I lost my marriage but I’m still standing…in faith.
When I lost my marriage, I remember feeling jealous of people who had faith. These were people who were certain that life was exactly as it was supposed to be and who steadfastly believed that everything would work out. That felt so far out of reach for me.
At the time, though, there was one woman whose posts kept coming across my screen on social media. As I scrolled through Facebook, there she was. On Instagram, her blonde face and small children showed up daily, even though I wasn’t connected to her page.
She had unexpectedly lost her husband and she was now facing life as a widow and single mother. Everything around her had crumbled, too, except instead of being angry (like me), questioning all those years of Catholic school (also me) and drinking wine (me again), she was posting quotes like “but I have faith in the Lord and His path and that brings me comfort.” I was shocked by her certainty. I was jealous of her faith.
Having been raised Catholic, part of me believed in a higher power, but the other part of me could not understand why these things were happening in my life. “Everything happens for a reason,” people kept telling me. “There is a plan.”
They meant well, but there was no surrender here. No belief in some big plan that I couldn’t see. What reason could there be for the end of a marriage and the destruction of the family as I knew it? What reason could there be for my children to have to be shuffled back and forth between their parents?
What kind of God would let me have happiness in the wake of my divorce, just to take it away from me and have me feel hurt again?
And then, there she was again, that woman, the widow, on my social media. I started to click on her posts and would read her work from time to time, jealous. How I wished I had such blind faith. But I couldn’t find it. I felt like a boxer in a ring who just kept getting knocked down, punch after punch.
Here was the bottom. No. Okay, now here was the bottom. Nope. Still further to fall when I least expected it. Where was the plan in that? How could I have faith in someone who would show me the view from the mountaintop only to send me back to the bottom? How could this be working out for the best? I didn’t believe in God, the Universe or miracles then.
Over the next few months, I struggled. And one morning I was brought to my knees. (Or face down on my kitchen floor. Same thing.). I found myself begging in a raw, emotional way for something, someone larger than me to come in and bring me peace. “Please, please, please, please, please…” It was the only word I could manage between gasps for air. It was a convincing prayer for a girl who didn’t feel like she had a strong faith.
Soon after, I heard a talk by Marianne Williamson. She said that when you want something and it doesn’t happen, you should think of it like a parent taking away scissors from a child. The parent is not trying to be mean and hurtful; rather it is done for the child’s protection. The child is not ready.
And even though the child is frustrated and really wants the scissors back, the parent can’t give in until the child learns how to use them safely. It is done out of love. This made sense to me; I had done the same thing with my own children. Maybe, things were hard because the Universe was taking away the harmful things in my life. A marriage that was not healthy. Habits that were not serving me. It began to click. It was a baby step, but still a step, toward rediscovering my faith in something larger.
I then decided that I needed to be still. On weekends that I didn’t have my children, I decided I would not run from the sense of loneliness anymore. Instead of filling every spare second that they were gone with a distraction, whether that be nights out with friends or drives back to my hometown to visit family, I stayed home and sat with the emptiness.
This seemed to go against every piece of advice I received as a newly divorced mom, but something about it felt right.
It was hard, though. Being still is hard. Not having distractions is hard. Being by myself for three straight days at a time was hard. I would come out of my childless weekend emotionally drained. I imagined it felt like the treatment burn victims go through, their skin raw and being scrubbed. It had to be done so that they can heal, but it was excruciating.
Every fear or negative thought I had would come up during these weekends. And I was forced to find a way to deal with it all. I would go for a run, write, breathe, take long baths and binge-watch Gilmore Girls. And as envious as many tired parents would be of a weekend spent that way, it doesn’t feel like a break when you would rather be in a chaotic house, surrounded by children and laughter with a loving partner by your side. I would pick up my children from school, already counting down the days until I had to do it again.
Not having the scissors was not fun when I really wanted to create something. Trusting it was best for me was not easy. But during this time, I tried my best to learn. I knew if I didn’t there was a chance I could repeat my mistakes and I never wanted to be in this place again. One divorce was enough. Without realizing it, I found myself praying again one day. “Dear God, please show me the lesson in this and help me hear it.” Another step toward believing.
After about four months of “still weekends”, I began to feel better. I missed my children, but I was able to find comfort in my solitude, too. The Universe was giving me the scissors back. And having learned more about myself and my fears and how to work through discomfort, I was ready to create something new.
And then little things began to happen that strengthened my faith.
First, it was a spare house key discovered buried in a rarely used wallet, just when I locked myself and my children out of the house.
Then, there were phone calls with the exact words that I needed just when I was thinking about someone. There was the book that came across my desk at just the time I needed to read it. And the “found” money in the form of a $20 bill in last year’s coat or an unexpected refund check.
It finally felt like life was conspiring for me, instead of against me. It was a slow journey, but somehow I had done it. There were times I never thought I would come out the other side in one piece, yet here I was: whole, functioning and finally believing that there might be a reason, even when I couldn’t immediately see it.
Last week, that same widow showed up in the social media feed again. This time, she was smiling back at me in a wedding dress, standing next to her new husband. I couldn’t believe it. In the face of all that pain, her faith really had gotten her through. It had given her comfort and a second chance. Now when I looked at her, instead of jealousy I felt camaraderie. Like her, I was still standing and, like her, I had faith.