A reader messaged me with this thought:
“I am two years past my ex-husband leaving and one year past the divorce. I know I have done a lot of growing and healing in ways I never thought possible, but I cannot find within me a desire to wish him well.”
I think it’s safe to say she is not alone in this struggle. So I’m going to give you some thoughts on a bit more broad of a question, something that has been coming up in my work with my DivorceMentor mentorees, and it’s this:
How can I know if and when I’m healed?
My divorce was the most traumatic event in my life. Because I had fought the idea tooth and nail for close to two decades, and even though I was in a difficult marriage for the entirety of my marriage, it still came as a shock to my emotional, physical and spiritual system when the judge asked my then-husband if our marriage were irretrievably broken and he replied with a yes.
I have been through hard things before and since, but nothing quite like my divorce. So, I think a part of me thought, I am bottomed out, and now I will have to crawl back up to ground level and rise again from the ashes, with God’s help of course. And then – though I never articulated this – one day, I will be all better. Back to normal. Well. Healed.
Now, I’m sure I didn’t think I would just magically wake up one morning and think, yep, healed. But I think I thought that one day, I would be able to realize, to look back perhaps, and think, yes…I am doing so very much better that I can hardly believe it…I’m really doing well across the board. And then I would move forward into my life with my hard marriage and my divorce in my rearview mirror, simply as part of the story of who I was.
But that hasn’t been my experience.
I have been so up and down in my healing that though I am remarried to a wonderful man, I am working through a pretty dark season of my life, and I’m back on an anti-depressant, after a couple years of feeling fairly steady.
Now, does that mean I’m un-healed? Heck no.
Does that mean I wasn’t as healed as I thought I was? I don’t think so.
I think it means this.
Healing isn’t a destination. Healing never really ends, until we’re standing face-to-face with God. Healing is a work in progress, a three-steps-forward, two-steps-back kind of process.
Healing that you’ve experienced in the past may need to go deeper in you, but I don’t think it ever gets undone, or can be taken away from you, if triggered or if a new pain comes along. Once you experience a certain level of healing, I believe it is yours.
With all that said, though, how can you know if you’re on the right track, as that’s probably a better question? (Your answers to these questions will, of course, depend on if you’re still just separated, if you went to divorce court today, or if you signed those papers a few months or even a couple years ago. So, show yourself grace as you ask yourself these.)
Am I angry all the time, verging on bitter?
Am I sad all the time, verging on depressed?
Am I thinking about my ex-husband, his new life, his new girlfriend/wife, his choices, on a regular basis (like, every day)?
Am I still texting, emailing, calling my ex-husband on a regular basis, for things that have nothing to do with our kids, for non-emergency situations?
If you were to ask my friends and if they were super honest, would they say that all I talk about is my divorce or my ex-husband or my pain? Would they say that I blame my ex-husband for my current lot in life?
How am I sleeping? How is my appetite? Am I avoiding going to the doctor?
Is my sadness affecting my work? My parenting? My friendships?
Am I numbing myself, with alcohol, drugs, food, sex, shopping, or dating prematurely to escape the pain?
When was the last time I spent quality time with God?
When was the last time I did something just for fun, and actually enjoyed myself?
When was the last time I had the extra emotional energy to do something kind for someone else?
These are just some starting points, but you can use them to track how you’re feeling these days, and perhaps, ask yourself each of these questions again in six months as a little check-up.
We will never be healed in this life (sorry, sweet ones), but we are every day being transformed by our Healer.
Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. -2 Corinthians 4:16-
I think healing comes in layers, at least that’s how it’s happened for me. I appreciate the questions that you list, because if you honestly answer them they are a good indicator of where you might be.
I’ve been amazed at this journey. Today marks exactly 2 years since I moved out. Tomorrow marks 1 year since my divorce papers were signed and filed. I can look back and see how far I’ve come.
I was sitting in a training session a few months ago and had a flashback, those still happen sometimes. I was able to handle all the emotions that came up with it. Then 3 weeks ago I was able to share the flashback memory during an awareness class that I was teaching. I love that God can take the darkest parts of a story and work His good out of them!
I think healing is a process and I think we have to be intentional with our healing. In other words the adage “time heals all wounds” is true but I also think that- for those of us who were in destructive marriages characterized by chronic abuse-,we also need the help of a competent therapist to help us process what happened to us and the choices we made. We need the help of friends and perhaps even a support group. We need prayer and a heart that is open to doing things that facilitate healing. Time heals but don’t only rely on that.
Than you Elisabeth, this is so encouraging. It helps me realise I am further down the road of healing than I’d thought. He left in Nov 2012, but our divorce is with the courts right now, yet to be finalised.
The only one of your questions I can’t give a positive response to is whether my friends might say I blame my ex-husband for my current lot in life? I think I do, because I am shortly to lose my home (it needs to be sold) with no guarantee at my age (57) that I will be able to afford anywhere to down-size to. In due course, as sole heir to his mothers estate, he will inherit significantly more than I (I’m one of four) so he is unlikely to be in the same situation, long term, plus he is younger and has a longer working life to add to his pension. A pension I contributed to but won’t benefit from! So yes, it does feel unfair! It also feels unfair that he committed adultery, he assaulted me, he abandoned me when he left the family home, he was emotionally abusive during the marriage & withheld intimacy for years. Not wishing to sound sanctimonious, but I didn’t do those things. At all.
So although I can see I have made great progress in healing, your post has highlighted there is some way to go! My innate sense of justice is violated. But I know it is God who judges, God who teaches, God who sets things right, God who has a purpose for me and God who will work all things together for the good of those that love Him. I also know I wasn’t faultless in the marriage, even though I have ‘biblical grounds’ for divorce…
I love all of your posts, but to me, this rings truer that any I’ve read. You’ve put things in better perspective for me and answered some questions too. THANK YOU FOR THIS POST!!!