So it’s been a few days since I got the letter stating that my divorce was final. Some trusted that I was okay; others, I believe, waited for “the other shoe to drop.” I said then, that I was okay, and I’m still saying now that I’M OKAY. What most people don’t know, or understand, is that while there is a grieving process to all loss, whether it is the death of a loved one, loss of a job or home, or the end of a marriage, grieving can occur at any time.
For me, personally, my grieving time came during my marriage. I know many people don’t start their grieving until the end of their marriage, or when the ink is fresh on the divorce papers, but that wasn’t the case for me. I started grieving years before the official end of my marriage. In spite of my hopes, dreams, and prayers that my marriage would be saved, I saw signs of THE END throughout my marriage–and the second separation was a definite sign, even if I wanted to ignore all the others. So I went through the grieving process, and went through most of the stages…a few times. And this is why I refer to my grieving as GOOD grief, because while I was praying for one thing, the Lord helped me to clearly see what I needed to see and understand, which allowed me the opportunity to start grieving early. The Lord, while He didn’t save my marriage, saved me from having to go “cold turkey” and I am grateful for that.
While I was going through my GOOD grief, I went through most of the 5 stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.
1. Denial– Initially, I thought “this isn’t happening to me.” I believed I was doing all the right things spiritually, mentally, emotionally, sexually, institutionally, etc. etc. And when I made mistakes, I quickly acknowledged them and corrected them, so I just did not want to believe that my marriage was still failing. “No way!” I thought. And because I believed God when He said, “ask and you shall receive,” I just KNEW my marriage would be saved contrary to the signs, contrary to what my (then) husband wanted. I revisited this stage a few times. GOOD grief.
2. Anger– Because I tried to do all the right things, I was becoming angry and frustrated that NOTHING was working. To help you understand the depths of my anger and frustration, at one point when I KNEW I was a GREAT wife, I cooked 5 days a week (and that’s HUGE for me), cleaned, did laundry, looked good (at least in public), had sex 95% of the time whenever HE wanted it and however he wanted it. I supported ALL of his endeavors being a sounding board or a cheerleader–whatever it took, I watched sports with him on occasion (and got into it), prayed for, with, and over him, went to church with him, had his back whenever he needed me, and when things STILL continued to go bad, I suggested weekly date nights, marriage counseling, a marriage enrichment program, a marriage workshop, a marriage audio program, marriage books, and individual counseling. So, after ALL of this, yes, I was more than a tad bit angry.
I was angry at him AND angry with God. I felt like I was knocking myself out for nothing. I felt I was working too darn hard to not have what I needed and wanted. I was angry that I was doing all the right stuff and it STILL wasn’t good enough, “I” still wasn’t good enough–at least that’s how I took it–initially. I bounced in and out of this stage until I could LISTEN to God telling me that I needed to stop trying so hard and just be ME. He showed me that while I was doing all the right things, that not all of these things came from my heart. Some of these things I was doing came from my ego–trying to prove that I was good and worthy. God showed me that because I was reconciled back to Him that that alone made me worthy and that I was seeking and searching for something–approval–that God had already given me! My job was simply to LOVE and do everything for my (then) husband solely from a place of love, and nowhere else. Once I understood this, I was no longer angry or frustrated with the sad state of my marriage.
And, I was no longer angry that God wasn’t saving my marriage. I understood that marriage takes TWO WILLING people and that God gave us free will. I understood that God was not going to make my (then) husband do what he was not willing to do. God just doesn’t work that way. So, I had a lot of forgiving to do. I had to forgive my (then) husband for wasting my time AND my love (or so I felt then). I had to forgive God for not going against His nature (I know, absurd right?) and not saving my marriage in a timely fashion. And I had to forgive myself for being angry with God (who loves me endlessly) and forgive myself for judging my (then) husband by thinking he should be someone he clearly was not. GOOD grief.
3. Bargaining– I don’t believe I bargained with God about saving my marriage. I didn’t ever tell God that “if He just saved my marriage I promised I’d _____________.” I was already doing all I believed I needed to do as a good wife according to His will, so I believed He was going to either save my marriage or He wasn’t. Yeah, I skipped this stage of grieving. Besides, I got to the point where I didn’t want to be with someone who didn’t want to be with me (that’s hell on earth, you know?), so I didn’t feel the need to bargain with God.
4. Depression– Yeah, I did this stage to the point of being clinically depressed and requiring medication (read The Depressed Christian Wife). I was straight off my rocker! I thank God for my therapist and for the medication because I was able to finally clearly see what caused my depression (putting my broken marriage before God) and how to get healed (put God first and foremost and trust Him). Thank God, I went through this stage only once. Once was all I needed in order to learn that God must come first at all times and as long as this was so, I was going to be alright. GOOD grief.
5. Acceptance– By the time I knew my divorce was inevitable, I fully accepted it. I had no doubt that it would happen. One thing I am thankful for is that I have no regrets. I was able to walk away knowing that I did EVERYTHING I could possibly do. I knew that God would be with me. I knew that while God does not like divorce, He was not angry with me for getting a divorce. I began to look back only to reflect on the experience I gained so that I could move forward–on to the next chapter in my life. GOOD grief.
Since God does not let anything go to waste, I know that my experience is, and will be, used for His good. I know that in my grieving He was made strong and for that, He gets all the glory.
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