When Your Friends Are Hurting: On Divorce (And Some Other Things)

We’re pressing on through our “When Your Friends Are Hurting” series. I hope you guys are loving it as much as I am. I’m learning so many good things. So, here’s story four (there are only five, so hang with me). If you’ve missed any of the other stories be sure to check them out here, here, and here. I’m really excited for you all to hear from my friend Kristen today. I love her story. She writes over on her blog, Graciously Authentic,about all of the things. Make sure you check her stuff out. Thank you Kristen for sharing with us!­­

Hi y’all! My name is Kristen and I’m so honored that Courtney asked me to share a little of my journey with you! I have shared bits and pieces on my blog Graciously Authentic, but I’m excited to share about the perspective of ways you can help and things to avoid.

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My Story

I feel like I’m finally out of the fog that the past few years has been. For several years there has been a cloud of sadness and grief as I walked through the darkest valley of my life. There are many details to the story but I’ll try to keep it brief…

The Fall of 2011 a bomb went off in our marriage and what then ensued was a year and a half of the longest and most draining roller coaster of my life including three different separations, lots and lots and lots of counseling, lots of hard conversation, lots of tears and then restoration. Six months of happiness – we were on the road to reconciliation. We sold our townhouse, bought a big house in Franklin for our “new marriage,” as we called it. Our new start.

Five weeks after we purchased our big home in the suburbs my husband calmly told me that he was done, that he was finished. He couldn’t do it anymore. He wanted a divorce. Paint had barely even dried on the walls.

I remember where I was sitting. I remember the day in September. I remember just feeling exhausted and totally spent. I couldn’t fight for us anymore. A marriage cannot be saved by just one person. Divorce only takes one person. But I remember feeling the most bizarre sense of peace wash over me. I knew that I wasn’t truly alone, I knew that God was walking this journey with me.

I was a wreck because I knew that it was truly the end. I had no more fight left in me. The year and a half of arduous back and forth had worn me down. Of course I kept fervently praying, but I released all illusion of control that I didn’t really have back to God. And boy did He have other plans…

For weeks I didn’t feel like myself and I was sick with grief. I didn’t have an appetite. I was overwhelmed with a whole range of emotions – from relief that the madness might soon be over to absolute rage and bitterness. Three weeks after that talk I got so dizzy and nauseous I had to lie down. And that’s when it hit me.

I’m nauseous. I’m never nauseous. OH MY GOSH! When was my last period?!?! I don’t remember…. OH. MY. GOSH.

I instantly knew. I just knew I was pregnant. That night I took a pregnancy test… then two more just to confirm that yes indeed I was pregnant. My husband wasn’t even the first person I told.

I would never be able to accurately describe the whole range of emotions I felt at that moment: fear, sadness, but mostly just loneliness like I had never felt before. But even in the midst of all the feelings, I felt God’s overwhelming PEACE wash over me again and the nearness of his Presence.

From the moment I found out I was pregnant, I knew that I would be a single mom. Our divorce was already set in motion.

Those were by far the loneliest months of my life. Being pregnant isn’t a walk in the park, but being pregnant and doing it alone is no joke. There’s no one to share the joyful happiness, there isn’t pillow talk about names or which qualities we hope our babies inherits. Instead, it’s mostly fighting through the fear and anxiety and praying that God would remind you of His goodness.

Our son Baby J was born in the Spring and our divorce was final when he was 2 months old. Looking back now it’s incredibly easy to see God’s hand ALL over our story. He never left us alone.

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What NOT to Do:

There are so many things that you shouldn’t say to someone who’s going through a divorce and/or is pregnant without their partner, absolutely refrain from the following…

“I never really liked your husband anyway…” Seriously?!? At the time, I was still married and trying to reconcile with my husband, which made this comment even worse.

“All things happen for a reason.” Yes, I know that’s true. Yes, I know it’s biblical but SHUT UP. That doesn’t help when you’re in the throes of a crisis. Just sit with me. Cry with me. Eat ice cream with me. But don’t try to tie a cute bow on my circumstances.

“I know God has an amazing man out there for you.” Yes, that has always been my hope, but I’m not guaranteed an amazing husband. I know the desires of my heart, but saying things like that just reinforced the fact that I was in the situation in the first place.

Don’t be nosy. Don’t ask specific questions. It’s none of your business. So many people wanted to know really detailed specifics about divorce proceedings, what my Wasband (aka ex-husband) was doing, etc. Don’t ask. My life isn’t your reality TV show.

“Where’s your son?”  Envision with me: I go to a social event alone on a weekend when Baby J is with his dad and I constantly here this question. I always want to respond, “Well, I figured I could leave him in the car.” JUST KIDDING. The normal assumption would be that he’s with his Dad and that it’s not my weekend with him. Making a big deal about the fact that YOU can’t see him only reinforces the fact that I too can’t see him either.

Think before you ask questions. If you know my story, you know he has time with his Dad. A better thing you ask would be, “When do you have Jacob back? I’d love to set a play date to see him!”

Ways You Can Help

Ask specific, helpful questions:

  • What are some things that you really need (emotionally, physically, financially, spiritually?
  • Do you want to talk about it? There were some times that I wanted to talk about it, and then some times that I just wanted to talk about the latest Justin Timberlake album.
  • How can I help? And if you really mean it, keep asking until I’ve answered you.
  • WHEN can I come and babysit? And then hound me to finalize a date.
  • HOW can I pray for you? Then make me give you specifics.

For Those Going Through It

The best advice I can give you is to feel your feelings. All of them. Try not to be ashamed about whatever circumstances you find yourself in – going through a divorce, being a single mom, whatever it is. You are NOT labeled by your experiences. You are a son or daughter of the King, you are a child of God. THAT is your identity. Not whether or not you are a wife or have a perfect 2 parent, 2 kid plus a dog life. Life is MESSY. But don’t sit in the shame. (Ain’t nobody got time for that!!)

Pray that your heart would be protected. I prayed a very specific prayer walking through this whole journey – that the Lord would guard my heart from bitterness and not let the root of resentment grow in my heart. I didn’t want to turn into the bitter woman who only sees herself as the victim. It took constant work to tend to the garden in my heart and continue to give all of my fears, worries and anger over to Him. But I’m so thankful to say that that hard work has paid off. I am a VICTOR in Christ.

So What Now?

This is definitely just one chapter of my story and the beautiful story that is my life isn’t done yet. There are many chapters to come. This journey walking through the dismantling of our marriage, then a pregnancy alone, divorce proceedings, and then recovery from heartbreak – all while handing a newborn – it’s not something I would wish upon my worst enemy. It was crushing. But God used the process to draw me into Him in ways that I would never have experienced before. He is REAL to me now. He is my Shepherd, my Guide, my friend. And not in a hokey way. In the real, I experience His Presence kind of way.

It’s been almost a year since my divorce was final, and it’s been AMAZING to see God working in huge, powerful ways. He is redeeming. He is making all things new!

If you’re walking through a pregnancy alone or a divorce, know that you’re not alone. Or if you’re a friend of someone who’s walking this road and want advice on how to help, don’t hesitate to shoot me an email: Kristen@graciouslyauthentic.com

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