Divorce Survival & Recovery

Dealing with an ex during any normal Wednesday can be a huge struggle, especially when the divorce or break up is somewhat recent, and there is bitterness and anger clouding everyone’s better judgment.

But even years later, holidays seem to bring out the worst in everyone. Here’s why:

  • Holidays come with their own set of expectations – Traditions built long ago are suddenly disrupted by the split of your family. And hopes always run high during the holiday season because we all tend to have Hallmark images of how we see the holidays going.
  • In-laws are still demanding or at least have their expectations ¬ You and your ex aren’t the only ones with plans. Grandparents, aunts and uncles, and even friends want to have time with the kids and have their own ideas of how the holidays should go.
  • Time is short ¬ There is so much more to do and so many more places to go during the holidays. There is a lot of pressure on the parents to make miracles happen – same 24 hours in a day, yet parties, gift buying, cleaning, family dinners, etc. put a lot of stress on parents.
  • Money is tight – Thought you were broke in November? Well December is really going to suck. Christmas puts a financial strain on the best of budgets. Cut that budget in half, yet keep all the same bills and responsibility and this is a recipe for anger, frustration and even fear.
  • Emotions are tried – Adults are struggling with loneliness and guilt. Kids are struggling with the same, plus feelings of anger and abandonment. As adults we shoulder the emotional burden for our kids, and end up working even harder to have the most picture perfect holiday ever.
  • We are dealing with our ex – No offense to anyone, but if getting along were easy, you would probably still be together. Take the most stressful (and often depressing) time of the year and add in the person with whom you have the most tension and voila: instant crazy town.

And in the end, we just end up angry or soaked in our own tears trying to figure out how in the world we even got here.

I have been divorced for over 10 years, and even though there are times that I want scream and yell and cry when trying to co-parent with my ex, there are strategies that really can help you have a calmer, less exhausting holiday season.

  • Stick to the plan – Hopefully you at least have a written parenting plan. I advise you stick to it. Often we begin moving things around to accommodate each other because we are having a good day with our ex. Then the other shoe drops and you are fighting again. A less mature person may take advantage of this situation and go back on the agreement. Now you are really mad! You promised the kids you would take them to see Santa, the North Pole or the White House for Christmas and your ex is taking it all back. If you stick to the plan, you are less likely to be let down, and end up in a battle royale.
  • Honor your word – This relates to the first point, but comes into play even more when a written plan is not legally in place. If you agree to a holiday schedule, you better honor it. I don’t care if your ex really yanked your chain. Do not use your child as a pawn, and do not justify doing this by telling yourself and everyone on FB what an ass your ex is. Unless the child is in danger, and you have involved the proper authorities, do what is best by your child and let them see their family. You can sulk on your own time.
  • Pair down your plans – If your time is cut in half, do not think you are going to have time to do it all. It is okay to say NO to someone and to turn down invitations. Your children will appreciate you slowing down and taking time to focus on them, versus trying to please every aunt, uncle and cousin from here to Nebraska.
  • Evaluate traditions – Not every tradition is worth holding onto with a kung fu death grip. Decide what traditions are worth keeping and consider starting a new one that honors the new dynamics of your family. Be flexible and remember the reason for the holidays.
  • Lower your expectations – Trash that perfect image you have of Christmas and replace it with simplicity and love. Remember to create time to read a Christmas book with your kids, to watch your favorite holiday movie (instead of trying to knock out ABC’s 25 Days of Christmas), or make a ginger bread house. Your kids will thank you for it.
  • Set a budget – The best Christmas I can remember was just my mom and me in 1985. It was just the two of us, and she told me that money was tight. She bought me a few inexpensive but thoughtful gifts. I was in love with the effort she took to choose gifts that reflected my personality. We had a small tree and a simple Christmas but I still felt important. My point is that just because your kids usually roll around like Scrooge McDuck on Christmas morning tossing around gold coins, does not mean that they really care as much about gifts as you think.
  • Consider serving – It is easy during the holidays to focus on everything that is going wrong and everything that life should be but isn’t. But instead of feeling sorry for yourself or your kids, consider serving alone or with them. They will enjoy feeling useful and helpful, and you will be glad you took to the chance to remember that life is still pretty dang good and worth enjoying.
  • Don’t include outsiders in your holidays – If you are dating and have a new boyfriend or girlfriend, now is not the time to play house. Focus on your kids. And be mindful of how they feel having near-strangers in their most precious family times. You will have plenty of time to hang out with your beau or love muffin when the kids go to your ex’s house. Don’t be so wrapped up in your loneliness that you make your kids uncomfortable.
  • Offer grace – Okay, this is the hard one. Anger, bitterness, sadness and frustration do not take a sabbatical during the holidays. Quite the opposite in fact. But even if your ex prefers cursing, yelling and name calling over adult conversations, you can still take a deep breath, say a prayer, remove yourself from the drama until everyone has cooled down and then start over. Don’t feed the dragon! No matter how your ex behaves this holiday season, you are still responsible for you and your behavior. You will be surprised at how far kindness and grace will go, even with difficult people.

