Question (from Facebook community): “Now that I’m divorced, how do I detach from all the memories, both good and bad?”
Almost every post I’ve been writing the past few months, I am tempted to start off by answering the question in the very same way each time: I have no idea. And then I ask Jesus for some words, and I think for a few minutes, and I realize that it only feels like I have no idea, but in reality, I am living this thing out, working out my salvation and my grief and healing in fear and trembling, as Paul would say. Today’s question is no exception. Today’s question reminds me that I am in the thick of it, that this is not me looking back on my divorce ten years down the road, but that I am right there with you, trying to figure this whole thing out, no road map in sight.
So how do we detach from all the memories of our marriage now that our marriage is over? I want to start by playing devil’s advocate here. Is it really for our best to detach from the memories? I’m not so sure it is.
The sweet memories, if we can muster up sweet ones, are important. I need to know that I didn’t purposely walk into a marriage that I knew would be one hundred percent hard. I knew it would be difficult going in, for sure, but I must be able to reconcile that I wasn’t a complete idiot. My choice was telling of where I was emotionally at the time, and yet, I must believe that I already had some good memories behind me and that I believed there would be more to come. And there were. I need the good memories for my own peace of mind, but I need them even more so for my children. It’s not like every night as I tuck my teenagers into bed, I’m telling them good stories of when their parents were together – that would just be weird, and slightly inappropriate. And yet, there are times when it’s not only appropriate but necessary for me to share something about my past with their dad. I need them to know that there once was love surrounding the four of us.
But perhaps it might be even more important, in my opinion, to remember the bad memories. No, I’m not a masochist. But if I truly believe that God intends good to come from every harm done to us, then it’s crucial for me to remember and acknowledge the difficult times. I want to look back and see what I learned, or see how I’ve changed and grown since such-and-such happened. And, on a more practical level, I need to remember the bad times so I can carry around little mental red flags. Okay, Beth, it was super bad when this thing happened to you. Remember that thing? We don’t want that to happen again. So if you see it coming, run from it.
However, I totally get that both the good and the bad memories can bring us deep pain. If all we’re doing is reading old love letters and watching old home movies and shifting through wedding pictures (post-divorce), we are only doing ourselves a disservice. There is a balance to this. We must hold onto the memories lightly. I love one of the definitions of detach: simply put, it means to disengage. We must lay the memory down. Surrender it. Let it go.
For instance, here’s what not to do. The other night, I couldn’t fall asleep. I have something on my mind that’s been hurting my heart for weeks now and it’s something that’s deeply rooted in my past. So I, foolishly, got out of bed, pulled out a journal from 1999 (yep), and read through some emails that two people I’m currently in conflict with had sent me. Why in the world would I do this? It only served to follow me to bed and send me sad, strange dreams where I felt accused and trapped. There was no good purpose to that not-thought-through action.
Instead, for instance, the next time I’m thinking about something sad that happened between me and my husband during our marriage, I need to invite Jesus into the memory. Literally replay the incident but picture Jesus standing there, next to me, or between us. Picture him taking on the harsh words both of us are saying, or wiping away the tears as I remember all the nights I cried myself to sleep.
Memory is a beautiful gift, a magical thing. But we must learn to even use that well, for our sanity, for our healing.
“Yesterday is gone / Today I can see, oh today I can see /My, my, my, for the very first time /I waved goodbye, bye, bye /To what used to weight me down /My, my, my everything’s alright” -Jenny & Tyler Somers