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Question: “How is it possible to feel relief that you are no longer feeling trapped and hopeless {now that I’m divorced}, while feeling such sorrow at the same time?”

My experience has been that I have not gone through the stages of grief – denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance – in order. Like, at all.  Since my separation began over two years ago, I have gone through all of the stages repeatedly, sometimes within the same day.  And when I say the same day, I mean, the same hour. Just yesterday, in fact, I sent my friend a text that said, “I’m having one of those I-can’t-believe-I’m-divorced moments.” Minutes later, I texted her something totally inappropriate (and funny, if I say so myself).

Divorce is downright messy and chaotic, no matter how amicable the spouses are. The sorrow comes from so many, many things.

You are extricating yourself from a oneness that you’ve experienced with no one else.
You are giving up your dreams of a lifetime partnership.
You are doing something God did not intend for you to have to go through.
You may have been betrayed and blindsided, so you might be dealing with the shock of realizing you weren’t aware of your actual reality, perhaps for a long time.
You thought your marriage was one thing, but it really was this whole other thing.
You may be fearful of your future — how will you make it on your own, and will you be alone for the rest of your life?
If things seemed okay on your end, you might have considered your husband to be your best friend.
You’re having to grieve the loss of that friendship. You second-guess pretty much everything, including your gut instinct to trust other people.
You may even be wrestling with God on all this — if you knew this were going to happen, why did you let me marry him? Why would you allow this to happen?
Or thoughts of guilt and shame — did I do all I could to save my marriage?  Or if I had been a better wife, maybe he wouldn’t have…
And if kids are involved, there’s an entirely different level of stress and pain to wade through. Figuring out finances and visitation and sheltering your kids and being there for them and walking them through the changes and the tension is ridiculously hard.

So, yeah, we’re filled with sorrow. But how can we then also feel relief?

Because perhaps, either deep down or right at the surface, we’ve known things weren’t right, weren’t the way they were supposed to be, the way God meant them to be. Because maybe we have been treated poorly for so long we didn’t even realize it until we were removed from the situation. Because maybe we’ve not only not been loved, we’ve been actively unloved. Because living in a difficult marriage – for women especially, I think, because of our propensity to deeply desire to live life out in community – takes a physical, emotional and spiritual toll on us, and we might not even understand how much it was affecting us until we’re no longer in the situation and can breathe.

Both sides of the emotions spectrum are totally normal for a person going through a separation or divorce. What’s important is to use this time to learn who you are. Use this time to be able to name your feelings when you’re feeling them and to teach yourself to express them authentically but appropriately. We don’t have license to yell and cry all day every day, but you do have permission to feel what God has created you to feel and to express it.

And don’t judge yourself if your emotions tend to be riding a rollercoaster all within one day…you are healing. There is grace. You’re in the thick of it but one day, really, one day you will be able to look back and see God’s hand on your life and on your emotional journey. Invite him in to the most intimate places – both sorrow and joy and everything in between – and let him bring you back to life.

God made my life complete when I placed all the pieces before him.
He gave me a fresh start;
I feel put back together God rewrote the text of my life when I opened the book of my heart to his eyes.
Psalm 18 (Msg)

If this post encouraged you, you would benefit from “Unraveling: Hanging onto Faith through the End of a Christian Marriage”, found here or “Living through Divorce as a Christian Woman”, found here.