This morning, CNN Online published an article entitled, "Divorce Takes Health Toll That Remarriage Can't Repair, Study Says." The first paragraph of this article states, "Divorce causes more than bitterness and broken hearts. The trauma of a split can leave long-lasting effects on mental and physical health that remarriage might not repair, according to research released this week."
I am always encouraged when secular society takes note of the negative consequences of divorce, instead of promoting it as an easy way out of unhappiness or declaring that it's just what everybody does these days. Anyone who has suffered through this completely devastating experience understands the toll that is taken on an emotional, physical, social, and spiritual level and can see that the study highlighted in the news article is fairly accurate. When my own divorce occurred 16 years ago, I dropped weight rapidly, without trying. This sudden weight loss was a direct effect of the grief I was suffering through and after about 6 months, my weight came to rest at about 87lbs. I didn't get back to a healthy weight for several years afterward and suffered a lot from a weakened immune system. The article points out that the lasting health effects of the stress divorced men and women deal with apparently become chronic conditions.
But there's an interesting point the article makes in stating that "remarriage can't repair" the damage that's been done. A very interesting statement, and I believe it is an enormous indication that the truth about healing after divorce is missed altogether by our society. Of course most people who divorce would like to find love again and enjoy the security, love and affection, and acceptance that comes with remarriage and would naturally assume that having this again would "repair" the damage of the prior relationship. But the divorce rate for second marriages is even higher, significantly higher than it is for first marriages, which indicates a new relationship/new marriage is not "the great healer" of broken hearts. If the hard work of healing from the past does not get done, then entering into a new relationship will likely only contribute more pain and suffering.
God is the Great Healer and the only way to find true peace and healing after a divorce is through faith and through His grace. More importantly, if you are divorced and desire a future relationship, receiving the gift of complete healing and inner peace is really the only way to ensure you are ready to be in a relationship again, to give yourself entirely to another, which is what marriage is really all about. It is impossible to live the "self-donation" aspect of marriage if all you have to offer is a broken heart that has not forgiven those who have hurt you. But you may wonder how it is possible to realize this healing after your life was completely destroyed by divorce? No doubt, the healing will not take place overnight... especially for those who have been married a long time. There are many layers of hurt to address and deal with. But there are certain things that will catapult you forward on the road to healing if you earnestly put them into action. Here are my suggestions:
1. Do not indulge in obsessive/compulsive behavior. It's typical that when pain and mental anguish become overwhelming, a person will do something to combat the pain. Drinking, over-eating, gambling, shopping, smoking, even viewing pornography, unfortunately, are all things people do in an attempt to block their bad feelings. If you indulge yourself in this way, you are prohibiting your healing. But how do you deal with those overwhelming emotions that arise? Pray! Pray for strength! Grab your keys and go for a run! Clean out your basement! Mow the lawn! When you are trying to avoid something bad, replace it with something good and as you run, or clean, or mow, or go to the chapel to pray, or whatever good thing you choose to do, take your thoughts and emotions with you and process them with God's help... He is waiting for you to ask for help!
2. Forgive those who have hurt you. I know to many this seems patently impossible, but with God, all things are possible. Forgiveness is one of the primary keys to healing a broken heart. Forgiveness does not mean the perpetrator of the hurt is suddenly "let off the hook" and bears no responsibility, but it does mean that you are relieved of the burden of the hurt. People expend enormous amounts of energy in holding grudges and stoking the flames of resentment and without realizing, completely block themselves off from experiencing joy and happiness. Forgiveness of those who have hurt you brings a freedom and a peace that cannot be realized otherwise. But again, it does not take place overnight and more importantly, we cannot do it all ourselves. Ask God for His help.
3. Look forward. Don't forget that, even though the divorce experience is devastating, there is still life to be lived. There are still good things to be had. Don't allow your divorce to take that away from you!
Ephesians 2:10 says, "For we are God's masterpiece..." (International Standard Version, ©2008). What a beautiful illustration of the way God sees us, as His masterpieces! This can only mean one thing, that for all our trials and sufferings, God is constantly there, working on our hearts and souls. For those who suffer from divorce or any traumatic hurt, remember this as you walk the path to healing and let it be your motivation to remain strong.