“When Kim left, I was in shock,” said Jack. “I wasn’t sure if it was going to fail or if I had a chance to mend it. I couldn’t believe she was throwing away seventeen years of marriage, twenty years together. For the first time in a long time I was alone. It was totally overwhelming. I couldn’t sleep or eat. Her family stopped talking to me and including me in holiday plans. All my relationships changed.”
Like many going through separation and divorce, Jack struggled at work. He’d stare at the computer screen, but couldn’t concentrate. He made many mistakes. He’s grateful that his co-workers were patient with him as he struggled to accomplish once routine tasks.
The Losses of Divorce
“Divorce represents many, many losses,” says Dr. Archibald Hart, a psychotherapist and psychology professor at Fuller Theological Seminary. “There are many associated losses when you go through divorce.”
Paul had already lost his job and his career was in a tailspin when his wife of twenty-nine years filed for separation and divorce. “I made mistakes,” he admits, “but, I was hoping it could be mended. My oldest daughter wouldn’t speak to me. My eight-year-old daughter took my picture down from her bulletin board. My life changed completely.”
Seeing the effects of divorce on children adds to the difficulty. “My children lost their confidence,” said Catherine, whose children were twelve and sixteen when her husband moved out. “Their grades suffered. My daughter missed weeks of school and fell impossibly behind.”
Coping with Separation and Divorce
Many cope with the loss of a spouse by attempting to fill the position with someone new.
“At first I got on a couple of dating sites and looked for a lady,” said Jack. “I figured if [my ex-wife] can do it, I can do it. I dated a few ladies and realized it was the wrong thing to do. I was not content in my own singleness and my own body. So, trying to convince somebody that I had it all together wasn’t working.”
A better response to separation and divorce is to find support from others who have walked the path. Support groups provide a safe place for formerly married people to express their emotions, where they are heard, understood and encouraged to embrace positive attitudes and healthy actions.
Divorce may be a setback, but it can also be a time of tremendous healing and growth. One author wrote, “You can go through it or you can grow through it.”
“I knew what I needed to do, said Jack. “I reached out. I got on a bowling league. I got on the computer looking for divorce counselors and divorce support groups. Sitting around the house with my dog was not enough. My twenty-two year old son didn’t want to hang out with me. I reached out and found DivorceCare at The Vine Church.”
Paul found a lot of encouragement in DivorceCare. “It helped me to see how other people have walked this road. I couldn’t understand what I was going through.” DivorceCare helped Paul understand that his anger and resentment are normal responses to the loss of marriage.
“It saved my sanity,” said Jack. DivorceCare showed me that I need a relationship with the Lord. I need to start believing that I’m not alone. He is always there. It taught me the skills of what I needed to do. I needed to get well inside – with my heart, my soul, my mind before I learned how to be alone. I enjoy my singleness. I was selfish. At times I thought I was the only one giving to the relationship. Now I look back and see that she gave me a lot. She hung tough through all my drinking. Now I’m more compassionate and caring. Humble. Forgiveness. I’m determined that I’m going to learn from my mistakes. I’m better equipped next time, if there is a next time.”
Paul said it has given him hope. “It’s certainly not something I wanted to walk through, but I am walking through it.”
Support for Divorce
The Vine Church of Petaluma is offering a support group to provide help, hope and healing for those going through separation and divorce. DivorceCare is a 13-week video seminar series featuring experts on divorce and recovery topics as seen from a Christian perspective. Each session includes a video seminar and small group discussion. Seminar topics include, “Facing my Anger,” “Facing My Loneliness,” “New Relationships,” “Single Sexuality,” “Caring for Children,” “Financial Survival,” and “The Freedom of Forgiveness.”
The Vine Church is located near the Petaluma Auto Mall at 1129 Industrial Avenue, Suite 208, Petaluma, CA 94952. Call the church office for more information, 707-256-8463 or go to www.thevinepetaluma.org/dc/ for more information and to register.
Names have been changed to protect confidentiality.