 

Take care of yourself dear friend. Get lots of rest. Try not to eat every sugary snack you see. Go easy on the liquor. Take time to pray, and spend time with the Lord. The holidays are probably going to be hard. But they don’t have to throw you into a tantrum or full-blown depression.

Seek out healthy people who have been divorced and who are doing okay. Ask for their prayers and accountability. Give them permission to tell you when you are acting crazy. Reach out to people when you are struggling to get up in the morning. Seek counseling when too many mornings have swallowed you back into an abyss or when crying has taken over your life.

You will get through this. It will get easier. Life is hard, but it is worth it. God cares about your struggles and so do your friends. Don’t try to be a hero. Just take it one day at a time. And lastly, please forgive yourself when you screw up. You will. You are human, but you are awesome.

Keep crushing it. Santa and your kids are watching ☺

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Everyone who knows me, like really knows me, knows there was a time I couldn’t sit in the same room with my ex. I hung up on him no fewer than 1836 time during our PDRP (post-divorce recovery period). I broke at least two of my phones and at least three hairbrushes from just needing to “hurt” something after a very angry conversation with my ex.

Divorces are nasty, and mine was as nasty as they come. A bitter, broken marriage turned into an outright war during and after the divorce with my children being the most wounded in battle. We fought for the kids, around the kids and about the kids. The kids will need adult counseling. And we should pay for it. It’s our fault.

But much time has passed. I learned boundaries. I found God. I learned forgiveness. And I quit living under a storm cloud of parenting guilt. I quit operating as a wounded, bitter failure and began to find peace and confidence I didn’t know could exist.

I am going to keep this post short today, because I am not going to give you a list of how to’s or practical action steps in order to find peace and joy in your life again. I am not going to give you a step-by-step plan to teach you how to get along with your ex. I am just going to ask you one question: Do you want to get better?

You might be eager to say, “Yes! I want to find peace. I want to get along better with my ex. But it’s not my fault. He/she just brings drama to every situation.” And if you said this, I don’t doubt that you would mean it. But unless you actually want to heal, and are committed to having peace and joy in your life, it will never happen. And many of you (like me at the time) are comforted by the pain of the struggle with your ex, perhaps even addicted to it, carrying it around like a security blanket, then getting indignant when someone suggests you “let it go.”

So I will leave you with his today: Are you ready to get better?

If you are ready, start with this prayer, “Lord help me to open to healing. Amen.”

The road ahead will still be brutal on some days. You might even throw a few hissy fits and break a few innocent hairbrushes, but when you start praying for your own willingness to heal, you will be surprised at the results.

You might even find yourself and your new husband sitting with your ex and your kids in church on Sundays.

I never could have imagined that this day would come, but it has, and it’s all through the power of God working in each of us, and a point that came years ago where I decided, I was ready.

Are you?

What do I miss most about 100% parenting time (vs my 50/50 parenting plan)?

Relishing. Relishing the “before-moments” of getting ready, rushing around looking for shoes, butterflies and nervous silence for an important day. Relishing the “after-moments” of an event, a life moment, gift opening, a first race, a first dance. The easiness of knowing you have all day to casually say, “good job”, “I love you” or “you rock.”

It’s hard to be away from my kids when they are hurting, but it’s just as hard to be apart from them when they are changing before before eyes and they are celebrating “today.” Yes, I show up, cheer them on, hug them a little too long, chaperon when they will let me and otherwise be there as much as I can. But at the end of the day, the hardest moments for me are missing the relishing of celebrating my kids’ right now’s and milestones.

I make up for it by remembering that I have a lifetime to love them, and that other people  love them too. I get double the time to pray for them on quiet drives to work without kids arguing in the back seat. Seeing them when it’s not “my time” is like meeting Mickey Mouse at Disney but better. Small moments that aren’t milestone become BIG. Donut dates after school are better than a night on the town. Cuddling on Thursday’s before they leave on Fridays is better than ANY medicine.

