(This is the first in the series, "5 Keys to Healing.")
How long does it take to heal a broken heart after divorce? Some say two years, some say three years for every one you were married. I believe the healing process is different for everyone. And so many people miss some of the crucial aspects of healing.
No, it's not a new relationship, although many people would like you to believe that's the answer. But there are actually 5 key components to real healing and in this article, I'm going to discuss the first and foundational component, acceptance.
During those first terrible months and years after my divorce, I laid a lot of blame and in many directions. Blaming others when we hurt is a typical, albeit knee-jerk, reaction to deep hurt, but it is a slippery slope and can quickly become an attitude that causes much worse problems in life. I blamed many people for the pain I was enduring; my ex-spouse, the "other women", my in-laws, and the list went on. I even blamed God for allowing this divorce to happen to me. I was a good Catholic! How could God let this happen to ME? I had this sense of entitlement that because I was a "good Catholic", I should have been spared this cross. The blame game I played transformed me into a victim. It was my way of trying to make myself feel better about what had happened, and allowed me to persist in believing that I had nothing to do with the divorce. But the problem was, in playing this blame game, I was actually avoiding the truth about my situation. It wasn't until I stopped blaming others for my situation that I was able to put my feet on the path toward healing and the first thing I had to do was accept. Well, what was it exactly that I had to accept?
First, I had to accept that my marriage was gone. This was a most agonizing revelation for me, but it was true. I was clinging to something that was dead, and I needed to let it go of it, as painful as it was. I also had to accept the fact that, although I had always believed we were "one body, one heart, one soul," I was now completely unable to control my ex-husband's actions, attitudes, and speech. He was divorcing me and I couldn't change that. He didn't love me and I couldn't change that. All those things he was doing to hurt me... I couldn't change that. I had to accept the fact that my life had changed forever.
I also had to accept that, although I had always been a faithful spouse, I was not a perfect one and I, too, carried some of the blame for the divorce. Two people create a marriage and two people create a divorce. It's never 100% one persons fault. These were all terribly difficult steps to take, but once I took them, I began to make progress. I began to calm down and let the rage start to dissipate a little. This important exercise in acceptance of the truth in my life made it easier to pray, easier to attend mass, easier to embrace God because although I still didn't understand why it all happened, I had stopped blaming God and instead turned to Him for strength. That had the most profound affect of all.
If you are experiencing the kind of grief and stress that comes from divorce, I highly recommend you take time - even if you have to write it into your schedule - to be in a quiet place and reflect upon the this important key to healing. Who are the people you are blaming? What are the things about your situation that you need to accept? Write down your answers and refer to them often, especially when emotions become overwhelming. Ask God for the grace that will help you accept the truth and lead you closer to Him. And remember you will be in my prayers.