“Blessed are those who mourn…”
The Isolation of Divorce
Who are “the least of these” in our midst? Who is sitting in the church pew next to us in hidden pain and desolation? Last week we considered the isolation of those living with mental illness and their devoted caretakers. There are many parallels with those who grieve divorce.
When a beloved member died young and unexpectedly last year, our church did a wonderful job of rallying around the grieving spouse and her children with cards, flowers, visits, food, and memorials. Yet when a couple in the same church divorced after 25 years of marriage, where were the casseroles and flowers for them and their children?
Many divorcees believe they suffer just as deeply and mourn just as long as any widow or widower. Yet in addition to their pain and loss, add overwhelming shame, betrayal, judgment, rejection, and on and on – very often from those in the church. Instead of a memorial service and a respected season of mourning, there is no closure for divorcees, only an ongoing “living death.”
One of the contributors to isolation for both widows(ers) and divorcees is being excluded from social circles they once depended on for shared joy and support. Couple friends feel awkward reaching out to those who are newly single. One newly divorced woman wrote to me saying that even when others try to be inclusive, “every conversation, every gesture between spouses is a painful reminder of what I no longer have.”
Most of us never intend to exclude or judge people who have divorced, but we’re not sure what to say, so unfortunately we say and do nothing. Just like anyone who has lost a loved one, divorcees want to be remembered, loved and prayed for. Too many suffer in isolation and shame in circumstances that are not of their making. “People don’t understand…or they don’t know how to respond, so they look the other way.”
If you want to help, offer the same support you would give to anyone who is grieving: cards, prayers, meals, errands, visits, cheerful music, flowers, or a good story. Jesus came to save those who are lost, those who realize their brokenness and their need of a savior. Referring to God’s separation from disobedient Israel, Rev. John Wood says that God is a divorcee and understands our pain. As Christians, we can offer a message of hope and redemption to those who suffer.
I offer here a personal lament psalm I wrote more than three years after my divorce, in hopes that divorcees will know they are not alone in their feelings and that those who are happily married may better appreciate that it is only by God’s grace that their marriage has endured.
My Lonely Walk
O God, I cried and pleaded with you to save our marriage and you were silent.
All I ever wanted was to be a wife and mother. D means “beloved” and indeed he was my beloved for 37 years. And I meant “til death do us part” with all my heart, mind, and soul.
For years, I waited and prayed and expected you to make it work. I wanted so much to provide hope and light for other struggling couples and for our children when times get hard. I wanted to show how You can work miracles in impossible situations. But that will never be.
Instead I have become part of the shameful statistic that “half of Christian marriages end in divorce.”
After all those years of counseling and prayer and laying down my life, this is how it ends? Really? I know you hate this as much as I do, so why don’t you fix it? fix us?
I’ve confessed my co-dependency and I’m working hard to learn new ways of caring. Is it really too late?
I try not to get defensive when I hear rumors, gossip, and judgment about myself or others. People can be so self-righteous when they don’t have a clue.
I can’t bear to watch the pain it’s causing our children…..
I hate the stigma, the shame, the humiliation, the disgrace of being a “divorced woman.” I struggle to even say the word! I refuse to check the “divorced” box on all those medical forms. Is that really who I am now?
I hate the loneliness, not being deeply known and cared for.
I miss being hugged and caressed and told I am beautiful.
I hate being single for the first time in my life. It is scary to support myself, choose a new insurance plan, pay mounting medical bills, care for an old house and car – all the stuff D shared responsibility for. How can I face all this alone?
Where is everybody? They don’t bring you flowers and casseroles after divorce. In fact, most don’t show up at all. They simply disappear.
Watching widows grieve and receive endless support and sympathy only compounds my guilt and self-loathing. How dare I feel jealous of their sweet memories and their support! But why don’t people see that I’ve lost my best friend too?
Where is our funeral? I am grieving the death of our marriage, the loss of all my hopes and dreams and security.
Cancer is a walk in the park compared to divorce.
Yet one lonely night in Grace Cathedral, I heard your invitation:
“Marry Me. I am your husband.”
You, Lord? You would marry me, knowing what a mess I am? Knowing the ugliness of my thoughts? Your amazing grace loves me anyway.
Yes, Lord, YES! I am Your bride; You are my Husband. I now wear Your wedding ring and You have heard my vows.
All my unfulfilled longings are met in You:
You are my Companion – I am not alone.
You are my Friend – someone to listen and understand and care.
You are my faithful Provider – I can depend on you.
You speak only Truth – no more lies.
You are Faithful – and will love me when I am old.
You cheer me on – and rejoice when I succeed.
You are my dance-partner, my hiking buddy, my gardening companion.
You share the beauty of each sunrise and full moon with me.
You bless me beyond anything I could ask or deserve. You are all I need, all that I desire. My health may fail, my spirits may droop; but You will remain with me always. Even death will not separate us. You are mine and I am Yours.
I love you.