Guest post by Vince Frese. Visit his blog at vincefrese.com for more articles and insights.
I vividly remember a day, about three months into my divorce, driving to my counselor’s office. I remember it because I was feeling so emotionally crushed. I had been battling to keep my marriage alive for the prior two years, and for the last three months I had been witnessing its destruction, piece by painful piece. The emotional pain was so intense that it robbed me of any hope for the future. I believed that the rest of my life was going to be a daily repeat of some version of the last three months. I dragged myself into my counselor’s office filled with pain and pessimism.
I went in and dumped on Kathy, my counselor, everything that built up in me since our last session. With her trained mind, she was able to help me sift through everything I was experiencing and put it into a much better perspective. She was able to help me understand that my intense pain was caused by my grieving the death of my marriage (something I thought only happened with a physical death). She also gave me some practical ways to help me better cope with the emotional rollercoaster I was riding. She even recommended I read from a book of Psalms, when I was feeling particularly low, to help me grab onto the truth that God is accompanying me in all my trials. After my hour-long session, I emerged with a much better attitude.
Kathy, with her wealth of professional training and experience, was able to help me in ways that my closest family and friends could not. She had the wisdom and knowledge to expertly guide me down the pot-hole filled path of divorce that I was walking. She was one of the “angels” God brought into my life to help me when I needed it the most. I ended up seeing Kathy on and off for about two years following my divorce. She was one of the shining lights guiding me through the darkness of my divorce. I am so thankful for her, and I know that my recovery would have taken so much longer, and been so much more painful, without her.
Support Tip #1: Seek Out a Catholic Counselor
Don’t try and muscle your way through your divorce alone. Divorce, like many of life’s challenges, is way too big to try and handle on your own. Counselors are specially trained to help you with exactly the problems you are facing. Take advantage of them. Most of us think nothing of calling on a plumber when we have a leaky pipe, or a doctor when we have a fever; yet, for many, seeking a counselor is viewed as a sign of weakness. Nothing could be further from the truth. Seeking help from experts is smart and responsible.
When seeking out a counselor, be sure that your counselor is Catholic. Many of the issues you are facing require the Catholic perspective, or you risk being led astray from your faith by a counselor who may be ignorant of our Catholic beliefs. Plus, a Catholic counselor can add real potency to their recommendations by weaving in the truths of our faith. Ask you parish priest or deacon for a recommendation. The website, www.catholictherapists.com, is also a great resource for finding solid, Catholic therapists in your area.
Support Tip #2: Receive Regular Spiritual Direction
Since divorce raises many questions about our Catholic faith, and challenges us to live it, some type of spiritual direction is highly recommended. Usually, your parish priest or deacon is a good place to turn when you need guidance on spiritual issues. Getting into the routine of seeking regular spiritual direction can help you recover more quickly and avoid veering off into the quicksand of post-divorce life. If you are having trouble finding a Catholic spiritual director, check out www.spiritualdirection.com. It is a fabulous spiritual resource, in general, and can help you find a spiritual director.
Support Tip #3: Attach a Catholic Divorce Support Group
The third leg of your support stool is a divorce support group. God does not intend for us to go through our trials alone. There is such healing power in being surrounded by other people who are sharing the same experience. Hopefully, there is a parish in your area that offers a Catholic divorce support group. Of course, I highly recommend Divorced Catholic’s Recovering from Divorce program. This program is 100% Catholic and is used in parishes throughout the U.S. and Canada and has proven to be extremely effective. (Go to www.divorcedcatholic.com for more details.) While many Protestant churches offer divorce support groups, I do not recommend them as they usually contradict important Catholic teaching, especially when it comes to dating and remarriage.
While it is getting better, sadly, many parishes offer no divorce support group. To help address this need, divorcecatholic.com is offering online divorce recovery groups. This is exciting, since no matter where you live, you can receive rock-solid Catholic divorce support.
Don’t Go It Alone
Fortunately, there are so many more support resources for a Catholic experiencing divorce today than there were even ten years ago. Don’t suffering needlessly. Reach out to those that are trained to help you and get the support you need during this challenging time in your life.
Question: Do you have a great counseling or spiritual direction experience to share? Have you been frustrated with trying to find a divorce support group in your parish? Share your answer below.