Welcome to our Blessed Chats series! Each month, we will dedicate an entire week of blog posts to a topic that affects many of us. These conversations often come up in our Facebook groups and in our real life friendships. We want to share a variety of perspectives on the topic at hand, so we’ve asked women to share their stories and how the teachings of the Church have guided and comforted them. In this series, we’re talking more about grief. We’d love for you to join the conversation!
We had just retrieved my younger brother from the tall gates of his elementary school at the end of the school day. My mom was off a few feet ahead of me on the crosswalk, chatting with another mom. I was trotting behind with her daughter, a friend I had known since I was five years old. I am not sure why I said it then, but I remember hearing the words come out of my mouth for the first time: “I think my parents are going to get divorced.”
I like to think my intuition has been a powerful tool of survival in all the grief. I knew on that day in the crosswalk that I was seeing something no one else seemed to see. In fact, it would be almost three more years before my parents filed for divorce. I would be 13 by then, although I would feel more like 30.
Longing for Stability
During those three years before the divorce, I felt like I lived in a warzone. Inside the four walls of my room, I mastered self-protection, building barriers of distrust and an armor of apathy. I attempted to shelter my brother as best as I could, with “everything’s fine” and “this is normal.” If my needs went unmet, I convinced myself I did not have needs. This way, I would never have to face the deep longing I had for stability and closeness. Perhaps I could convince myself there was nothing to grieve in the end.
Yet, none of my methods could have saved me from how my life would change the day my mom sat us down for the official “divorce talk.” I remember looking out the window, too numb to respond, and wondering if I would now have that distinct “my parents are divorced” energy. My whole life, I had always pitied my classmates with divorced parents because they always seemed to be misbehaved, disruptive, or attention-seeking. I now had a new compassion for this unofficial misfit club, for I seemed to be its newest member.
Taking on New Roles
For the rest of high school, I learned to trade my role as teenage daughter for plenty of new roles: caretaker, crisis manager, boundary-setter. When I eventually decided to attend college across the country, many were shocked by my seemingly newfound independence. Yet, from my perspective, I had felt on my own for a long time.
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Finally Grieving My Parents’ Divorce
It was not until I was well over 2,000 miles away that I began to grieve. I noticed how it would sting when my new college friends talked about how excited they were to go home on breaks, or told stories of how their parents met and the family vacations they would take. I resented how the safety of their full, lively homes taught them healthy relationships were the norm. While they rattled off how they envisioned their future wedding in their head, I wondered if I was the only one who could not bear the thought of marriage happening for me.
Two years ago, I met my spiritual director for the first time, and she asked me what my story was. I told the story of the divorce from start to finish like I was reading from a script.
When I finished speaking, she looked at me with a deep concern and asked, “Why are you talking about these things the way you talk about the weather?”
I was not sure how to answer.
Truthfully, to feel the full weight of my grief felt like a rejection of the Lord’s faithfulness. After all these years of friendship with Jesus, it had never occurred to me that because He was faithful, He actually desired for me to grieve. That day, with real conviction from the Holy Spirit, I pledged to become a woman who had it in her to weep, and wash the feet of Jesus with her tears.
Bringing It to Jesus
Through spiritual direction, counseling, and honest prayer, I am learning to become intimate with my own pain, as Jesus was on His Cross. Inside His tender care, I have become reconciled with my own longing for love that is not tentative, but true and lasting. I have fallen in love with my own story, as Jesus so creatively redeems all the broken moments. The more I experience His patient mercy in my story, I have greater compassion for my parents’ story. In fact, He is rewriting our story, making sure Love gets the last word.The more I experience His patient mercy in my story, I have greater compassion for my parents’ story. In fact, He is rewriting our story, making sure Love gets the last word. #BISblog #blessedchats // Click To Tweet
Radical Healing is Real
Because I made the choice to grieve, I know radical healing is real. I know abundant life is for me. I know trust is worthwhile. I know my capacity to feel is a gift for the Kingdom.
I know a gentle Father who has held me from the beginning and will weep with me to the end.
If you want more help with finding your own story, our popular Write + Pray course offers 9 topics, nearly an hour of guided video, and almost 50 Scripture verses and questions for you featuring Managing Editor Nell O’Leary. Find your story today.
Blessed Chats: Grief // My Parents' Divorce #BISblog #blessedchats // Click To Tweet