This is the third post in the series, "5 Keys to Healing".
Change is a guaranteed result of divorce. Divorce changes life on almost every level possible; physically, financially, emotionally, intellectually. It is one of the most difficult aspects of to deal with because for at least half of the spouses, they didn't want or ask for this change and they feel it is the worst thing that could have happened to them. But change has a positive side to it, and as painful as your situation might be, I believe you can uncover something positive about it. This is how you use the third key to healing, gratitude.
Looking for a "bright side" to divorce may seem platitudinous or absurd, especially if you are in a great deal of pain or finding it difficult to deal with the loneliness and depression that often accompanies it. This is normal for anyone who is suffering through profound hurt and betrayal. In my own experience, my life was suddenly in black and white after my spouse walked out. Food had no pleasing flavor, jokes were not funny, and the world just seemed cold and gray. How could I find something to be grateful for when nothing was the way it was supposed to be? How could I even think of being thankful when I was in such great pain? Gratitude seemed to be as impossible to achieve to me as it was to consider forgiving those who had hurt me. But God has a gentle way of leading us, and for me, it would be through an old woman on TV...
One night I was watching a documentary on television about World War II and the holocaust. I was captivated by the story of a young woman who was a prisoner in the Bergen Belsen concentration camp. She had been raped, was starving, and found herself in line for the showers one terrible morning. Miraculously, she and another young woman found a loose panel in the shower wall just moments before the gas was turned on and, they quietly escaped. They ran in the freezing snow for miles until they were found by American troops and rescued. And here she was years later, an old woman with rosy cheeks, who had gone on to live a full life and find happiness. Despite the fact she had lost her entire family and had suffered so greatly, she wasn't bitter. She thanked God for all her blessings. I was so affected by this woman's story that I had to ask myself, what was stopping me from doing the same thing? My answer? Nothing. From that point forward, my perspective changed and I began looking for my blessings, too.
The first thing that occurred to me was that, since my divorce, I was suddenly free to practice my Catholic faith. Even though I had married a Catholic, I found out afterward that we were very different in that regard. I usually went to Mass alone and was given a hard time for doing anything "Catholic" beyond that. But my divorce suddenly presented me with the freedom to practice my faith without ridicule. I could be as Catholic as I wanted! Taking note of this brought such consolation and relief to my heart and I immediately thanked God. I also realized that the terrible fighting and arguments that went on had stopped. No more yelling. No more angry insults. It was peaceful. My attitude of gratefulness began to grow and after a while, I was able to recognize the many ways I had been blessed by God since my divorce.
Are you able to find one thing to be thankful for each day, despite your painful circumstances? I'd like to share with you a few simple ways to do this:
1. Take time to reflect on who you are; your talents, your gifts, your personality, the things that make you who you are. Remember that your divorce does not define you! God made you a beautiful creatures. You have strengths, you have talents - a uniqueness that, when offered with generosity, brings happiness to others. No one is without these gifts and you should sit down and make a list of your strengths and talents. Why is this important? First, to acknowledge some of the good things about yourself. When a marriage ends, often one or both spouses walk away with a loss of self-confidence or with a sense of inadequacy. Recognizing and affirming your winning attributes is an important exercise.
2. When you reflect upon the events of the day before you go to bed, make sure you are taking note of the good things that have happened, as well as the ones you'd like to improve upon. For example, you may look back at the day and feel that you could have done better in certain areas, and that is good to assess, but don't forget to take note of any triumphs you had during the day. Maybe you exhibited extra patience with your children or kept a calm and even tone of voice when you had to speak with your ex-spouse? Maybe you went out of your way to help someone at work when you would normally have ignored the opportunity? Those are little triumphs! Little blessings that often fall by the wayside, unnoticed.
3. Keep track of your progress in healing through journaling. There is something theraputic about journaling... releasing your feelings and emotions from your heart to your hand and on to paper. Later, when you go back and read what you have written, you can easily see the personal growth that has taken place and you will find many things to be grateful about when you see that.
Gratitude enables you to move forward, to say, “I have survived that pain and I am better for it.” Gratitude heals your heart and provides a multitude of reasons to wake up in the morning and get out of bed. A thankful heart paves the way to healing and recognizing God’s plan for your life. I encourage you to make a list of the things you are grateful for, your blessings, and keep them posted in a prominent place where you can see them often, and as you do this, count on my prayers for your healing!