"JUST letting you know that I am filing for divorce”, are some of the most painful words a spouse can ever hear, despite how difficult or troubling a marriage was. Divorce is definitely a certain kind of death that requires its own coming to terms, grief, and picking up of the pieces.
This week we share excerpts of an article by Dr Sharon Earle-Edwards to help couples going through divorce to cope. In her article titled What do you do when you feel a pain in your heart that Panadol can't help? Try the F Words, Dr Earle-Edwards provides insightful advice and strategies to not only survive divorce, but also to grow through it.
Fight for your marriage. The first sign of major trouble doesn't mean the marriage is over. Be prepared to do everything that lies within you, pull out all stops, make dignified and principled compromises, fast and pray, seek counselling together or alone to rescue and resuscitate the relationship. At the same time remember that while God is on the side of a healthy marriage, the union cannot become more important than God. Resist the temptation to idolise the relationship or your spouse.
Sometimes, despite all efforts, the relationship ends — you can't force someone to stay. “One han' cyan clap.” So sigh, sob, surrender the matter to God. Let go.
Strengthen your faith through prayer, fellowship and meditating on the word of God. Know that you may have to continue on the journey alone. Believe, like the Apostle Paul, that “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.” (2 Cor 4:8,9).
Family and friends
You never imagined that at this stage in your life you would be facing the pain of separation and/or divorce. The feelings of loneliness, abandonment and rejection can be overwhelming. This is where the support and companionship of family and friends are priceless. They can provide comfort, be prayer partners or sounding boards, give advice, be “liming partners” and babysitters.
For a Christian, the disappointment of marital failure may lead one to withdraw from church fellowship, especially in congregations where one may feel judged or uncomfortable. Unlike a death, where the members rally around you, divorce is like “emotional leprosy” and the feelings of abandonment may be heightened at church. Notwithstanding this, make every attempt to remain faithful in your attendance and participation. Unfortunately for some, the church wound is gaping and so deep that they find healing in the context of fellowship with a new congregation. Either way...stay connected.
There are many things to be sought:
• Good, patient, skillful, wise counsellors for you and your children;
• A lawyer who is compassionate, astute, balanced and experienced;
• Your strengths (discover and rediscover them);
• New hobbies — books (such as Growing Through Divorce by Jim Smoke, Rebuilding When Your Relationship Ends by Bruce Fisher, Changes That Heal by Henry Cloud, Fresh Start Divorce Recovery Workbook by Tom Whiteman) as well as seminars and online articles on coping with separation and divorce.
• Ask yourself: How can I take care of myself ? For example, try to eat healthily, sleep, exercise and relax. Aim for balanced living.
Nelson Mandela and others have referenced the quote: “Bitterness is like drinking poison and hoping that the other person dies.” Obedience to God and enlightened self-interest suggest that forgiveness brings healing. Here are 7 A's of forgiveness inspired by Lewis Smedes' book Forgive and Forget.
•Acknowledge that you have been hurt and your rights have been violated.
•Aspire to forgive
•Admit that this will take time
•Ask God to help you
•Associate with people who will encourage you to forgive
•Approach the other person (if safe) and extend forgiveness
• Assess whether there are grounds for reconciliation.
A break-up often comes with a significant financial setback. Learn about money management. Seek legal advice on maintenance matters. Spend less. Earn more. As far as possible though, try to keep things stable — especially for the children.
Helen Keller said, “When one door of happiness closes, another opens; but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one which has been opened for us.” Isaiah 43:18-19 also reminds us to “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.”
Consider key growth questions: How can you grow through the situation? Do you want to get a new job? Gain a new skill? Start a business? Go back to school?
Facilitate healing in others
Make meaning of your pain. When you get back on your feet, help someone else who is struggling to do the same. God comforts us so we can comfort others.
Shelly-Ann Harris is author of God's Woman , president & founder of Family and Faith Magazine , and a media, communication and change management professional.