Divorce is one of the ugliest and saddest words I know. It's not something I ever thought I'd go through myself. As a teen, I experienced my parents' divorce, and even though I never saw them fight and it was a civil disunion, I never ever wanted it for myself, and I definitely didn't want to put my kids through that or raise them as a single mom. It's not something I'm proud of, but it is part of my story.
For quite some time, I was very guarded and didn't think I'd ever open my heart to falling in love or getting married. Then I went to college and grew in many ways, while remaining naive in many others. I dated a few guys for short periods of time and had a lot of friends, but wasn't sure marriage was for me. Then in my junior year I met someone who was fun, attractive and came from a good family. I fell in love with the idea of being married and raising a family of my own. People nicknamed our school "Bethany Bridal College", with the tag line "ring by spring or your money back". Six months after I graduated, I was married. I remember a few months after getting married, realizing I had no idea what I'd gotten myself into, but was determined to make it work. We were married 16 years and had four children. We were involved in church and even leaders in a marriage ministry. But we rarely connected. He was into his career(s); I wrapped myself up in raising our kids, and became more actively involved in church ministry. We were like two ships passing. We docked at the same harbor but rarely spent time or energy making our marriage what it should have been. Early in 2010, he started working out of town on weekends, and was working 7 days a week between his two jobs. That was also when I began working outside the home for the first time since having kids. It was rough on the family, and on our marriage, but I thought we'd get through it and be stronger on the other side. What I didn't know was that he had met someone and ultimately decided he'd rather be with her than me. He moved out a little over four years ago.
It's been quite a journey... raising four kids alone, healing (for myself and for them), a move, scheduling, school, work, finances, legal issues, etc. It hasn't been easy, and I don't wish it on anyone. But in the midst of it all, we've had comfort and peace that I can't explain. We have never been alone (though sometimes it may feel that way), and we have hope. The JOY of the Lord has been our strength. He is so good, and His love has been so amazing and so real. Sometimes we get frustrated with our circumstances, but we're together and there is peace in our home. We have awesome family and friends who have come alongside to assist in ways I'll never adequately be able to thank.
One thing I'm thankful I learned early on was that I couldn't get through this journey alone. I had always been one to keep real feelings bottled up, but in the weeks and months following the separation and leading to divorce (and beyond), I knew I needed to be open and vulnerable with a few trusted loved ones. I allowed myself to feel every emotion as it came and I was able to share feelings such as frustration, fear, sadness, anger, regret, worry and shame (SO much shame. I felt like I had a big scarlet letter "D" on my chest, identifying me as a throw-away, one who had been divorced). Because I was open and shared in this way, I was able to be strong for my kids. I processed what I needed to on my own through prayer and with a few safe people, so when I was with them, I was able to listen and guide them through their healing processes. I didn't pretend to have it all together with them, and they've seen that I'm on a journey myself, but I have spared them the details and we pray together a lot. I can't say I'm doing it all perfectly or always have the right answers for them, but overall I think we've all come a long way. When I say I've been open and vulnerable, I don't mean in a blast it all on Facebook kind of way. I'm very careful with what I shared publicly, but with just a handful of people who I know I can trust, I have processed and worked through my feelings.
I thought I'd share here a few resources that I have found to be very helpful. If you know someone who is starting on this journey, please feel free to share. My hope is that I can offer what was helpful to me, especially in the beginning, and extend some hope in a time that can feel very dark and lonely. If you are reading this and you are on a similar road, I encourage you to look into some of these resources and also to open up to someone who can walk alongside you. Please contact me if you'd like to get in touch and need to hear from someone who has an idea what you're going through. You are not alone. And you are SO worth loving.
(I have an affiliate account with Amazon, so any purchases made by clicking the links below will help bring in a little extra income to my family.. thank you!)
by Angela Thomas
I love Angela Thomas. I have since the first time I read one of her books, Do You Think I'm Beautiful? (which I also very highly recommend). She is so real, very funny, and writes in a way you feel like you're sitting with a good friend who really gets it.
