Where was the support when I was going through my divorce?
This is a very common question that I hear divorced women asking. No one brings casseroles or flowers after their husband leaves.
No one thinks how helpful a food train or a few bags of groceries would be while you’re mourning the loss of your husband.
I have yet to see anyone pen a Hallmark card that reads, “Your divorce is going to be tough, but I know you are tougher! You’ll get through this, my friend!”
You lost your husband, your title as a wife, sometimes your children part-time or all of the time, family and friends, and so much more. And no one seems to understand how hard this really is!
Important: Divorce is not easy and more people of faith need to step up and try to understand the best ways to help, just as they would in any other difficult situation.
What not to say to someone who’s going through a divorce.
“Just move on with your life, he has!“
“You’re just going to have to put on your big girl panties and toughen up!“
“Just forgive and forget!“ (When real forgiveness doesn’t work like that!)
“You’re just going to have to learn to get along!“ (Especially when you’d love to but you realize you’re divorcing a narcissist which makes it impossible!)
“Can’t you just get over this already??“
All of these things and more just show the lack of empathy and understanding someone has for someone who’s walking the dark path of divorce.
Some women are able to say, ‘what’s done is done’ and not shed a tear. For many others, there is a deep sadness and a time of mourning that happens after decades of marriage to what you thought was a life partner, who ended up lying, cheating, and gaslighting.
No one with real knowledge about healing or divorce expects anyone to heal within days or months of the divorce being final. But some people sure do expect it. Or they just expect you to hide your pain so they don’t have to see it or emphasize with it.
When People Say “The Past is in the Past, Get Over It!”
It’s not that easy to just ‘forgive and forget the past’ (not that you should), especially when there are so many losses and so many people who hurt you. Or when people still try to continue to hurt you after the divorce is final. Saying this only diminishes what you have been through. Saying you do not have permission to feel everything you’ve been through and all of the consequences of someone else’s actions.
Plus, people don’t just “get over the past”! Healing is a long process, maybe lifelong. Long-term healing doesn’t mean you’re a bad person, it means you’re human!
I may talk and write about my divorce and experiences with toxic people but that doesn’t mean that is all I think or talk about. Many women, myself included, have a lot of healing to do from their past but that doesn’t mean it consumes us. I can say this about most things in my past. Talking about the past doesn’t mean we’re stuck there but it also means there are scars and engrained trauma responses (more about that soon) that may never fully heal until God takes us home.
When people don’t want to hear about your pain.
It’s really brave of someone to reach out to someone else and share their pain. To ask someone to listen or try to understand what they may be going through. Many women tell me they tried to share their pain with friends or family to only be told they were being dramatic or stuck in the past (I can relate to that!). This causes women to hide their pain even more which doesn’t allow for proper healing.
“Mental pain is less dramatic than physical pain, but it is more common and also more hard to bear. The frequent attempt to conceal mental pain increases the burden: it is easier to say ‘My tooth is aching’ than to say ‘My heart is broken.’” – C.S. Lewis (The Problem of Pain)
I have found that people don’t want to hear that your heart is hurting. Many times they just want to see you happy, not struggling. They feel helpless, wanting to fix the problem. And since they cannot fix your pain, they do nothing at all, which doesn’t help! This may seem like they don’t care but they just don’t want to be in that uncomfortable position of listening to your pain and not knowing what to do. You may feel avoided by these people who you once called friends.
Many of the women I talk to feel like they’ve lost most of their friends during and after their divorce. Their friends abandon them during this difficult time or say all those things that only cause more pain and hurt. They accuse them of things that are not true, side with the husband, or throw judgment when they are looking for some support. Even those who went through a divorce, but didn’t face divorcing a narcissist, just can’t understand why you would be acting and feeling the way that you do.
This just compounds the pain of divorce, increasing the losses to the list of many, that only add years to the healing process. Betrayal, abandonment, sorrow, and abuse don’t just heal overnight. Healing takes time and everyone heals differently. This is why it upsets me when I hear people say, “Just get over the past and move on!” That is a relationship damaging statement!
You just need someone to listen.
Finding an understanding group of people is like salve to your hurting heart. This is why I believe in group programs for divorcing people. Many women, including myself, need more than just individualized counseling or coaching to get them through this season of divorce. That’s why I’ve created two separate community-based support programs––one for women going through a divorce and one for women who are co-parenting and healing from a narcissist after. Find people who are interested in trying to understand or who already do!
Most Times We Need to Remember God Is There Too.
We do need other people and time to verbally communicate problems and come away with either a solution or feel understood but sometimes we still feel very lonely on this path. Sometimes we just don’t even have the energy to try to explain. This is where God steps in with His comfort. He is available all hours of the day and night to listen with an understanding ear.
Jesus walked this earth feeling human pain. This means God can relate. He’s been betrayed. He’s been cheated on and (many believe) divorced. No, He was never married (although He loved Isreal like a husband should love a wife), but He still has complete empathy and understanding of what you are currently going through. He can be there for you when no one else can.
“God is our refuge and strength [mighty and impenetrable]. A very present and well-proved help in trouble.” – Psalm 46:1 AMP
Continued Healing From My Own Past.
For most of my life, my mother had mental health issues presumably about her past (the thing she never talked about). It’s part of my past, which I had to find healing from, but it’s not my everyday life because I had created boundaries with my mother to protect myself and my children after my mother was trying to make her issues part of my everyday life. I can recall a pastor I had for many years coming to me to tell me that my mother had contacted him (only toxic people do that!) demanding him to fix our relationship. After I started explaining to him the reasons for the boundaries, he noted that I had never talked about my mother or her issues before (I never had a reason to!).
I didn’t mention these things because most people (especially in the Church) would not understand what it was like to grow up with a mother who was constantly suicidal and often emotionally demanding. Many Christians don’t even understand the importance of boundaries, especially with family! This was my life but not something I shared with everyone (until now of course). After communicating with my mother a few times, the pastor was able to come to the same conclusion that I had already come to, that boundaries were necessary with her.
Now, people from my past would want you to believe that because I write about abuse and divorce that this is all I think about or talk about in my everyday life. In fact, I rarely talk about it with people who are not going through a divorce or never experienced abuse; they wouldn’t understand. I have friends and co-workers who do not know my entire story because it rarely comes up in conversation but not because I’m trying to hide it. They haven’t even read my books nor do I ask them to. It’s part of me and my purpose, but again I’m not consumed by it. I have my ministry, people know this about me, but I also have other interests and other things I talk about. I use my past to help other people while also healing my own scars.
Sharing my pain and my story gives purpose to all of it. God and others (in a divorce group I attended) comforted me when I was going through my divorce. Now, I give that same hope and comfort to others.
Blessed [gratefully praised and adored] be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort, who comforts and encourages us in every trouble so that we will be able to comfort and encourage those who are in any kind of trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For just as Christ’s sufferings are ours in abundance [as they overflow to His followers], so also our comfort [our reassurance, our encouragement, our consolation] is abundant through Christ [it is truly more than enough to endure what we must]. – 2 Corinthians 1:3-5 AMP
What hurtful things have people said to you while you were divorcing that no one should say? In what ways do you give comfort to other divorcing women because you understand their pain? There are so many women of faith suffering through the pain of divorce with no one to talk to or understanding. We can all do our part to share God’s comfort and offering an understanding and listening ear.
May God bless your healing journey,
Our culture needs to introduce a ritual to mark the end of a marriage. I wished I’d had a “funeral” for my marriage. I would have gathered friends and family around me as I mourned and placed symbolic items from my marriage in a box for burial.