Let’s face it… divorce hurts! It hurts you. It hurts the innocent victims. And I believe it hurts God too!
Divorce is a huge loss, a death (of SO many things), that causes pain and leaves emotional destruction and damage in its wake. And it’s usually the innocent party left standing alone picking up the pieces… that feels the brunt of it all.
This is all while the not-so-innocent party is off seemingly enjoying their “new life” with what they call the “[NEWEST] love of their life.” (Right.. like that wasn’t your title too, at one time!!) 😉
This catastrophe can lead the left behind to feel mountains of loneliness, despair, and then even… depression. (And we wonder why God hates divorce?)
Signs of Depression:
- Layers of feelings and emotions sometimes all at the same time
- Feelings of despair, hopelessness, or numbness, at times
- Being overly critical of self or feelings of worthlessness, at times
- Loss of appetite or emotional overeating, at times
- Lack of energy or fatigue
- Self-isolation or unable to reach out for help, at times
- Bouts of crying and sadness
- Mental fog or unable to concentrate, at times
- Sleep changes or disturbances
- Occasional (controllable) suicidal thoughts
PLEASE seek medical attention immediately, if any of these are severe, become worsened or chronic, you cannot control your own actions, if you are needing alcohol (drugs), sexual attention, or other addictions to survive, or if any of these above are causing disturbances in your everyday life. That is a sign of serious depression. And just like there is no shame in seeking medical attention for a severe burn, you MUST seek medical help for worsening depression!
Depression is nothing to be ashamed of or frightening to face.
“Divorce depression” is a part of most every healthy divorcee’s healing process… so do not worry if this is something you are experiencing too. Even godly people experience depression. Most divorced people that go through it, learn how to come out on the other side. They learned that in order to move forward, towards healing, they must accept this season of depression, work through it, and maybe even grow from it.
It has very little to do with your faith or the current state of your salvation. And everything to do with either your circumstances or a chemical imbalance (medication may help). Remember getting help or taking needed medication is NOT a crutch. It is a tool to get you through this time. If you need it, get it and take it! You and your loved ones will be glad that you did.
[You May Also Enjoy: Divorce Shame (What We Should Do With It)]
I believe divorce depression is an emotional response to the profound loss experienced during divorce. Your body is processing divorce trauma, most times in a very healthy way. Our heart has been broken and the physical signs of that broken heart manifest as depressive symptoms.
Also, as we process our current circumstances sometimes our thought processes feed the depression even more. Our negative thoughts cause a negative emotion, which then feeds our negative perspective about yourself. And that goes around and around… taking us to that low place that we never planned to go. Further worsened by times of self-isolation – wanting to stay in a dark room away from anyone else. As easy as it seems at the time, it does not help the situation in the long term.
Ways to work through it. Out of the darkness, into the Light.
1.) Get up, shower, get dressed, make your bed… and participate in your life. If that’s all you do… and you work on that every day…. you are moving forward. Baby steps are fine. Get up and show up whenever you can. In the meantime, you are taking care of yourself and that’s important. For some of you, you are showing your children how to be a “survivor” too.
Are we free to struggle? Yes! Just don’t unpack and stay there.
2.) Read your Bible. Start in the Gospels – Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John – to learn about Jesus and His love for YOU! Read David’s painful lamenting in the Psalms (107 is one of my favs). He experienced depression too. (Check out this list of other Bible figures who struggled with depression.)
Think about the Bible as the medicine for your soul. Force feed, if you need too. You could also do a topical search on this website and see what the Bible says about each word that you are feeling or experiencing.
3.) Start a journal. Write out those feelings and emotions with Bible verses. Write letters to the old you and the new you. Mourn. Make lists. Write down things you need to get done (this will help you stay focused). List of the things you are looking forward to. Add things you WANT to get done. Create goals for the short-term… and then those “one day” long-term goals for your life ahead.
You and God are in charge of this new life… it’s time to be you, who God created you to be.
4.) Find a supportive group of people – your tribe or cheerleaders. You could make an appointment with a licensed counselor (like I did), check out your local Divorce Care group (I did that too), ask a close Christian mentor-type friend (same sex if you do not want to add temptation to the mix), you could hire a life/growth coach, or speak with a trusted relative. Start a Secret Facebook group, with only people you can trust, who will be there to listen, pray for you, laugh with, and remind you that life does go on after divorce. Try to find support from those who have been through a painful divorce themselves so they can share their wisdom with you.
5.) When you are ready to get back to a “safe” church. If your old church doesn’t support you or abused women, find another one. I totally understand how hard it is to be “divorced” in a church. Go to a larger church if that helps – no one knows you or there are more people just like you there. Because being able to worship and pray… while keeping your eyes on The Cross… is healing. Jesus is the healer. Faith in Him makes you well.
Obviously, this is not a complete list of “how to” fully heal from divorce depression. But I hope it’s a start in the right direction for you.
Remember, we are all unique so we’ll all heal differently in varying time frames. Just keep reminding yourself that in one year from now… things WILL be better.
Do not put pressure on yourself to get through this period, or anything else, in the same amount of time as anyone else. I too have heard some pretty nasty people say, “You just need to get over this as I did!”
But we humans do not work that way. Give yourself lots of patience and grace… while you deal with all of the circumstances that you need to deal with. It takes you just as much time as it needs to take YOU. Period.
[Also Read: Suicidal Risk During Divorce]
Those who have worked through divorce depression, what helped you? Share your advice in the comments so others can benefit from your wisdom as well. Thanks!
God bless your healing journey,
I am in the midst of divorce depression this Christmas & I have made a ‘one year list’ of what I Think God wants me to do with my life & what will bring me joy. Now to make a 5 year list/plan asking God for guidance of where he wants me to be. I have also asked Christian friends for prayer & reached out to a Pastor for counseling/spiritual guidance. Having done these things I feel hope for my future & I feel confident that God will bless me & show me His plan for my life.
Jen Grice says
I’m sorry Marie, I missed your comment until now. I’m glad that you have a pastor that is able to help you during this time. And I agree God will bless you and show you His plan for your life. Praying for you. You will get through this.
I went through deep sorrow when my husband asked me to take the kids and leave. I didn’t know how to process this person he had become. I sat and wrote for hours and hours… our whole story… until I was completely empty. It is at that point that God can fill us up with all the right things. As I fought for my marriage to be healed, God fought harder for me. He showed me that He had removed my children and me from a bad situation intentionally and that the marriage would end. God became husband and provider for us. He became the hero of my life, not just my salvation- a place He should have held all along.
We are still working on the actual divorce but I’ve been on my own for 3 years now. Each day gets easier. I’ve never worked harder but never been happier.
Dealing with the divorce though, I have needed medication. My body reacted negatively physically before I could pray or absorb the situation. It has been a long ordeal and an uphill climb, but steadily, life is better.
Jen Grice says
Thank you for sharing your journey so far, Kim. I’m sure many others can relate. I know I can. God bless!
I’m in the 3/4 of the way there. I had to leave and divorce my husband of 16 years because I just recently discovered he has narcissist behavior which is a severe manipulative abuse. And I do feel guilty for up and leaving him at times. But I am slowly progressing. I am spending a lot of time in my prayer closet. And asking God to give me wisdom, grace, and endurance. What really helps me asides from prayer and reading the Bible is journaling it really helps me to sort out how I am feeling and straighten out my thoughts. I have read past pages I wrote and it helps me to understand and know that even though I didn’t want to leave my marriage that God had a different plan for me and my two boys. It’s a struggle everyday to try and be whole and complete without my husband but I know that I can make it because God tells us all that we have already won.