I can’t say that I appreciate my kids more than other parents do. It’s not a contest. I just know that “50/50” has changed me. It has changed how I view 20 minutes with my kids, and the opportunity to drive them around town 5 times in one day. I still want them to grow up and move out someday (Lord please, I’m not kidding), but in the meantime, I am praising God for every tuck in, every minute on the porch swing and every “first” my children get to enjoy and that I get to relish in.

50/50 was never God’s plan for families. But I know that God can use whatever time we have and whatever circumstances we face to create joy, lasting memories, steadfast love, and unbreakable bonds. Today, I am praying for just that.

Today was Jackson's first cross country meet. I got to see him run and watch his bro sleep all the way home, before telling them "bye". Don't worry, I called Jackson and "relished" the best I could over the phone. Then Kaden called me later to tell me to tell the dogs "hi."

Today was Jackson’s first cross country meet. I got to see him run and watch his bro sleep all the way home, before telling them “bye”. Don’t worry, I called Jackson and “relished” the best I could over the phone (he rode the bus home with his team). Then Kaden called me later to tell me to tell the dogs “hi.” #lifeisgood

I never planned on having a step-family. But I do. And boy do I love it. But it isn’t always easy.

In fact, I knew that it would not be easy long before I ever married the first time at the age of 21, because growing up I had been a stepchild. My step-dad adopted me, and he is a great dad, but it still made for the same dynamics of a blended family. No matter the legal status of your family, when families form later in the game, there is much to learn and overcome!

I met my bachelor child-free husband in 2006. I had been divorced for a year; my boys were 3 and 6 years old. In 2010, we married, officially creating a blended family. My oldest read 1 Corinthians and our youngest prayed for us at our ceremony. It seemed quite unique among our friends, but these days, about a third of all marriages create a blended family.

Blended families are increasingly common, but they are not typical. There are unique scenarios and different struggles. Children have to learn new rules and to accept love and authority from a new person. Stepparents have to learn when to stand up and when to stand down and how to…Read the Rest of the Article

Check out more articles by Kris Wolfe on Clarksville Online

A few days ago I shared Tips for Parents Going Through a Divorce (part 1) which covered several tips that are based on my personal and professional experience with divorcing parents.  The next 9 are equally as important and I urge you to read them, and even share them with others who are enduring a similar struggle.

 

  1. Not everything has to be a court battle–Mediate. Negotiate. Breathe. Stop trying to win for the sake of winning all the time. Choose your battles but never quit advocating for the safety and health of your children. Ask yourself if you will be glad to have chosen this battle in 2, 5 or 10 years. And more importantly, will your kids be better humans for it?
  2. The kids don’t care about the stuff that you do–You’re mad because you bought school supplies the last 3 years? Guess what? That’s not your kid’s problem. You feel that you put way more work and time into your kids that your ex does? You probably do, but telling your kids that will make them feel like a burden to BOTH of you. Deal with your money and other trivial issues completely apart from your children.
  3. Stop saying, “that’s what child support pays for!”–to your ex or your kids. Child support does not mean that you don’t pay for anything ever again. You still have responsibilities at your house and many responsibilities outside of food, water and electricity. Your kid still needs lined paper for her homework and may even want stuff like a yearbook or a new baseball glove. Stop acting like a maniacal penny pincher and take care of of your kid and quit keeping score.
  4. Stop leaning on your child for emotional support–Do not turn them into your therapist, buddy or a substitute for your spouse. They cannot emotionally handle all of their own junk let alone yours. Children who are “parentified” (put in a position of emotional authority or given too much responsibility for their age) can become anxious, perfectionistic, fearful and overwhelmed. It’s tempting to tell an emotionally mature 12-year-old how hard it is to be alone day after day, but don’t, just don’t.
  5. Stop drilling them–Inspector Gadget has nothing on you. Go gadget 20 questions. Go gadget 3rd degree. “What’s daddy doing this week? Who has mommy had over? How much did daddy spend on his new car?” Do you want your kids to lie to you? Probably not. But if they tell you what your ex is doing, they are probably feeling some (or considerable) guilt for betraying the other parent. Your kids may volunteer information, and that is okay, but make sure your follow up questions are for their benefit, not yours.
  6. Don’t ask your children to lie or keep secrets­–Don’t even do something that they will feel compelled to keep secret for you. I never asked my children to cover for me or lie for me, but unbeknown to me my (then) 5 year old chose not to tell his dad things that he thought would upset him. Managing the strain of the impossible emotional balance between his parents was way more than any kid should have to attempt to handle. Make sure they know that there are no secrets that they need to keep for you. Try to anticipate their emotions so they don’t have to anticipate yours.
  7. Don’t ever blame your children–Don’t blame them for your divorce, your bad luck, your money problems or your new girlfriend rolling out on you. Don’t even imply it. When your teenager and your new guy don’t get along, don’t blame your kid for having normal feelings or for normal teenage responses to situations. This does not mean you have to let the kids act like little terrorists. But keep in mind, they are fighting their own battles and own demons too. They are responsible for their choices and you are responsible for yours.
  8. Don’t carry your ex into your next marriage–Deal with your residual anger, guilt, pain, grief, insecurity, abandonment, and (especially) issues of abuse. These issues will not go away, no matter how many shots you take, how many midlife crisis toys you buy, or how much you throw yourself into work. You will be shocked  at how much your (ex) marriage has become part of who you are and how you respond to life. And even though it may seems second-skin to you, the next woman you fall in love with will probably see right through the crap you don’t even see yourself. So deal with it if you ever want to be good for anyone, including yourself.
  9. Don’t ruin marriage for your children–It’s cliche to say, but we all want better for our children, right? So why do we make marriage seem like the dumbest idea on the planet? We married their mom or dad, we were in love at one time, we made love and then made babies. Then one day, all hell broke loose, and now the once beloved is the arch nemesis. How confusing for our children! Should they trust anyone? Can they believe in love? Can they trust their own hearts? And the worst of all, are they doomed to failed marriages too? Think about what messages you are sending to your kids about love, marriage and their chances at happiness.

