Question (from Facebook community): “Where do I even start to put my life together? What steps should I be doing in the beginning and what steps should I do at the next level, etc.?”
Entire books have been written on this topic, so I’ll just give some starting points.
Grieve. Ending a marriage is huge. In study after study, it remains the second most stressful life event after death of a spouse. I’ve heard it said though that divorce can be harder on some levels as it’s like carrying the corpse around with you on your back…it doesn’t actually completely sever a relationship, especially if there are children involved. Something significant has died and is lost to you. So take time to work through your feelings. Feel all of your feelings, even if it makes you uncomfortable to do so.
Reflect. Do the hard work of examining your part in the breakdown of your marriage. No one wants to do this. But if you don’t take a look inside and own your part, odds are you will simply repeat your mistakes in any future relationships.
Apologize. Yuck, right? You thought reflecting was difficult? That’s nothing. Once you see where you failed, own it, and if it all possible, make amends. In person is best, but that might be impossible. A sincere letter is a good step. But sometimes that might even be damaging, especially if your ex-spouse has moved on. So, run it by someone else to get their opinion. If you decide not to send it to your ex-spouse, then I highly suggest reading it out loud to someone you trust, then burning it.
Rest. You are emotionally exhausted. You need to take care of yourself physically, emotionally and spiritually. Time is going to have to go by. Show yourself lots of grace through the ups and downs of healing.
Connect. I recommend DivorceCare (www.divorcecare.org) for any separated or divorced person. You will find support and learn tools to get through the early stages of recovery.
Once you start feeling a bit better, which will be a different amount of time for everyone (so do not beat yourself up!)…
Have fun. Start doing things you love again. Go out with friends. See movies you like. Try new things, things you never had time for or emotional energy for. Let joy start to sink back into the cracks of your heart and life.
Reach out. There is someone out there who is hurting more than you, who could use a note of encouragement or a listening ear. Helping someone else can give purpose to your pain and it can help to lift your burden a bit.
Date. Not. I’ve heard it said that a general rule is to wait one year for every four you were married before starting to date again. I know that may seem like a really long time to some, but if you don’t give your heart the time to heal and recover, you will find yourself choosing someone based on loneliness and neediness as opposed to who God wants to partner you with. Wait on him.
And throughout this whole process, walk with God. There is a healing that will come. There is a presence and a peace and a support that he promises. He wants to bring you through this. He wants to bring you good things “in the land of the living”. He wants to “restore the years the locusts have eaten”. He wants to show you his love and compassion. Stay close. Seek him. Listen for his voice. Let him carry you. Ask for him to bring life to your dry bones.
“This is what the Sovereign Lord says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life.”