Question: “My divorce has been final for a while. Why am I still so sad?”
Over a year-and-a-half ago, I felt so lost. (And again a time or two since then.) Sad. Blah. Passion-less. I purchased a book* to help me work through the sad state I was in and I was clicking right along. I did everything it told me to do: I came up with a life timeline, listed the negative points, processed the redemption that had come from each, and decided upon my five primary roles. This was all good and fine; I really felt like I was accomplishing something.
And then…and then I hit a wall.
So I did what I usually do when I hit a wall: I spent some time with my mentor. And I told her about the process that I was making myself go through and how, when I got to the step where it asked what my ambitions were – how I wanted to live out my life in each of my five roles – how I hit a wall and couldn’t think of anything to write down under any of them, after thinking and praying about it for several days.
I told her that for the past twenty years, I’ve had various passions. Mothering young children, then women’s ministry, then social justice. That I’d poured myself into each of these things, wrote about these things, been an advocate for these things. But that right then, I didn’t feel like I had a passion for anything.
And she said, “I have your answer.”
“Okay,” I said. “What is it?”
And then she said this, “Years ago, when people lost someone they loved, it was expected that they would mourn for a year. They were given black arm bands to wear. They even put black wreathes on their front doors. They were to rest and grieve and heal. They even had places in the middle of their town called Melancholy Park where they would be allowed to go and just sit. Can you imagine? No one would bother them, no one made fun of them, no one pushed them to get back into their regular lives. They were not only allowed but encouraged to do the grieving work, for a year.”
I sat there, tears streaming down my face, not even four months past my divorce. (I had been kicking myself for not yet feeling healed and whole already.)
She continued, “You have lost something big. Picture yourself with a black arm band. Let yourself rest. Let yourself grieve. Let yourself heal. I’ll let you know if I think you’re not doing enough. But right now, just rest. Because if you don’t do the work now, it’ll come out eventually.”
I went home and put that book away. The process of finding my new place, my next chapter, my next thing, would just have to wait a few months. (Okay, several months.)
Because in that season, I had the deeper works of rest and grieving and healing to accomplish. How I had wished I could live in Melancholy Park, but she said we can only visit.
The LORD is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed. –Psalm 34:18 (NLT)-
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.
*Storyline by Donald Miller
This is so important and grief can’t be rushed. If we stuff it, it only prolongs the experience. Thank you for encouraging this!
I was planning on purchasing that same book and working through it. I probably will, at some point, but I have realized that I am stressing myself out by trying to do much during this very difficult time. Celebrate Recovery is definitely helping me tremendously with knowing how to live in a healthy way.
Thanks for sharing your life with all of us…so helpful.
I’ve had counselors advice that I should allow up to six months for every year I was married…a lot of time I know, because I was married 22 1/2 years! The point is, for those of us who were married for decades, we need to be patient with the grieving process. But we cannot LIVE in Melancholy Park! We must step forward into the future and allow God to have His perfect will in our lives!! I’m two years divorced and am now to the point that I actually have a social life, good friends and hope for the future. I’m not dating, nor do I have plans for that in the near future, but I’m leaving that in God’s capable hands as well. We need to take the time to grieve our loss, but don’t stop living!!! God’s got this!! Join a Divorce Care, Celebrate Recovery or any similar group that gives you friendship and fellowship as you walk this journey. Don’t try to do this alone. But healing and hope is found beneath the wings of our Savior! He will take care of each of us!!
DivorceCare recommends one year for every five years of marriage and that may be so, but I think Jesus gives us a better method of knowing when we are ready:
There were some men who eventually got a man on a mat in front of Jesus. It took great effort to get this man to Jesus and they “knew”, “believed”, had “faith” that Jesus would heal this man. Jesus saw their faith. You need to stay on your mat until Jesus says, ‘Get up, take your mat and walk’. Mark 2:1-12 NIV
Elisabeth this is such an important topic – our healthy futures depend on our capacity to do this well (ie. God’s way). Thank you for addressing it and reposting. I also read during my separation and divorce that I should allow 4 – 5 years of healing for every year I was married (almost 22), and that thought terrified me at the time. I did NOT want to be alone for 5 years, but I discovered the hard way that we simply cannot rush grief. We have to grieve well, and it may feel good to anaesthetise ourselves with a “too soon” relationship, or some substance that numbs the pain, but then we lose touch with how healed we are (or are not). That said, every person’s circumstances are different and, as with our physical bodies, we heal at different rates. The analogy of a broken bone is quite a good one – a clean break will heal more quickly and fully than a messy one, and for someone whose marriage is over, then not, then it is, then it isn’t, their healing may not really start until it is FINALLY over.
The subject of loss (in reality LOSSES) is so important in this too. One of my counsellors suggested I document my losses, to help gain some perspective on why I felt so dreadful and felt like I was treading “water” but in thick mud. There were SO MANY losses, it was overwhelming, but also comforting to know that there was very good reason for the way I was feeling.
I’ve posted about this a couple of times too, but thank you again for your willingness to talk about the hard stuff, and then the even harder stuff. Bless you!