You might have left your ex so your kids can have a better future. So give them a fighting change for it.

I can promise you this, you will make mistakes as a mom or dad going through divorce. It’s a brutally hard time. But when you realize that you have hurt your children, apologize and move on. God will forgive you and so will your children. And there’s no point beating yourself up. It’s hard to be a good and victorious parent when you are drowning in guilt or self-pity. And remember, you don’t have to struggle alone, and don’t let shame or grief convince you that you do.

For more insight into dealing with your own emotions during divorce or separation, check out Surviving the Loneliness of Separation and Divorce.

And be blessed. You deserve it.

In just a few weeks, I will be turning the corner on a full decade of being divorced from my first marriage, from the father of my children. They were 2 and 5 when the divorce was final. Now they are embarking upon middle and high school.

In these 10 years, I have gone from working in massage therapy and cosmetics (fields I still love and have fond memories of) to becoming a biblical counselor. No doubt the life experience of divorce and parenting after divorce has been one the main driving forces in this career aspiration. Also I have recently become approved by the Tennessee Courts to be a family mediator. This means that among other things, I can help those who are divorcing to work through matters like child support, custody and divorce. I also lead DivorceCare, a Christian ministry focusing on healing after divorce at a local church.

There are so many things I wish I could personally tell each parent going through divorce. It doesn’t matter if you are the mom or the dad, the leaver or the left, the grieving or the celebrating; there are some truths that may not be so clear to you now. And I would rather you learn them much more quickly than I did, for your sake, and for your child’s sake.

  1. Think long term not short term–Things that seem important now will seem silly later. You might feel compelled to fight tooth and nail over small issues like splitting cell phone plans and who will have the kids on Halloween 2042. Try to imagine yourself and your children 2, 5 and 10 years down the road. Are you considering what your children might need, or even desire as they become more independent? While you and your ex are arguing over the details, your kids are growing up. One day they will be more concerned about lacrosse, soccer, choir or their girlfriend than their parents. Plan for growth and for conversations that don’t always revolve around what you want.
  2. You don’t have to hate your ex–Anger, grief and sadness are completely normal for a time. But that does not mean that you have to hate her forever. It’s not required by law, and a lot of the stuff that is really chapping your behind right now may be very trivial. If you could tape record the things you say now, and play them in a year, you might be shocked. Even if you begin dating or get married (please don’t rush into either!), you do not have to loathe your ex to prove to yourself or your new girlfriend that you are “over it.”
  3. You don’t have to prove that you’re the good guy–Those who love you will keep loving you. Strangers or Facebook audiences don’t have to know the truth about your ex. Truth is, they probably already know. And if they refuse to see the truth, they will, I promise. It is not your job to put a warning label on your ex, although some of these folks might really need one! Take the high road; you will not regret it!

