Healing from Divorce

youLDSneighborhood News for Wednesday, 25 January, 2012

When Families Aren’t Forever, Part 2

by Cindy Beck

Editor’s note: This is the second of a three-part series.

 

Not long ago, I addressed the issue of divorce among the Saints, and how it was more difficult for Latter-day Saints to cope because of our belief in eternal marriage. Time and the advent of a better relationship will eventually dull the emotional blow that divorce brings. However, until those two events happen, there are a few steps to take to help cope with the heartache.

 

We welcome your comments.

1. Admit that you’re heartbroken … and that you have a right to be. Allow yourself the latitude to know that regardless of what you did right or wrong, some marriages can’t be fixed. Especially if abuse, drugs, alcohol, gambling, or pornography, are involved. When you start feeling like a failure, remind yourself that you did the best you could.

 

2. Talk it out. Visit frequently with an LDS counselor, trusted Latter-day Saint friend, or ward/stake leader who understands and can offer sympathy and support. Waking up in the middle of the night and crying isn’t a sign of emotional weakness, it’s the sign of emotional trauma. One mistake many divorced people make is worrying that they’re unable to handle life—or in other words, they don’t have that “pioneer constitution”—because they feel the need to talk with someone. Don’t believe that for an instant. Just because the pioneers lost loved ones but continued to walk across the plains doesn’t mean they didn’t need to talk about it. They kept putting one foot in front of the other because that was the only choice … and it’s the same way for you.

 

Another mistake is to feel you don’t have the time to talk. If you lost a limb in an accident, you wouldn’t label it a weakness to go to the hospital, nor would you find it impossible to find the time to go to the doctor for follow-up care. The psychological trauma of a divorce is no less serious, and requires more than an emotional Band-aid or two in order to heal.

 

3. Get hugs, hugs, and more hugs. One of the important aspects of life that’s lost in a divorce is the physical comfort that comes from having a partner. Noted family therapist Virginia Satir is quoted as saying, “We need four hugs a day for survival. We need eight hugs a day for maintenance. We need 12 hugs a day for growth.” Until you get your feet back under you, make a concentrated effort to hug others, especially family members and good friends. Make sure to hug your children often, too. Aim for at least eight hugs a day. In the beginning, when you feel like you’re stumbling around in a daze and can hardly remember your name, make a tally mark every time you receive or give a hug. Hugging will do wonders for your self-esteem, and the oxytocin released into your blood stream can help lower blood pressure and improve your mood.

 

4. Pray and study the scriptures daily. Yes, this seems like timeworn advice, but that doesn’t make it invalid. When you think you cannot go one more minute because of the pain, prayer will be what gets you through it. Likewise, studying the scriptures will keep you holding to the iron rod. If you’re reading about the wars during Book of Mormon times, you might not find anything that seems to apply to the turmoil that’s taking place in your heart. But then again … you just might.

 

5. If you’re feeling low at church, leave the room but not the building. There are certain songs, sayings or scriptures relating to families that typically come up during church meetings. Although they may hold lovely sentiments, they’ll open the wound in your heart and pour salt on it. If you know those are scheduled in a meeting, leave the room until that portion is over and you know you can walk back in with composure. Go take a drink, walk to the rest room, do whatever it takes to avoid the sentiments that are sensitive for you. If they spring up unexpectedly, leave the room as soon as you realize what’s taking place. If possible, though, stay in the building. Church meetings may make you feel for a while like you’re a right shoe stuck on a left foot, but skipping church only leads to habits that will, in the end, make life more difficult for you.

 

6. Give it a year. One thought that works well for me when life is difficult is to give something a year. If I’m struggling in a calling, I tell myself to give it a year and then I can ask to be released. When a friend dumps me and I find myself wondering what I did wrong, I give it a year, certain that at the end of that time I’ll either understand why it happened or it will no longer be that important to me. Almost everyone can put up with something for a year, and having a definite “end point” makes it easier to cope. Unless you sit and do nothing but wallow in misery for that year, you will find that once you get past the first anniversary of the divorce, you do—indeed—feel better.

 

In conclusion, everyone has their own way of coping, but the six steps listed above will help in the journey to deal with the pain of a failed marriage. Admitting that you’re heartbroken, talking it out with a trusted confidant, getting plenty of hugs, praying and studying the scriptures daily, leaving the room but staying in the building when sensitive issues arise in church, and reminding yourself to give it a year will all help in the healing process.

