by Therese J. Borchard
“A DIVORCE is like an amputation,” celebrated author and literary critic Margaret Atwood once said. “You survive it, but there’s less of you.”
Divorce usually involves the married couple, more than two lawyers and 15 legal pads. It often fractures a family, causing what can seem like an irreconcilable rift between a spouse and his/her God. It deteriorates the very foundation of faith that the person professed as part of the wedding vows.
However, if processed correctly, divorce can be a time of profound spiritual growth that leads to an even deeper relationship with God.
In her book, Spiritually Healthy Divorce: Navigating Disruption With Insight & Hope, Carolyne Call offers a guide through the messy terrain of divorce, explaining why this painful period can be an invitation to a rich relationship with God and others.
Here are just five of the directives that Call, the director of civic and social engagement at Saint Mary’s College in Notre Dame, Ind., and an ordained minister, suggests that can prompt a person toward healing:
• Adjust your vision.
If a person sees divorce as a blatant indication of failure, that perception has the power to spiral him/her down to a below-sea-level amount of self-esteem. However, if divorce is understood as an exercise that will allow the person to regain footing and face himself/herself with a radical self-honesty and humility, then the divorce becomes an opportunity to learn a great deal about oneself.
• Rebuild your self-worth.
Call explains that adult self-esteem is found where there is a sense of competency and empowerment. In order to rebuild self-worth, a person needs to (1) claim empowerment by finding ways to influence his/her own environment in positive ways (cooking and gardening, for example), (2) celebrate achievement by participating in activities or actions that boost competence or (3) learn new and worthwhile activities.
• Commit to spiritual practices.
“Prayer, in particular, is one of the most effective ways to soften the heart and cultivate peace in your own life,” writes Call.
Prayer takes many forms. A person can join a congregation of believers and sing “Alleluia” or she can retreat in silence to a corner at home.
For those who want to explore a spiritual discipline that is sure to bring transformation, Call suggests prayers for the former spouse.
“Praying for those who have hurt us is one of the most powerful spiritual practices,” she explains.
• Renegotiate your relationships.
Few relationships aren’t changed by a divorce. Among the stickiest, of course, are those involving in-laws, children and mutual friends.
“You may find the loss of some relationships to be an unexpected and unpleasant surprise during your divorce, leading to confusion and a sense of abandonment or betrayal,” Call writes.
You could tape your mouth shut and never talk again or you can try to renegotiate your relationship with each person in the “complicated” category.
Call also suggests that a person involved in a divorce cultivate patience, because there is no avoiding all of the awkwardness and obstacles. Expect chaos and uncertainty, she says, but continue to recommit to a loving relationships in the messiness of it all.
• Learn to forgive.
Although reconciliation – that process by which a damaged relationship is restored to the point where the people affected can be at peace with each other and view each other with respect – may not be possible, forgiveness always is.
Forgiveness occurs inside the heart, Call explains. It involves a person’s thoughts, feelings and behavior toward the offending party. And when the power to forgive is exercised, this action can also open the forgiving person’s heart to humility, compassion, wholeness and love.[hr] Therese J. Borchard writes a syndicated column for Catholic News Service.