“Wisdom is doing today what you can live with tomorrow.” Joyce Meyer

  1. You don’t have to answer his phone calls or texts when he is cursing, yelling or disrespecting you–He’s not your husband anymore. Every time I tell a woman this she looks at me like I am an alien made of Jell-O. It’s like you have left the building but your brain is still acting married. Time to retrain your brain by setting boundaries and then reclaiming your long lost self-respect. Take advantage of the “do not disturb” feature on your phone and if necessary, resort to emails or a third party communicator (attorney) until the seas are calm enough to sail again.
  2. You don’t have to fight over money all day every day–It’s okay to mediate or compromise or even realize, sometimes the money ain’t coming. While you probably deserve MORE, this can consume you. I am not saying not to fight to take care of your children; I am saying that there are times when it might actually be beyond your control. Some people never get caught up on child support. While it makes life really hard (like water getting shut off and eating ramen seven days a week hard) focus on what you CAN do about it. Learn your rights, do your due diligence, and then take care of business.
  3. You can’t control how your ex parents the kids–And they can’t control you. STOP TRYING. Have civil conversations. Pray for your ex and her household and the kids’ happiness at her house, but you don’t get to choose her values as a parent. You wouldn’t even get to do that if you were still married. And when she listens to your point of view and agrees to concessions, thank her. It will go a long way to her listening and being agreeable next time.
  4. The kids can hear you–Even when you whisper and gesture and mouth words and talk on the phone in your room, they can hear you. When you say daddy is bad or a jerk or an ass, they think they are bad too because they are his child. They still find identity in each of you; so for the sake of their self-esteem, and for their relationships with each of you, find a healthy outlet to vent that doesn’t wound your children.
  5. Stop serial dating–When you show up with guy number five for the last two months, the kids think you are crazy. Like seriously crazy. Don’t move in your boyfriend, and especially not his kids. Next thing you know, your child is attached to your boyfriend’s child and you have already moved on to the next Mr. Right, who in three weeks will be Mr. What Was I Thinking. No, you do not need to see if he is good with the kids. Not yet. Date for 3-4 months at least, and then gradually introduce him in a safe way. Most of the people you date won’t make it to the 90 day probation period, so why bother your kiddos with all your failed attempts at love. Haven’t they lost enough?

In no way do I intend to come off as judgmental. I can honestly say I have made ALL of these mistakes and then some. But you should know that your kids are watching you. They need you to be more solid and sane than ever, which is ironic, because you probably feel that you are losing your mind right now. You need love and guidance more than ever now! For tips on how to get through this trying time, check out Surviving the Loneliness of Separation and Divorce. And please, feel free to comment or reach out if you have questions or need help getting connected with resources. Even this, shall pass.

This list is by no means exhaustive. In fact, check out Part 2: Tips for Parents Going Through a Divorce  which focuses on the psychology and financial issues of divorce and its effects on children.

I am sure you won’t be shocked to hear that I never planned to be divorced, but I didn’t. Yet, it didn’t just happen. A lot happened, a lot went wrong, a lot failed before my 14-year relationship/9-year marriage finally took its last breath.

If you have been divorced you might understand some of what I felt after my divorce:

  • Fear of being alone
  • Fear of paying the bills
  • Fear of parenting alone without daily losing my Jesus and my mind
  • Loneliness
  • Shame
  • Guilt
  • Failure
  • Anger, even rage
  • Loss
  • Grief
  • Doubt
  • Wondering if I would marry again (or even if there are decent humans out there)
  • And the list goes on…

If you are new to divorce, and hurting desperately, please know that the pain will slowly but surely be replaced with hope and even joy, if you allow yourself time and room to heal. But don’t try to go through it alone; get counseling, join divorce recovery and get active in your church.

But I am not here to tell you how to get better, not in this post at least. I am here to simply impart a little hope for you. Ten years ago I was very broken and depressed, feeling hopeless and scared to death. But God has pulled me through those dark times and I want to tell you what I have learned over time:

