I lay there immobilized. Stunned. The words fired off were tantamount to being shot, hit with what felt like 50,000 V of electricity, rendering me utterly useless.
Unlike the emergency crew that came to administer compassion and comfort when paralysis took me hostage, this time there would be no one to assist the visceral, internal wrenching that twisted my vitals and made me sick.
“What? When? Where?” I stammered; my future dreams obliterated in a single blow.
“Twice. Two different women on two different occasions. I never saw either of them again,” he sputtered, as if somehow that made it okay.
I was 28 years old when I heard those painful words from my then husband. In just 5 short years, I broke my neck, married, gave birth to 3 children in 3 years as a sit-down Mom, moved to another state with no family near by, and now… I was faced with the prospect of a failing marriage and a future life as a single-parent with a 2, 3 ½ and 5 yr. old.
Infidelity shatters half of all marriages. Some statistics are much, much higher. Most marriages don’t survive it and mine was no exception.
As a Christian who married a Christian and still believed in the Big 10, I thought the “thou shalt not commit adultery” was a given.
Divorce, in the 80’s, was still a big taboo. I remember Christian authors and musicians whose books and albums were pulled from the shelves as soon as their divorce went public. Churches hadn’t yet warmed to the single-parent reality either and stigmas abounded. Personally, I have no regrets about my divorce; it was the right decision for me. But divorce comes at a high cost. The setbacks financially, emotionally, and spiritually are staggering. The split in the family system along with the extended family, the loss, the grief, and the death of all that is familiar, is very, very painful.
And life later taught me that the same brokenness applies to a long-term relationship split even when there is no marriage. You just can’t take an eraser to the chalkboard of life and instantly wipe away people and deeply forged connections. The dying to what once was, the disintegration into chaos and the climbing out, takes a lot of time; generally a year or more.
When major shifts occur in our lives, and our internal and external structures collapse, we strive for ways to recover.
BUT the first thing we must do is give ourselves permission to “fall apart.”
This is not only healthy and normal, but necessary!
“As I view it, it is not the disruption that is the illness. Instead, disease is the failure to disrupt when disruption is called for, AND the failure to reintegrate afterward to form a new synthesis. Falling apart is often a necessary prelude to personal renewal following significantly stressful events.” Dr. Frederic Flach
Read that again.
It is only after we allow a season of disruption and disintegration that we can start the resilient climb up and out of chaos. Here are a few steps I took. There are certinly more and yours may look different but their universality is certainly applicable.
6 Proven-ways to Bounce Back from Brokenness
Re-visit your Self-Esteem
To piece back together my internal structures, I started with bolstering my self-respect. I decided to not allow my injury or a person to diminish my invaluable worth to God. Speaking truth over my life was the key to eradicating lies.
Re-examine your life goals
At that time, my most important mission in life was to double-down and create a healthy environment for my three children where love, courage, good boundaries and open communication were the order of the day. (the same re-examination of life goals takes place for the unmarried or childless person with just different outcomes).
Re-adjust again and again
When things blow up, there are a lot of shattered pieces lying around. I made a critical adjustment and chose to file a legal separation as I was unwilling to subject myself and my children to further pain. When piecing back together our lives there will be a slew of both major and minor decisions that we must make. This can be exhausting and scary but prayer will help guide us through. Be careful of “advice givers.” Limit who you share what with or you will become even more confused and overwhemed by so many opinions. Lean into God and his Word to find your answers.
Re-balance your independent vs. dependent needs
We really do need each other. Especially when devastated by loss. At that time in my life, we were renting and my only bathing option was a garden tub sunk down into the floor. After I told my husband, “you need to go,” a very beloved friend came over 2-3 times a week to place me down and pick me up out of that tub. I was dependent on so many people who came alongside me when my life was “falling apart.” I needed all of them until I could regain my independence step-after-painful-step.
Letting go “of” and dying “to” a dream. For me, that was an intact family and a marriage partner to assist financially, practically, emotionally and morally in the raising of the children. As I got stronger and realized “I can do this and I’m going to be okay” the divorce became the final release.
I learned from my Girl Scout Days to “make new friends but keep the old; one is silver and the other’s gold.” New silver friendships were generated and past golden friendships were reinforced. And then my friendship with God, my solid Rock, grew immeasurably. I was refreshed by his promises. I prayed the Psalms:
Lead me to the Rock that is higher than I and Hide me in the cleft of the Rock.
These were the internal structures I rebuilt. They take more time. The external structures are less attached to our emotions and so are easier because they are the more pragmatic.
Externally, I did a number of things.
1) I hired a housekeeper/childcare helper.
2) I filed for a legal separation pretty quickly to protect my assets, ensure child support and delineate custody and structured visitations.
3) I enrolled my oldest son, 5 yr. old Grant, on a U-6 soccer team for social interaction and defered kindergarten until age 6 (with so much disequilibrium in the kids lives too, I felt he would benefit more by staying home another year with his mom and siblings).
4) We continued to involve ourselves in community: church, home fellowships, and kids programs along with other like-minded individuals.
We had moved to the AZ desert where the Rose of Jericho, the resurrection plant, appears tumbleweedish, desiccated and dead-looking. UNTIL… the water gushes down upon it, and miraculously it unfurls green and lush.
We too would endure a season of disruption and disintegration and for awhile we imaged the Rose of Jericho in our own deadness. But the healing rains also came for us and washed over my children and I and when they finished we rose up to new life and new beginnings.