It’s Not Supposed To Happen Like This
By Earlene Caldwell, MA, LPC | May 22, 2019
“It’s not what I thought would happen to me now.” The words spoken by author Karen Blixen as portrayed by Meryl Streep in the movie “Out of Africa” so simply illustrate a common reaction to facing the end of a marriage. It’s safe to say that most people who marry aren’t remotely thinking about the possibility of divorce somewhere down the road. Their thoughts are most immediately on the wedding celebrations, honeymoon, where to live, and all of the exciting details that come with beginning a new life including rich dreams for the future. And while the premarital conversations may include general agreement of how life will be, each person somehow develops their own individual expectations that may not match up with those of their partner. Over time, unresolved differences can erode the relationship beyond the point of repair. Sometimes, more serious demons enter the picture like infidelity, addiction, and even abuse leaving no other option but to leave the marriage.
If you or someone you love has been affected by the end of a marriage, you know how complicated the ensuing emotions can be. It’s a lonely journey marked by depression, fear, uncertainty, a sense of failure, and many other negative emotions. Those of us who are fully engaged in our conversation with God will reflexively pray fervently for guidance and grace. But for many, the normal tendency to isolate oneself from others only intensifies the struggle to recover. The things we need the most seem so immediately counterintuitive that we resist them. We run away from them rather than run toward them.
An important first step in the recovery process is to reach out to others for support. Recently, I have been meeting with a small book review group to share thoughts about a collection of testimonies about God’s love during traumatic challenges. A common theme among all of the authors is that each person sought out their “village” or “lighthouse”. These brave survivors didn’t attempt navigating the road alone but instead looked to trusted friends as well as to finding strength in God’s help.
Another important means of support is a divorce recovery support group. A DivorceCare® program meets in the Spring and in the Fall at St. Philip’s to guide participants through the healing process. We explore the losses experienced with divorce, how to understand the effects of divorce on children, moving closer to God, healthy ways to deal with loneliness and other related topics. It’s a chance to talk about one’s own experiences with other people who are having similar thoughts and feelings. It’s a safe and trusting environment where the group members often feel that they have found another “family”.
Friends and family members can feel daunted by trying to figure out how to support someone during separation and divorce. If they don’t know what to do or say, people often do nothing, which only reinforces the tendency toward isolation. An invitation to coffee or lunch, an offer to keep the kids, or simple compassionate and nonjudgmental presence will go a long way to letting them know they are not alone.
Will the sadness ever go away? Not all of it, there will likely always be some degree of sadness and regret in our hearts. But what’s left is the confidence that God never leaves us alone and continues to guide us through the rest of the journey.