  • Divorce sucks-You already knew that right? Well if you are thinking about doing it, be sure, because it is the hardest thing I have ever done. Its consequences never fully go away but we learn to cope, grow and even conquer.
  • Divorce doesn’t define me-You’re divorced? Ok. But that’s not WHO you are! You are a child of God, set just beneath the angels, crowned with honor and glory. (Hebrews 2:7) Don’t let divorce become your identity.
  • My emotions don’t control me-If we are not careful, we can worship our emotions; yes, our emotions can become our idol. While we cannot ignore feelings of depression or grief, or try to deal with them alone, we cannot put them on a pedestal, allowing them to rule our hearts and minds. We must be willing to heal.
  • Dating after divorce was weird-The more desperately you desire to date, the less ready you are for it. It’s a weird irony. If you can’t stand being alone, push through the loneliness. Dating during this time will most likely lead to bad relationships and terrible decisions.
  • Divorce was freeing-But not in the way that you might think. You might be excited to get to do what you want and go where you want without explaining your whereabouts to anyone. But divorce, handled well can free you up to be the person that God had always planned for you to be. Was your spouse tight with money? Now is your chance to celebrate your generous spirit. Did you always want to be a writer, a skydiver, or missionary? Now is your chance to do something that serves your gifts and God at the same time. The only thing holding you back is how you see yourself.
  • I am not who he said I am-We often define ourselves by our most significant relationship. Not dissing my ex here, because that is not what this post is about, but he viewed me much differently than how I see myself and vastly differently than how I want to be. Old definitions of yourself, and outdated expectations can be put aside. It’s time to find your identity in Christ and to shed the labels that are not healthy, not helpful and do not serve you and His Kingdom gloriously.
  • I love my life-Some of my fears came true. I was super broke, I lost my job, I had unhealthy relationships, my water was shut off, I ate too much ramen, I lost my cool with the kids, I felt lonely, embarrassed and helpless. But none of that was my fate.

I have turned out to be a really good mom, who in the long run, gets the big stuff right. My faith is insurmountable; it has never been stronger. I like myself more than ever: I feel more comfortable with who I am then ever before. I take more risks, have more fun and give myself more grace. I only eat ramen when I feel like it, my water runs, and I have a wonderful husband of almost 5 years.

I don’t know what happiness looks like to you when you close your eyes and dream about it. I don’t know what God has planned for your life. I can’t promise a full array of rainbows and butterflies everyday, and I can promise you that your life will never be perfect. But I can assure you that there is hope after divorce.

I am living it.

And loving it.

Praise GOD.

My DivorceCare class is at its halfway point. I don’t own the class, but I am leading it, as the resident expert on divorce recovery (haha) 10 years after my own divorce. Before each class, I pray for the intercession of the Holy Spirit because alone, I cannot lead a bug into a puddle.

In last week’s video, an expert speaker was talking about loneliness after divorce. She quoted an African saying that “sticks in a bundle are unbreakable.” I wrote that down. It’s a great word picture.

Loneliness is desperately prevalent during separation and divorce, and can remain so long after the decree is final. For many (if not all) of us who endure this loss, we have become experts on loneliness, having felt tragically alone and isolated, long before the first threat of divorce was ever uttered. I can remember longing for conversation, a sincere connection, physical touch, or a genuine apology long before divorce was on the horizon. Loneliness became my burlap sack to announce to the world that I was grieving my marriage, only no one could see it but me.

After my divorce, my loneliness morphed into something more pathetic, as I learned to cope by going on dates  to avoid being alone, sometimes with guys who were professed atheists, or obvious “players.” Not being alone to grieve, cry or sleep the day away became my new idol. I was worshiping my emotions through tequila shots and questionable decisions, all to avoid the dreaded space that engulfed me.

Now I have the dubious responsibility of “leading” a group of women recovering from divorce, when clearly I handled it so poorly. But what I want them to know, and you to know is that I had no bundle. I was a stick, more like a twig, trying pridefully to do it alone. Ironic right? I hated being alone, so I handled it  a l o n e.

I wasn’t much of a follower of Christ then, and I didn’t have Christian friends. I didn’t seek out support or healing, but you can. Here is who you should consider adding to your “bundle”:

  • Start with a church: I know going to church alone may sound weird, but it’s actually pretty amazing. The first time I went to church after my divorce, I had two small hyper boys with me (one of whom barfed in the car right before church). Not only did I love church immediately, I needed it and I knew I was home when I left the church sobbing from relief.
  • Add some Christian friends: Find some same sex friends who have a positive influence on you and who want to see you heal. Some people are miserable and want you to be also, that’s why it’s call com-mis-er-at-ing. And why same sex you ask? You are vulnerable and not done healing. You don’t need a friendship that turns into something you aren’t ready for (at least one heart will be broken in this scenario.)
  • Choose some Christian media: Try listening to Christian stations on your iPod, checking out some Christian podcasts, or reading “Divorce Care: Hope, Help and Healing During and After Your Divorce” by Kathy Leonard. You will be AMAZED by what this simple step of adding something positive, hopeful and healing will do for your loneliness. I have had a powerful word in a sermon or song change my entire outlook.
  • Join DivorceCare: Of course one of the best things to do is to start on the path to healing. You will be surprised at what you will learn in just 2 hours a week for 13 weeks like: dealing with anger, depression and loneliness, and helping your children through the divorce. You will also learn about dating again, and recovering from the financial hit of divorce. More importantly, you will make friends who can truly understand some of what you are feeling.
  • Strengthen your “twiginess”: build your confidence by trying to do a few things alone like going to a book store or coffee shop, or taking your dog for a hike (in a safe area). Also, try something new like rock climbing, weight training or painting that you have always been interested in but never made time for.  It is wonderfully refreshing and immediately confidence building to do something new and interesting. When you like yourself and find yourself interesting, you won’t feel as lonely when you are alone.