I didn't know that she was a single mom until after I became one. (And when I found out, I might have cried a little. Her too? She's been through this and she knows what I'm going through?) It felt like an answer to a prayer I hadn't even prayed yet.. to have someone to identify with and learn from. I read her book and was so thankful that she shared from her heart the way she did. She helped me to not feel so alone. Reading her book helped me identify and work through a lot of the feelings I was having in the early stages of my journey through divorce. She writes about feeling lonely, overwhelmed, afraid, ashamed, and ultimately, hopeful. I got to meet Angela at a conference a few months after my ex-husband left. I told her that I had recently become a single mom, that I read her book and that I was where she had been 10 years prior. She gave me a hug and said, "Isn't that just the dumbest club to be in?" (as in Single Mom's club). Reading this was like having a big sister who had already walked the road I was beginning, sharing her heartbreak, disappointment, wisdom and hope along the way.
by Mark Atteberry
This one deals with all sorts of setbacks and tragedies, not just divorce. There are many reasons and situations we unwillingly find ourselves grieving and struggling to move forward. Mark Atteberry reminds us that we are not alone, that God is there to guide us on the journey. This certainly applies to divorce recovery and becoming a single parent, but you can also pass it on to someone grieving the loss of a loved one, miscarriage, job loss and financial struggles, illness, etc. The road is hard, but we are not alone.
Each chapter highlights a strategy for how to travel these roads, with titles such as Trust God to Meet Your Needs, Go at God's Pace, Stay Positive, Enjoy Every Oasis, Expect Detours, Keep Your Dreams Alive, When You Come to the Jordan Cross it, etc. Every one of these is filled with heart felt stories of people who have gone through (and come out on the other side of) personal tragedies of one kind or another. What I appreciate is that it's not just someone awkwardly offering shallow words of comfort because they don't know what to say. Anyone can quote Scripture and tell you that everything will be ok. This is more like someone putting a hand on your shoulder and saying, "I know your pain. I've been there too. The circumstances were different, but our God is the same and His love will see you through. Here's how He did that for me." It's very genuine and compassionate.
A little devotional book, Every Single Day takes you through 12 weeks of encouragement for single moms. There are stories and Scriptures for each day, complete with prayers. Written by a single mom who knows first hand how exhausting, lonely and rewarding the task can be, this is a nice little book to keep by the bedside.
My sister gave this to me. It's a nice book to give as a gift to someone who is beginning a new stage of life as a single mom. It's a sweet way to let her know that maybe you don't know the struggle first hand, but that you care and want to offer some comfort.
I remember the first time I saw a church with a banner for Divorce Care, I was picking my girls up from school as I passed by. I thought no way would I ever go to something like that. It seemed like a place divorcees would go to find someone new, like a meat market, and I was absolutely not interested in that! I was, however, curious enough about the ministry to check out their website. While I wasn't interested in attending a group, I did sign up for their emails. I found these to be very helpful. They were short and to the point, and very applicable for what I was going through and the healing that needed to take place. Sometimes I found that they pinpointed feelings I had and things I needed to work through before I was even aware of them. A group formed at my church several months after I had gone through the year of email devotions from Divorce Care. I realize now that these groups have nothing to do with trying to meet someone and hook up! They are just people walking the same road who see the importance of community and not going it alone.
All about recovery, this book takes the focus away from the hurt and onto the healing. It is broken down into choices that we can make to move toward wholeness. It is very similar to the 12 Step program in AA. We have a choice.. we can stay stuck in our pain, anger, disappointment and sadness, or we can choose a life of healing and happiness. It is very practical and at the end of each chapter, there are actions that suggest activities you can do that will move you closer to freedom from your hurts.
You can also check out the Celebrate Recovery website to find groups, classes and events in your area.
"When life is heavy and hard to take, go off by yourself. Enter the silence. Bow in prayer. Don't ask questions: Wait for hope to appear. Don't run from trouble. Take it full-face. The 'worst' is never the worst. Why? Because the Master won't ever walk out and fail to return. If He works severely, He also works tenderly. His stockpiles of loyal love are immense." -Lamentations 3:28-32 The Message