12 Steps for Overcoming the Pain
By Dick Innes
Courtesy of New Life Ministries
Divorce is one of the most painful experiences any family can
experience. It's not only the death of a marriage, but also the
death of dreams and hopes, and can be more painful than physical
death which at least has a finality to it.
Of one thing we can be sure, however, even though God hates divorce
(as well as everything else that is harmful to people), he loves
divorced people and families and wants them to be healed and made
whole. The healing or recovery process may not be easy but it
sure beats staying in the valley of despair. So, if we have experienced
the tragedy of divorce, how can we recover, grow through it and
allow it to make us much healthier persons?
First, acknowledge the loss. After the initial
shock it's tempting to go into denial either by refusing to face
the reality of what has happened or by burying our feelings of
hurt, anger and grief. So the first step in recovery is to face
the reality of the situation and be truly honest with how we feel.
Second, accept the pain as being normal. Pain
is nature's way to tell us something is broken and needs fixing.
Whether a broken arm or a broken heart, the pain needs to motivate
us to get the help we need to heal and to take proper care of
Third, realize that this, too, will pass. With
divorce it is easy to feel that life is over and that we will
never love again. However, if we work through the recovery process,
the pain will pass and we can come out much healthier and more
Fourth, don't waste your pain, invest it. The
greatest way we can invest our pain is to use it to motivate us
to grow and become better persons, and then support others who
are going through divorce and help them to see that they, too,
can survive and become happier, healthier persons.
Fifth, give yourself time to heal. A broken
arm takes six weeks to heal. Broken hearts take much longer --
but not forever. As we work through the recovery steps, we will
heal. For some it may take up to a year or more. But, if we still
haven't resolved our pain after say two years, chances are we
haven't faced or dealt with our feelings and that is keeping us
stuck. If this is your case, I suggest getting professional counsel
to help you work through your loss and the recovery process.
Sixth, do your grieving now. With all loss there
are many emotions such as hurt, anger, guilt, and deep grief-
- all of which need to be expressed creatively otherwise they
will be acted out destructively. Find a safe person to share them
with even if it has to be a professional counselor. If we put
walls around our negative feelings we also block out our positive
feelings. A vital part of the healing process is to weep and even
sob out our grief. As Jesus said, "Blessed are those who
mourn, for they will be comforted." (Matthew 5:4 NIV)
Seventh, forgive to be free. Failing to forgive
keeps us bound to the past but to make genuine forgiveness possible,
we need to resolve and get rid of all our negative emotions of
hurt, anger, and grief. Unless we do this, we will take our negative
emotions into all our future close relationships.
Eighth, let go of the past. I've worked with
people who were divorced as long as twenty years ago and were
still hanging onto the fantasy that their ex-spouse would return
-- even though they had remarried. We need to work through our
pain, then let go of it. It helps to hand our failures over to
God, ask for his forgiveness for our part in the marriage breakup,
receive it by faith and then forgive ourselves. Then leave it
with God and get on with life.
Ninth, guard against a rebound. Rushing into
another romantic relationship too soon can cause us to avoid facing
the pain of our marriage breakup and then, if we marry before
resolving our past, we are destined to repeat it.
Tenth, get into a support group. None of us
can make it alone. We weren't meant to. We need to be connected
to safe, supportive, accepting, and non-judgmental people. We
got hurt in hurtful relationships and get healed in wholesome
relationships. The Bible says, "God sets the lonely in families."
(Psalm 68:6 NIV) He does this through other people and the closest
thing we can get to a family is a small support and recovery group.
Eleventh, realize that failure is never final
and that the only real failure is not to get up one more time
than we fall down.
Twelfth, call on God for help. Any failure or
divorce can be "God's wake up call" to show us that
we need to get into recovery and grow. Especially pray that God
will show you the truth of what you contributed to your marriage
breakup and why your were attracted to the person you married
in the first place. The danger is that what we don't resolve we
are destined to repeat.
Remember that no matter what you have ever done or failed to
do, God loves you and wants to make you whole. As his Word says,
"Consider it pure joy, my brothers (and sisters), whenever
you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing
of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish
its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything."
(James 1:2-4 NIV)
With God's help, the support of safe friends, and working through
the recovery process you will find healing from your hurt and
a greater measure of wholeness and spiritual enrichment.
Used by permission of New Life Ministries. New Life Ministries has
a variety of resources on men, women and relationships. Call 1-800-NEW-LIFE
or visit www.newlife.com.
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