I am on vacation this week in San Diego. We needed a break from that hot Arizona weather. It’s been beautiful here, about 70 degrees but sunny. The cool breeze is just what our bodies needed. I will be caring for my three granddaughters all week as my daughter and son-in-law have decided to move to Arizona, not far from where I am. So in just a year, my entire family has relocated to Arizona. I would have never imagined that God would do this a year ago. But it’s exciting to have everyone so near.
I’ll post some pictures next week with the girls. Pray that I have the energy to keep up. They are pretty active little girls.
This week’s question: Leslie, I am so glad I learned about you in a Divorce Care group. As I looked more into your website I ended up joining CONQUER. This has been a lifesaver! Someone finally validating, who knows and gives clarification on what's been going on for 37 years of my life.
I am stuck! I've been divorced a year now. I can't seem to let go of the hurt caused to me, my children and grandchildren. My husband immediately went online to find another woman as soon as the divorce was final.
All the years, betrayal, lies, pretending we had a marriage relationship. Only to find out, he didn't love me! This hurts to the core! Now, I'm alone! I don't know what God wants me to do. I'm 58 yrs, old, overweight, arthritis in my knees and hands. I'd like to retire, but can't. I need health insurance. I had no idea this is where I'd be mid life! My life has been one abusive event after another. I grew up in a dysfunctional family. Sexually, physically, and emotionally abused all my childhood. I wasn't a child ever.
Answer: I’m so sorry that you have had a lifetime of hurt. Tons and tons of hurt. For 58 years you have been neglected or abused by one person or another. You long to be loved and valued. But sweet sister, the one person who must start valuing you at this point in your life is you. To hold on to all your negativity and pain is only hurting you now. Your husband has moved on (so he says). Your parents and family aren’t crawling back begging for your forgiveness. You feel discarded. And you have been, but that does not mean you are unworthy or invaluable.
One of the biggest mistakes I see people make when they have been repeat victims or even one time victims is getting stuck in their hurt and anger, just like you feel. It’s legitimate. You have been deeply hurt and you are entitled to feel hurt and angry because of it. But sometimes we stay stuck, hoping and waiting for those who have hurt us to make some sort of acknowledgment or apology. Some sort of confession that validates the pain they have caused or the truth of what he or she has done.
I remember in my own life getting stuck in that place for a number of years, waiting, expecting, hoping that my mother would realize what she had done and ask for forgiveness. While I stayed stuck waiting for her to change, my problem was that I was not getting any healthier. I was not growing stronger. I was waiting. I was stuck.
Don’t get me wrong. You have every reason to feel your hurt and angry feelings, but for how long? How long do you need to feel them for you to validate and acknowledge them? How long do you need to continue to suffer for what happened to you last year, or 5 years ago, or 20 years ago? Do you need to suffer for the rest of your life? That is your choice, but let’s look at what holding on to these painful feelings costs you. What’s the price you are paying right now in real time?From what you wrote it's costing you your peace of mind, your sanity, and your future. To me, that’s way too high a price for you to pay. My vote is that you learn to let them go.
The people who have hurt you have already taken a great deal from you. Why would you give them a minute more of your present and your future? Why would you give them any more of your precious emotional energy? To get unstuck from negative emotions, you need to redirect. You need to stop wishing and hoping that they would care for you, validate you, acknowledge what they have done or bear witness to your pain. Instead, you need to start caring for you, but not as a wounded child, but as a healthy adult.
What I mean by that is when a child (or immature) person administers self-care, it’s about getting relief from her painful feelings. So she sucks her thumb or as she gets older, drinks too much or eats too much, watches too much television or turns to pornography as a way of self-soothing. An adult recognizes that those ways of self-soothing might provide some temporary relief but also cause long-term problems like weight gain or a host of other physical or emotional problems.
Therefore, an adult must decide to care for herself in more mature ways. Ways that often go against her feelings. For example, one way I care for myself is by exercising. I never feel like exercising, what I feel like doing is eating a big bowl of Talenti Salted Carmel Gelato every night. But caring for myself as an adult means sometimes I have to say no to my feelings and push myself to do what’s going to help me actually get stronger, not just temporarily feel better.
In the same way, now you may have to learn to discipline your heart and mind to think differently, feel differently and do differently.
