If you can do these four things, you can begin to move forward with your life again.
The holidays can be a difficult time for anyone who is divorced to say the least. With all the celebrations at which one is expected to wear a cheerful smile and cover up the pain, and all the church events where happy couples and intact families gather, it’s enough sometimes to make you want to crawl under a rock and hide until January. But just as things settle down and you start to feel safe again, here comes Valentine’s Day.
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I know that feeling of dread well. I went through an unwanted divorce back in the early 1990s, and in the years I spent trying to rebuild my life afterward, Valentine’s Day always had its own special sting. While holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas at least had spiritual themes that helped me focus more on those aspects instead of just myself, Valentine’s Day was simply a harsh reminder of all I had lost.
A time to heal
Valentine’s Day always made me wonder how long it would be before I would heal or be happy, again. Not everyone who gets divorced wants to remarry, but I did. I believed marriage was my vocation in life, but at this point, and I felt stuck in a rut of loneliness and resentment.
Some days were so tough, it felt like I would never be happy again, but I knew if I allowed that feeling to overwhelm me, I would become bitter and cynical. That was not something I was willing to do. I had to find a way to get through it all gracefully and with my hope for the future intact.
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So, I made the decision to roll up my sleeves and get down to the hard work of healing, which included going through the annulment process and receiving a decree of nullity (annulment). Eventually, I met the man I am happily married to today, and this June, we will celebrate our 17th wedding anniversary.
I’m sharing this story with you in case you are divorced and feeling discouraged this Valentine’s Day. I want you to know that this, too, shall pass. Here are some things I did that helped me start moving forward in the healing process, and that I hope will give you some encouragement and balance:
1. Don’t label yourself
Remember that your divorce does not define you, it’s only something that happened to you. God created you with a distinct purpose in life, and divorce cannot take that away, nor can it negate all your gifts and talents, or all your great qualities. So don’t succumb to the label of divorce. Be confident in your purpose, goodness, and abilities.
2. Let go of your past
The unfortunate thing about the past is we can’t do anything to change it, so why live with the ghosts that only serve to haunt you? Real healing comes when you lay face the truth of what happened in your relationship, make peace with it, and lay it to rest. You can do this through self-reflection, spiritual direction or therapy, but one of the best ways to do this is by going through the annulment process. It is the perfect opportunity to make peace with your past, heal the painful memories, and find your new direction in life.
3. Place your worries in God’s hands
Romans 8:28 reminds us that God uses our circumstances for our good when we are faithful to him. So, when you are feeling discouraged, remind yourself that God will take your situation and bring good out of it. No matter how bad it may seem at this moment, God is working on your behalf to turn it around to something good.
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4. Discover the take away
There are lessons God wants you to learn from your divorce. This took me a long time to figure out myself. I had to discover the roots of my failed marriage and examine them to see what I could change, what I could do differently in the future. To do that, I had to adopt an attitude of childlike trust and prayerfully ask, “Lord, what do you want me to learn from this?
Ask God to show you what the takeaway from all this is. What does he want you to learn? How does he want you to apply that to your life?
Healing is a gradual process, we all know, but it’s not just time that has an effect on this process. It’s a lot like getting a suntan. You know, you go to the beach, play in the water, play a little Frisbee for a while without noticing a thing but when you go back inside, you’ve got a tan. Sometimes you just have to get out there and move forward so you can look back and recognize exactly how much you’ve progressed. It’s the same with healing. Oftentimes, it’s in the looking back that you see how far you’ve really come and all that God has been doing for you.
I encourage you to take these little challenges and see how your life begins moving forward. There are still great things ahead in your future, even a happy Valentine’s Day.
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