Loneliness is normal but it doesn’t have to consume your emotional reality. You might not want to get off of the couch or out of your house some days. Crying might even feel like a full time job. But these are the times when you must reach out to someone via text or a phone call. A lady in my group has joined a writing group while another has joined a walking group–bravo for them!

We all feel fragile during and after divorce, but do better than I did…gather up your sticks and tie a knot around them.

Where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety. Proverbs 11:14

Gather your sticks friends, and find hope and safety in your bundle.


For more insight into divorce, check out 7 Myths of Divorce

Last night was the beginning of a DivorceCare class that I am leading for the next 12 weeks. I have been divorced for ten years and I began a true walk with Christ way after my divorce was final. I have felt led for quite some time to do more to help people during and after their divorce. Divorce is incredibly painful, financially debilitating and stigmatizing for many. But it is also so brutal that it strips us down and makes us ripe for Christ.

Those who attended the group last night were in various situations and different stages of healing, many still in the thick of loss and suffering. Yet each person took fervent notes and had so much to add to the group. Even I, ten years later, put the pen to the paper. I have learned that divorce is a long arduous battle followed by a much longer recovery that most of us underestimate.

Here are some thoughts I would like to share with you from what I am still learning about divorce (some are from the class, and some are from experience). Many of us have gone through divorce, yet there are many misconceptions about divorce:

  • If you are relieved that the divorce is final, then you wanted your marriage to end–The process of divorce is long, grueling, and expensive. It takes a huge toll on our health and wellness. It is okay to be relieved to be off the battlefield. It does not mean that you are heartless, selfish or cruel.
  • If you file the paperwork, then you are the one giving up–Fault is not the outsider’s job to assess. It’s quite possible that the person who filed for divorce was also the one praying for the marriage daily, seeking counseling, attempting to communicate with their spouse, and begging for reconciliation. God’s heart breaks for the marriage that remains in ruin, not just for the marriage that officially ends.
  • Recovery from divorce can be relatively quick–In my experience with divorced women, I observe that healing is painfully slow. Getting a final divorce decree does not erase years of emotional and mental patterns that have taken strongholds in our spirit. Those on the outside will not understand why you still treat your spouse as a spouse (at times), long after you have separate lives. This takes time, recovery and counseling to change.
  • Dating will help you move on–(deep exhale) I learned that this was a myth the hard way. I hear many people (men and women) say that they just don’t like to be alone. They start dating as soon as they have their own place (or sooner), and have a new suitor lined up before the last one has left the driveway. They often talk to multiple guys or girls at once, afraid to have to be alone or un-pursued for a nanosecond. Dating will help you forget momentarily, but it will never ever help you truly heal.
  • Time heals all wounds–Time isn’t that powerful. Healing is not an accident. Healing is a choice and it requires action. Healing is not done unto us, we have to choose it, pursue it and commit to it. Ignoring our pain, numbing our pain, or busying ourselves will not fix a thing. We can push it down until we forget about it, but it will rear its ugly head in a new form later (poor choices, depression, anger, addiction, etc.)
  • We have to do divorce alone–Those going through divorce are not lepers, nor are they contagious. We need to continue to spend time with friends, attend church and small group, enjoy our healthy hobbies (or find one) and join a recovery group. Unfortunately, some of our friends might retreat, but we have to continue to seek out the appropriate company of other Christians.
  • God is done with me–Due to divorce, we often feel very ashamed, and like Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, we often try to hide, even from God. But He is not done with us yet. We still have work to do, and we are not off the hook because of our divorce. In fact, I know a few wonderful people who did not get their start in Christianity or even ministry until after their unfortunate divorce. I am not saying that God celebrates divorce; I am saying that He can use the recovered-you for more good than you ever thought possible!

If you are in the middle of separation or divorce, or if you are years down the road and still feeling some of the pains of divorce, please get involved in a group that will support your emotional and spiritual growth during this difficult time.

Contact me for more information on DivorceCare in our area, or check out DivorceCare.org for a list of services near you.

Hope and healing are always choices to be made.