For example, God tells us in his Word that we are changed and matured by renewing our mind with the truth. He also tells us to take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ. No one can do this for you but you. So what things are you doing in order to put God’s words inside your heart, instead of your own negative thoughts and feelings, or even the negative words and lies that have been said to you? The psalmists writes, “He sent forth his word and healed them” (Psalm 107:20).
God’s word says that we are to guard our heart, for it is the wellspring of life (Proverbs 4:23). Are you doing anything that will help guard your heart against these negative emotions that are swirling around in your body? Do you journal? Are you in some sort of counseling or accountability relationship that will help you stay focused? Only you can guard your heart. No one else can do that for you.
What about taking care of your body? God says that we are to present our body to him as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable (Romans 12:1). Our body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. Are you taking steps to take better care of your body? For example, are you sleeping enough? Are you eating healthy? Are you taking the time to exercise? These are all important things our bodies need in order to function well, including managing our own negative emotions. When we are tired, have eaten too much sugar or junk food, or hormonally challenged, it’s much harder to control our negative feelings, isn’t it?
Valuing you and taking good care of you will be a good first step.
The second step is that you must learn is how to let go of your negative feelings of hurt and anger. One of the biggest challenges in this step is you have to want to. Jesus asked an interesting question to a man who had been paralyzed for 38 years in John 5. He said to him, “Do you want to be well?”
Why would Jesus ask such a ridiculous question? Of course he wanted to be well, didn’t he? Maybe not. I think Jesus knew this man was stuck in his passivity and his victim mindset since he had lived so long as a beggar, depending on everyone else for his welfare. Jesus knew that if he healed this man’s body, there was a whole new life out there that this man would now need to take responsibility for. He would need to get a job. Now as an able bodied person, he couldn’t depend on others to take care of him anymore.
He would have to interact with people from a whole different mindset than he did as a beggar and a helpless person. Did he want that responsibility and that challenge? Perhaps he would get married. Healing his body was only one part of this man’s healing. He had a whole life to rebuild.
So my question to you is “do you want to let go?” I’m going to assume you do since you asked this question, so let me show you a few more ways how.
First, you must begin to separate yourself from your emotions of hurt and anger and your negative thoughts. You are not your feelings nor are you your thoughts. Your thoughts and feelings are real and powerful but they are not you. They are just what you feel and think. Sometimes we feel good things, sometimes not such good things. Sometimes we think true things and other times we have deceitful thoughts or even wicked thoughts. Just because we have them, that does not mean we are them. In fact, sometimes when we observe what we are thinking or feeling, we actually don’t want to think or feel those things. They bother us. Pay attention.
This is the separateness I’m speaking of. Who is the YOU who doesn’t want to feel these feelings and think these negative thoughts anymore? That’s you. So, instead of getting caught in identifying yourself with your feeling, “I am mad and hurt,” I want you to separate yourself a little bit from your thoughts and feelings by the way you speak to yourself about it. Say it this way instead. “I am aware I feel angry and hurt.” Do you hear the difference? In this way, now you have your feelings instead of your feelings having you.
You can thank your feelings for informing you that your husband didn't love you as you wanted him to. This allows you stop living falsely and let them go. Remember, the loss of your husband’s love, or never having it, to begin with, is not a statement about your worth or value any more than Judas not loving Jesus was a statement about his worth and value. People don't always love us as we love them, or as we want them to. That’s painful, but it doesn’t say anything about who you are.
Clinging to your hurt now serves no purpose other than to keep you in a prison of pain. Which I know you don’t want. So I would encourage you to make a list of all the things you need to do to start rebuilding your life and start doing them, regardless of how you feel. You will need to push through your emotions to put one foot in front of the other towards your future. For example, start to make new friends, take some new classes you would enjoy, purposefully look for the good in what’s happened to you instead of always dwelling on the bad. Even when people receive a diagnosis of terminal cancer, if they can see the blessings in their life instead of focusing on the pain, they have a much better quality of life than if all they see is the pain.
This is all difficult work on your part so you definitely need a support system. I’m so glad you’ve joined CONQUER and went to DIVORCE Care. Those are both a good start. You are on the right path of healing and growth, just don’t let those pesky emotions stop you or hold you back.
Friend, what specific steps did you take to let go of negative emotions that were keeping you stuck?