like, "Your children wouldn't have to come from a divorced home if you aren't here." Get those ideas out of your head immediately, and know that God will help you through this. We are living proof!Copyright © 2006 by Michelle Borquez, Connie Wetzell, Carla Sue Nelson, and Rosalind Spinks-Seay