Proceed with CAUTION…
Divorce. I cringe at the sound of this terrible word. D-I-V-O-R-C-E. This seven letter word makes me sick. I have never believed in divorce. In most cases, I still don’t.
Once upon a time, there was a young, teenage girl. This girl feel head-over-heels for her brother’s best friend. Every family vacation that “he” came with, she fell for him even more. She was much younger than “he” and “he” was her brother’s best friend. Apparently in ‘guy language’ that means, “do not touch. Do not proceed and collect $200. Hands-off, bro!” So nothing happened. She continued to be “just the little sister” for several years.
Fast forward sometime. She was older, more mature, and in graduate school. He noticed her. They feel in love. They got engaged. They were married on the beach at sunset. Everything was ‘perfect.’ They both finished graduate school. They began their careers. They traveled. They began a family. With a newborn in tow, they moved…to a small island in paradise. They pursued “his” dream and she followed, because her dream was to be a wife and a mommy. They became very involved in their community; involved in ministry, teaching, and outreach to families. Despite her health issues related to having children, they trusted God and became pregnant again. She had another very challenging pregnancy resulting in surgeries and complete bed rest (along with an active 18-24 month old son to take care of, educate, and entertain…while in bed). They were blessed with a beautiful, healthy baby girl. Their beautiful family was complete. They spent most of their time in the ministry (as “he” is a pastor) and at playgroups (as she is passionate about outreach and helping children and families). Life was perfect, or was it?
From the outside, they were the ‘perfect family.’ The husband and wife had together (mostly Jesus here people!) successfully grown a dying church into a thriving church. She had a large playgroup filled with families, most of who were now attending and active in the church because of the playgroup (and Jesus!). They had friends. They lived in a beautiful church manse directly on the water where they could jump in the backyard and catch their choice of fish or lobster for meals. They had a boat at their dock that they could take out at their leisure. They went on family vacations to Disney World. Saturdays consisted of going to the local parks, beaches, pools, and fishing (and football and wings during football season, of course!). But something happened. For the sake of their beautiful blessings, there will be no details. She had to leave with the kids.
Divorce happens. Divorce sucks. Divorce destroys families.
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I am going through a divorce. A divorce from the man who I have loved since I was young. Divorce from the father of my beautiful blessings. It is by far the most challenging trial I have ever been faced with. I do not want it. I do not wish this on anyone. I pray everyday for our family, for healing, and for reconciliation. But something I have learned through all of this pain and hurt is that you cannot have a marriage, if both parties are not willing to fight for it.
Guard your hearts. Value your family. Pray for your spouse. This is something that I have been struggling with, but I pray for “him” daily both with my children and alone. It is extremely challenging. Do not stand for what is wrong. If you are having problems, seek independent outside help immediately.
Do I still pray and hope for reconciliation for our marriage and family? Absolutely. But I am realistic for the sake of my children.
If you have had to leave a relationship, my advice to you is:
1. Pray. Pray to the God of strength. Pray to the God who knows our pain and our struggles. Pray to the God who created you. Pray to the God who is filled with love and compassion for you.
2. Find support. I owe so much to my family and close friends. I would not be where I am now, if I did not have them. In addition to the physical needs (everyone needs a roof over their heads and food to eat) my family has and continues to provide love, commitment, and support to my children and me. It doesn’t matter if some days I am a basket case wanting my “old life” back. They are there to listen and support me. There have been quite a few times during this terrible process, where I just wanted to be alone and hide, but I knew that is not what my kids needed their mommy to do. And my family was there to help push me to keep on chugging. Allow your family and very close friends (you will most likely lose a lot of “friends” during this process, but you know what…they probably weren’t your friends in the first place). In addition to your family and close friends, reach out to a trusted pastor (that is SO difficult for me to write!) and/or counselor. It is always helpful to have a non-objective third party who is not family, to bounce thoughts and ideas off of. There are also divorce support groups for adults and their children. Check your local church and/or counseling centers.
3. Make a plan. I am a planner. I think I was born with a piece of chalk in one hand and an agenda book in the other. I love to teach and I love to plan. This process has taught me that there is no planning for a divorce. However, you can start planning for major things during and after the divorce. I have had to plan a budget. Divorce will suck the money out from you. I have become very coupon-savvy and learned to say no to a lot of “wants.” I have had to plan visits for the kids to see their dad. I have had to plan doctors and dentist appointments without anyone to help me. I have had to plan school and after-school activities while juggling work and being a single mommy. Let’s just say that I have and continue to do a lot of extra planning and shuffling, especially since I became a single mommy. Learn to plan, but also learn to be flexible.
4. Find a hobby. Find something you have always wanted to do or try; and do it. For me, I started this blog (LettersInTheSand.com). I had never done anything like this before, but I combined my passion for helping children and families with my experience and training as a parent and an educator and voila! Letters In The Sand was born. It is my hobby that allows my creative juices to flow while encompassing helping and educating children and families.
5. Exercise. As much as I don’t want to admit to my dad, he is absolutely correct about exercise. It not only helps you physically, but mentally and emotionally also. Even if you can take a 20 minute walk, it should help, on multiple levels.
6. Forgive yourself. You are most likely not yourself right now. You are physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually exhausted. You are completely wiped and drained. Some mornings you don’t want to get out of bed. Don’t beat yourself up, forgive yourself. Love yourself, respect yourself, be kind to yourself. Allow others to help you. Learn to ask for help. God made us to have a spouse, a helper. It has taking me many years to realize that we cannot do everything and be everything to everyone. We cannot. Learn to accept help and love yourself.
I wish I could pinch myself and wake-up from this terrible nightmare, but I cannot, because it is reality. It is a harsh reality that I never dreamt would be part of my life or my family’s life. But it is now the reality we are faced with. As excruciatingly painful as it is, I choose to accept it, deal with it, move on from it, and thrive from it. All this while continuing to honor God and be the best mommy, daughter, and friend I know how to be. Divorce. It is terrible, but it will not define me. Today is the day that I am officially divorced.
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