For more insight into the struggles of divorce, read Why Your Divorce is Breaking My Heart

In 14 days, I will be 40. That’s half way to 80 in case you didn’t know.

When I turned 30 I was thrilled. I am petite and I have always looked a little young for my age. I was determined to be taken “seriously” and I felt that with “30” on my side, I could finally stand up for myself, say no when I felt like it, and not even have to make up an excuse. I felt grown.

The last 10 years have gone by so slowly yet so quickly. I have been divorced, hit the dating scene again, got engaged, got un-engaged, dated some more, found the love of my life, remarried, and have seen my two sons turn into young men.

I have found Jesus in the darkest moments. I centered my marriage on God. I have found a church home, became a Christian blogger, gone to seminary and have begun my Christian counseling internship.

I have lost weight, I have gained weight, I have joined and quit four gyms, eaten gluten-free, clean, dairy free and taste free. I currently favor the cupcake diet, but am certain that my budget can’t handle many more trips to buy new jeans in the next size up, so I am focusing on my health once more. My waist is expanding, my breasts are softening, my eyebrows are thinning, and for the love of Pete, I still have acne (how is this possible??)

I have lived in about seven different homes from a small 2-bedroom apartment that promised a pool (that was open about 11 days that summer) to my ranch on 17 acres that begs for a chicken coup but will have to settle for puppies and my dying aloe plants under the florescent lights in my guest bathroom.

I have had several different jobs, many out of necessity because I was a single mom. I was a makeup artist, a lingerie store manager, a housekeeper, a real estate agent and now a business owner/writer/teacher/student/intern. Yes, I have done it all and that’s okay. Not all of us settle in easily. I like to take the long way “home.”

In the last 10 years, I have read over 300 books, owned 8-10 cars, written hundreds of blogs, had several surgeries, had 6 very brief pregnancies, cried thousands of tears, laughed, danced, partied, napped and traveled. I have lived a lifetime in these 10 years.

With only 14 days left in my 30s, I am beginning to mourn this decade. No, I am not mourning my youth, my once firm tush or my laugh-line-free-face. I am beginning to say goodbye to the decade that I learned the most in life.

In my 30s, I learned how to be a good girlfriend, how to be honest, to stop competing, to truly love my friends the way they deserved to be loved.

I learned to stop telling people what to do with their lives (as much). I am a better listener, less bossy, and better at allowing people (and the Holy Spirit) the space to figure things out for themselves.

I have learned to follow, to give up (some) control and to not always get my way (every time.) I have learned to let my husband lead (that was HUGE!), and I am learning to not always be the alpha in my friendships.

I have learned to be okay and even excited about high-waist jeans, comfortable shoes, stretchy sports bras and a really good eye cream. I still love fashion and I enjoy trends, but I am happily making decisions about what to wear that would have made me cringe a few years ago. I dress “my age”, and I am proud of that.

I have learned to forgive myself when I disappoint myself as a mother, to apologize, and give myself the grace I give my children (and those around me). I have stopped wondering if my parenting would put them in therapy, started stashing money away for the therapy that will come, and am already planning ways to spoil my grandchildren (in 20 years.) I don’t even care what the grandkids call me, as long as they do.

I have become less beautiful yet less vain. I have become more confident, yet less prideful. I have become a better leader, and a better follower. I have learned I am not always right (although I have not learned to like it). I have learned to say I am sorry quickly and often. I have given up on ever becoming a good singer but I have become quite comfortable with raising my hand to worship my Maker.

My heart has softened, my silver tongue has lost some of its sting, and I am in general kinder. I am still short, bossy, quirky and fickle at times. I can still be a little mean, moderately impatient, and quite demanding.

As I bid farewell to my 30s; I want to say thank you to this incredible, broken, humbling, yet victorious decade. Thank you for making me stronger, gentler, kinder, more forgiving, less selfish, while still imperfect. Thank you for showing me what really matters like good girlfriends to split a bottle of wine with, kids to chase down for a hug and a husband to hold hands with and to tell me I am pretty when I am in my high-waist jeans and sensible shoes. Thank you for dragging me out of the darkness and into the light, for making me an advocate instead of a victim, a problem solver instead of a whiner, and a woman instead of child. It was time to grow up.

As I face my 40s, I think of all the things I still want to do, and all the places I would like to visit. But I always want to pay homage to the life I have already lived, the love I have already felt and the God I have already met. If today were my last day on earth, I have already lived a good life.

(Oh, and don’t tell me that 40 is the new 30…I am proud of every hour on this Earth!)