Everyone knows grief is normal when a spouse dies. But is grief normal for betrayed women? The answer to that would be a resounding yes, and all too often the pain that it creates is even worse than the pain arising from the death of a spouse. There is great sorrow when someone dies, but when betrayal and divorce occurs, there is sorrow mixed with rejection and despair. Pain compounds upon pain.
A close friend of my mom’s, whose husband had recently died, told me that my pain and loss from betrayal and divorce was much worse than hers. She said her husband loved her and was faithful, and she had many sweet memories. She missed him, but understood that she didn’t contend with rejection, unfaithfulness, financial loss, and losing her home. She didn’t have to survive a broken home and the loss of friends and family. In fact, many of her relationships became sweeter, as people surrounded her with love and comfort.
Likewise, several years ago I had a woman in my betrayal support group whose first husband passed away suddenly. After some time she married a man who then betrayed her with pornography and an affair. She was going through a divorce because her husband refused to leave the other woman. She told the group that the pain and grief of this second loss was so much worse than the loss from the death of her first husband.
Certainly like anything, there are complexities which can cause betrayed women to grieve at different levels of intensity. Women whose betrayal ends in divorce have more losses to grieve than women whose spouses are willing to work on themselves and their marriages. That being said, even those women will go through a period of grieving the marriages they thought they had, and grieving the pain and work involved in restoration.
I’ve scoured the web in an attempt to help women with grief in betrayal, and I’ve gained several helpful insights from an interview with Dr. Jackie Black from Divorce Support—Grieving The Loss of Divorce: 5 Steps to Healing with Dignity. I’ll share the link at the bottom for you to watch her interview. I’ll quickly share some valuable take aways from it.
First, we must know that grieving is a natural reaction to loss, and is completely normal. It’s actually a necessary process that restores us to wholeness.
There are 5 stages in Jackie’s model for the grieving process.
In this cycle of grief, Jackie explains there are tasks involved that actually accomplish things to help us move forward. During our times of sorrow and anguish, it’s hard to imagine that anything could be accomplished, but be encouraged to know that the madness is actually the method to coming out on the other side with a healthier heart. Here are the tasks:
Now that it’s clear that grieving is good for us, it is important to do the work to grieve thoroughly. In my classes, I have women work on several writing pieces when we reach this section of our curriculum. Here are some suggestions for the focus of writing which will aid your process:
If you’re wondering what the purpose is for all the letter writing and lists, it’s really two-fold. You will have specific things to grieve rather than an overwhelming sense of generic grief. And, those letters can represent symbols for your journey that when you are ready, you can release. At the end of the year, in my groups, we take those writings and have a burning - we release those hurts through the fire. This helps bring closure to some of their pain as they release their grief to God who holds their comfort and strength.
And that process, of bringing God into our process, and releasing our griefs to Him, is what will bring true healing. He is the ultimate Healer. Inviting the Lord into this process is what truly brings soothing and eventually health to our hearts. He wants to bless us with His comforting touch.
Matthew 5:4 "Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted."
I spent many hours in Psalms and Lamentations while I went through my grieving process. The expressions of agony over grievous hurts helped to put words to my own pain. Reading, seeing, and hearing expressions of sadness, and knowing that God can and will receive our honest groanings, as he did those of David and Jeremiah, brings comfort.
Psalm 6 “…My soul is in anguish…I am worn out from groaning; all night long I flood my bed with weeping and drench my couch with tears. My eyes grow weak with sorrow…”
It may seem dysfunctional to focus on your pain, but it's incredibly healthy when we experience significant loss. The point is not to wallow indefinitely, but to understand it deeply to know and feel and express your feelings, and then to lay them at God’s feet, the place where healing and recovery can begin.
During my divorce, I went to the musical Ghost with my kids and a friend. During the performance Siobhan Dillon sang a song entitled, With You: it hit me with the force of a strong crashing wave. I choked back the tears until I got home, where I played it over and over as I balled my eyes out! The song is quite representative of some of the grief process, so I’m including it here.
By far the most frustrating thing for women in betrayal situations, is that as emotional abuse continues, and divorce follows, thus the pain is ongoing for many years. Divorce is never one thing, it’s always a confluence of events. So often, a woman will think she’s already grieved and she questions why she continues to struggle with continued losses and ongoing consequences. Well, because, it’s just that: CONTINUED. As long as betrayal continues, or the aftermath of divorce continues to reveal it’s effects over time, there will always be more to grieve. The good thing is that you know what to do, and it will never take another full season of grieving.
Ecclesiastes 3 "To everything there is a season...a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn and a time to dance."
Can I just add that it’s normal to think that you will never be able to recover. Fear can arise and settle in, especially when your season of grief seems to extend over a long period of time. Remember that the depression stage discussed by Dr. Black, is to buy yourself time to get some needed things done. Divorce is brutal—there’s weeding through every inch of the house, taking things to the thrift store, selling things, going through papers and photos, packing and moving, finding a job or a new career and developing new friendships. These things are so time consuming! Betrayal and divorce is LIFE-ALTERING!! Be gracious to yourself, and take all the time you need with the process and with your grief.
Psalm 34:13 "The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those what are crushed in spirit."
Dr. Jackie Black’s interview
Divorce Support—Grieving The Loss of Divorce: 5 Steps to Healing with Dignity
Laura serves as the Executive Director on the board of HER. She is passionate about helping betrayed women who struggle emotionally, spiritually, psychologically, and financially. She has been leading weekly marital betrayal support groups for several years. Currently, Laura connects with leaders, writers, and counselors, to unite the efforts of those who share a burden for betrayed women.
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