“Time heals all wounds,” or so they say, but what does that look like? Yes, time passes, but in and of itself it does not always heal. Sometimes it cements bitterness and creates a cancer. Healing is not passive. It’s active and it’s a choice. In the beginning I didn’t seek this path because I’m an emotionally healthy person, I sought it for my children. To be the mother they needed, I had to work through the pain and hate that had moved into my heart. Later I sought to forgive my former spouse in an attempt to relinquish the victim role and free myself from the remaining power he had.
After the initial shock wore off from this marital assault, I believed that if I prayed
fervently, stayed close to Christ in the sacraments and allowed time to pass then I would eventually ‘heal.’ But as time wore on I was not seeing the results I expected to see. Why wasn’t I being restored? It was frustrating. Finally, I experienced three important truths:
- My first step occurred in the confessional when my confessor helped me realize one of my main stumbling blocks. I had not owned the reality of my current situation – I was a single-mother; broke with five children and six chronic illnesses. There was no magic pill I could take to solve my problems. I was not going to win the lottery nor could I look for a man to save me. I spent too much time in my head, daydreaming about how it should be but I had to stop waiting and start living. Living this life as God had allowed it to be…warts and all. Not just living it, but living with love and gratitude, focused on the many blessings that did exist.
How though? I started by trying to control my wistful dreams. Trading dreams for action. So, organize a room or organize your finances. Make a realistic plan for your near future; i.e. classes you could take, save money to take the kids away for the weekend. Have some fun!
The next important step is undoubtedly gratitude. Each day find something to be grateful for. Anything, a blooming tree, hitting all the green lights through town, your children certainly!
Also step back and look for the blessings that have come from this tragedy. God always hides them there. For me I found relief in the realization that I was no longer living with someone who made me feel worthless every day; I was also now able to raise my children the way I chose; I loved the feeling of being able to stretch out in my bed; I was finally sleeping well etc…,
Finally, I had to accept that my home was not going to look or run like a two-parent home and to stop comparing. It’s okay! Jesus was an only child and Mary & Joseph lost him! ;))
Again there’s no overnight pill. All these things take time and perseverance. Get up every day and ask God to help you see your purpose.
- The second hurdle was related to my own personality and temperament: There are few traits that I would, willingly, attribute to myself, but I can say that I am a fine minion, and I’m not interested in being in charge of anything. That’s not to say that I’m particularly obedient, I just don’t have the need or courage to be the final say. As you can imagine, this is not helpful when one finds themselves alone with five kids. Someone has to lead and with leadership comes pressure and responsibility. This was a truth that I could not swallow, but again this is particular to me. (Some may struggle with the opposite tendency that being the inability to handle the lack of control we have in this life.).
This specific struggle kept me from making the tough decisions that I needed to make as head of the household. For example, 18 months of looking and I was still unable to choose a rental home when we needed to move. I prayed for courage. I prayed for decisiveness, and then one day I attended a Lexio Divina. The reading was John 10:11-18 – The Good Shepherd. At the end of the meditation we were invited to share what we were drawn to in the passage. Please know that I am not someone to “share” and I don’t trust overtly emotional spirituality, so it was uncharacteristic when I spoke. But I did speak because I had to speak. The clarity with which the Holy Spirit guided my thoughts was undeniable. When others heard, “be the sheep,” I heard, “You are a shepherd. I am yours and you are theirs.” Over and over, “You are the shepherd.”
So there it was unavoidably laid out before me. I wanted to be a happy sheep, but Christ demanded that I be a shepherd. Within three months I signed a lease and the kids and I moved.
- So what was the final lesson I learned about healing? That it is not about restoration. We cannot be fully restored. We will never be who we were before our marriage fell apart. We must let that person go and allow a new, stronger, wiser self to emerge. Eventually we must forgive, but we will never fully forget and that’s not a bad thing. Suffering can deepen our understanding of our neighbor and grow a heart full of mercy.
This is our baptism by fire. Give up the old self and put on the new. We cannot go back. It will never be what it was, but that doesn’t mean that it won’t be beautiful. Therefore, pray fervently, stay close to Christ and His sacraments but add the active pursuit of healing and let the past stay where it is.
God has new plans for you!