 

In addition, here is a list of articles on divorce available at ProvidentLiving.org. Take a peek at a few of them for other helpful insights.


Sources

A. Dean Byrd, “After Divorce: Help for Latter-day Saint Men,”LDS.org
Hugs and Heart Health,” Smart-heart-living.com

Paul J. Zak, “Handshake or Hug? Why We Touch,” PsychologyToday.com

 

C.L. (Cindy) Beck graduated from the University of Wyoming and has written both humor and serious articles for the Sanpete Messenger newspaper for many years. Despite the fact that she prefers to write humor and has published a book of humorous anecdotes titled Mormon Mishaps and Mischief, she also writes serious stories and articles. Her non-fiction stories have appeared in the Chicken Soup for the Soul book series and Cup of Comfort book series. In addition, her articles have appeared in magazines such as the Ensign, GreenPrints, and Real Woman on the Run. You can find out more about Cindy at her website, www.bythebecks.com.

 

Comments

  1. T.J. says

    Cindy, thx so much for this series. these tips for coping are so helpful right now, I just can’t even begin to tell you. maybe what I share here will help someone else, too.

    I have a wonderful LDS counselor who recommends saying “cheese!” frequently throughout the day—your body doesn’t know the difference between a real smile and a forced one (plus it just feels silly to say “cheese!” so much, and personally I can’t really help but laugh at silly things). smiling and laughing both increase serotonin levels, which helps combat depression. intentionally looking for reasons to smile and laugh helps me focus on the things in this life that are wonderful, joyful, fun, funny, worthy of celebration, and that just make me feel happy.

    my counselor also suggested making a “God box”: when there are things I’m struggling with that I have no control over, I write them down on a piece of paper and put it into my little “God box”—this physical act of turning things over to the Lord has been very helpful for me. journaling is also helpful, as are affirmations—my counselor has a really extensive list of affirmations here: http://healingyourspirit.com/articles/our-thoughts.htm

    exercise has become really important to me, too. despite the seeming impossibility of balancing working full time to provide for my little family’s material needs with spending some quality time w/my daughter every day, I’ve taken up running (something I swore six ways to Sunday I would NEVER EVER do, haha). the exercise has been good for me for so many reasons, not the least of which are all those lovely endorphins and the sense of accomplishment. divorce is inherently destructive, so it feels really good to counter that by doing something for myself that I know is constructive.

    I truly hope that other church members who’ve never experienced the inexpressible anguish of divorce will also read these articles w/a sincere desire to help bear the burdens of individuals and families they may know who are going through or have been through a divorce. divorcees need just as much love as widows/widowers, if not more—there’s a stigma that still seems to come w/divorce, esp in the Church, w/our family-centric beliefs. but pls believe us, divorce isn’t contagious—you can’t catch it by speaking a kind word or giving a hug to someone who needs it. and while it’s true that some problems are just too big be fixed w/something as “trivial” as a casserole, you never know how grateful a single parent might be not to have to worry about dinner that night.

  2. says

    Carolina and TJ,

    Thank you so much for reading and commenting. I’m sorry that you’re having to go through the anguish of divorce, and hope that you have friends and family who are supportive.

    Thanks, too, for the links to sites that you’ve found helpful, TJ, and for your positive example of faith, Carolina.

    As I told Laura (in comments in the Jan 20th article on divorce) … I can’t bring over a casserole, or give you a hug, but I will gladly do the one thing I can from a distance … I’ll pray you find comfort from those around you and strength to find your way to happiness.

  3. says

    As someone who is on the far side of divorce (single for the past 12 years), I have to say a very important part of dealing with divorce is having friends. When you have a good friend base, you have other adults to talk and share with and it sure helps the loneliness that one can feel from divorce.

    One thing, however, that I remember being frustrating to me back then, was the advise to go to a counselor. I was getting divorced and broke. I had no money for that, but was told that would help. It’s very common to be unable to afford to go to a counselor, all the more reason for a good friend base.

    I was fortunate, while I was going through my divorce, a friend pointed me to an online lds divorce email group. That group is no longer around, but we made some new ones to be able to help ourselves and others. Sometimes being able to talk to others who are going through, or have been through, similar situations is a wonderful thing.

    Hugs,
    Teresa Marie

  4. says

    Teresa, thanks so much for commenting. You gave good advice, and I wish I’d had the space to mention support groups. They are very helpful, as you pointed out, and if you don’t have the money to drive to one, there are always the online groups. Just have to be careful about which one to join.

    Thanks again for your thoughts!

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