You just got served with divorce papers, your head is spinning. You knew the relationship was in deep trouble, even after marriage counselling and many tries to make the marriage work. But you never dreamed your spouse would give up and go to this degree.
Or perhaps it was you that walked out the door. No one may understand the necessity of leaving the marriage or the amount of guilt you feel. You were the one to walk out the door, but perhaps, not the first to leave the marriage. For the one who left and the one who was left, these are the first things you should know and do when you find yourself going through the trauma of divorce.
1. Realise God has not filed for divorce
He hasn't left you. Remember the verse, 'He will never leave you nor forsake you'? Tell yourself that now. This is a spiritual trauma as much, if not more so, as an emotional, legal and financial one. Abba is not surprised at this life event, nor unprepared to see you through it. He is present and sees you even when you don't feel him present or see him working. Ask God for your needs. Ask him for wisdom and discernment to make the right decisions. Ask him for protection for your children. Consult with your pastor or find a support group in your church and you will see God show up there and with you, as he shows himself ever faithful. You are not alone. El Roi is one of the names of God, 'the God who sees me'. Ask God for all of your needs. He longs to draw close to you during this time. He sees your needs and the path ahead. Through Jesus Christ his commitment to you is never ending.
2. Find your network of experts
'Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisers they succeed' (Proverbs 15:22). Through your divorce, you will need help and support in four areas; spiritual, emotional, legal and financial. Find those experts and healthy people who will contribute into your life with wisdom and guidance.
Legal: The best way to find a lawyer is to ask people you know who have hired a lawyer. Unfortunately, most of us know someone who has gone through divorce. Even if your friend's lawyer has not dealt in divorce, they may know a good divorce attorney. You can search on the internet for legal services or a mediation center near you. When you interview your potential legal representative, ask them if they are open to mediation or working through dividing assets, debts, co-parenting and other issues outside of the courtroom. You may not want a bulldog lawyer, you may want a more conciliatory representative. Every divorce is different and so are the individuals. Most lawyers will consult with you prior to your hiring them so you can see if they are a fit for your particular needs.
Financial: Who will guide you in financial decisions? There will be many financial decisions and some of them come with unintended consequences like tax implications or refinancing or other surprise elements of finances. In the US the date the divorce is filed is typically the day the assets freeze to be divided.
Emotional: Divorce support groups are invaluable during divorce. The feelings you feel so profoundly when voiced by someone else give you a sense of sanity, community, and understanding you are not alone.
Spiritual: The greatest spiritual adviser is the Holy Spirit himself. The scriptures can guide you through this tumultuous territory. Don't underestimate the power of what can be done by faith and prayer. Read scriptures out loud in prayer. Find people who will pray for you and with you. Allow yourself to be ministered to, this is a traumatic time of spiritual need for you.
Take the time and effort to find these experts and consultants. They may be wise friends and not necessarily require you to pay for their services. Settle and split your matters now, don't be like the couple I recently mediated, divorced for 12 years and still fighting in the courts over issues they could not (or refused to) resolve.
3. Self care is not a luxury, it is survival.
You need support and other people's voices in caring and affirmation because your feelings (which are powerful in your life right now) are unreliable. Give yourself time and space to grieve. You need to allow the pain to wash over you and from you. It is essential that you allow yourself to be in need instead of the strong soldier right now. This is a trauma and you need to treat yourself accordingly instead of denying it. Acknowledge your needs. Take it an hour or a day at a time. Don't let yourself become overwhelmed by looking down the road too far or handling too much. Give yourself breaks, take deep breaths and decisive steps. Let your needs be known to those who want to help. Don't try to climb mountains right now, try to manage the speed bumps. Who are you allowing to minister to you during this time?
4. Divorce is a transition and not a destination
You won't be in this state forever. It feels like this is a pit you will never see the light of day from. But by taking the time and effort to heal, you will shorten the time to go through it and minimise the brutal effects of divorce. You can leverage this pain in determination and make yourself a more definitive and compassionate person. I've seen people heal and become stronger again and again over my past 12 years holding groups and consulting individuals. There are better days coming. Watch for the bitterness or the unforgiveness that if you dwell here, will keep you imprisoned for years. This time is as powerful as it is painful. Use this time to discover who you are and what God has in store for you. It will take years to heal. The 'quick fix' you think you find, like the next relationship or unhealthy coping skills, may be quicksand.
The journey of divorce is never easy, but it is possible to use this transition to create a different chapter and a beautiful life for yourself. You have to start somewhere when you find yourself 'suddenly single'. Start with these four areas and you will find them as a path through this minefield to a better future. God is the God of second chances – let's get started and discover just how relevant Jesus Christ is to every life experience with peace, guidance, forgiveness and grace.
Kathey Batey is the creator of Divorce Support Anonymous and author of the Suddenly Single book series published by David C Cook.
She is a domestic mediator and has held support groups for people going through divorce. Connect with her on her Facebook page Divorce Support Anonymous or her website www.DivorceSupportAnonymous.com