Separation & Divorce – The Grieving Process

Angel of Grief
Image via Wikipedia

The death of a marriage is very very similar to the death of a loved one. In some ways, it can be worse (in my opinion).

For me, the death of my husband’s love for me and the subsequent destruction of our marriage was the worst thing I’d ever experienced. The extenuating circumstances, of course, have a lot to do with the level of pain involved.

As I went through separation and divorce, I felt, and still feel, that the only pain that could have been worse would have been the death of one of my children.

From the time my marriage was dealt the first really destructive blow until the day the divorce was final was a period of 2 1/2 years.   That was a time of intense pain, disappointment, fear, panic, denial, hope (occasionally), strength… and weakness.

For well over a year, I cried at least once every day…but it was usually more than once. Up until that point, I had cried maybe once every 5 years, if that!  In other words, I’m not a crier by nature, so this was way out of character for me and it was horrid.

What would make the tears start?

  • a thought – a memory
  • a song playing in the background at the grocery store
  • the sight of couples
  • the sight of families with both a mom AND a dad
  • a thought – a memory
  • a commercial on tv
  • thoughts and memories!

How do you work towards making the crying stop?

  • stop dwelling on things that upset you! This takes practice.  When you realize what’s happening, stop and forcefully tell yourself, “Stop thinking about it.  This is not helping.”
  • say a prayer for help – especially ask for help from the Holy Spirit.  Strength is His specialty!
  • let time take its course and know that it will work its magic
  • whenever you can, do things that make you happy
  • spend time with friends and family
  • watch movies with happy endings!
  • watch funny movies!  laughter heals…
  • focus on your children
  • take the time you need to grieve but don’t allow yourself to dwell on grieving!  Some people find that giving themselves a set amount of time during the day to grieve helps.  Try it.

The other thing that was really difficult to handle during that time was simply the act of waking up in the morning and realizing that, oh yeah, I’m living in a nightmare…

Separation and divorce are HARD! It’s a huge loss of not only your current love and life but your plans and dreams for the future and even the memories of your past because they become a source of pain.  And, of course, it’s a huge loss of innocence for our children.  They also go through a terribly frightening time over which they have NO control.

Quite often, the spouse who is left is also the parent who remains with the children. This is a blessing as well as an added difficulty.  Here we are dealing with horrendous feelings of betrayal and trying to cope with our losses…and we need to push that aside as much as is humanly possible and help our children to cope with the situation and try to understand what they’re dealing with and not really being able to fully understand that.  And try to figure out how best to help them.  Of course, also quite often, the father is forced to leave the house even if he’s not the one who wants the marriage to end.  Then, he finds himself not only without his marriage and home but without his children!  That is truly a tragedy and these fathers, especially, need our prayers.

For over a year I was virtually a zombie going through the motions of surviving and helping my children to survive while TRYING to move forward into a new future that we were all being forced into.  It was truly living in hell.

But there’s strength in you that you can (and must) tap into. I look back on those years and marvel at what I was able to accomplish while seemingly running on autopilot.  And that’s a source of pride for me (I know…pride is a vice but everything in moderation, right?  🙂 )

Knowing that I could function (and function well) under such terribly difficult circumstances has opened my eyes and made me so much stronger. I absolutely know that I can handle anything that life throws at me and come through it okay.  That knowledge is a gift from God.

For those of you who are currently experiencing separation and divorce, please know that you, too, will come through it and know happiness again. During this time, don’t hesitate to depend upon friends and family who are offering their help.  Let them bring you meals, or take you out or take care of the kids so you can have some time to yourself or loan you money or listen to you as you rant and rave and cry for the umpteen millionth time or….whatever.  They WANT to help and your letting them do so makes them feel good AND it helps YOU and your children immensely.

IF you’re not near family and friends who can help, join a group for divorced and separated Catholics. (even if you DO have friends and family nearby, this is a good idea) Hopefully, your parish or a parish nearby has such a group.  There are also groups online that can be very helpful (THIS one comes to mind!  Feel free to leave comments or contact me through my email at the bottom of the left hand column if you’d like. Actually, this post is the result of a comment left on another post.)  Sometimes simply having a place to vent and people who let you know that you’re not the only one going through this is SO helpful.

Know that you DO have the strength to get through this. Lean on your faith, your loved ones, and your inner strength.  It IS there.

Know that your children WILL be all right in the end. Just keep loving them and don’t, under ANY circumstances, spend time telling them how awful their other parent is…that may make you feel good in a particular moment but it will hurt your children.  If there’s reason to physically or emotionally protect your children from their other parent, then, by all means, do that but there’s still no reason to tell them that their other parent is a low life.  Explain whatever is absolutely necessary to explain to them with great gentleness and caring – not vindictiveness against your spouse.  Tell them that their other parent is going through a difficult time and is making (or has made) some poor decisions.  Ask them to pray for their other parent.  And explain to them what needs to be done or avoided in order to protect yourself and/or them at this time (but only if there’s truly a need to protect yourselves from your spouse).  And be sure to get the help that you need according to your particular situation.  In other words, take the high road (have integrity) at all times.  It might be hard right now but you’ll be so glad you did and the benefits are great.  (that was off topic but I felt it was important to talk about….)

Just this week the following website was brought to my attention – . You can go there and, hopefully, find a Catholic therapist in your area!

One last thought to leave you with….my divorce was final almost 7 years ago.  I still experience the rare moment when I grieve over what happened and even have a few tears come.  However, I AM happy again.  I can honestly say that life is good!  My children are doing remarkably well and I have hope for all of our futures.  I thank God for that and I know without a doubt that my faith, even though it was very weak for a while back then, is what got me through hell and into joy again.

May God bless you and bring you peace!


Reblog this post [with Zemanta]


  1. Thank you so much for your post! Just what the doctor ordered! I was never a crier, either, so this sobbing everyday was really…starting to make me feel “hopeless.” (Thank you, Lord, for the gift of hope!) I am having a little reprieve now, having done a little “r&r” and now thrown myself fully into my work – and very busy, too…Nice to have a time that the anger, grief, etc is lifted from me. Haven’t chosen a Lenten penance, feel like every day is a penance as it is and there is nothing I can give up without falling apart! Forgiveness, my weightlifting workout for Lent….

    • Amanda, you have a great attitude. You’re going to get through this just fine. Please don’t hesitate to contact me via email any time.

      God bless you and yours,

  2. Are there any of you out there who are trying to remain friends with your separated spouse, not only for your family’s sake but for yourselves each other? How is it working?
    My husband of 23 years and I have been separated less than a month. It has been an ongoing struggle for many years to keep the marriage together and finally he has decided it can’t work.
    We want to keep things as “normal” as possible for our kids’ sake but I see no reason why we should hate each other or even remotely dislike each other. Do you think this is a possibility?

    • Freshsilver,
      Thank you for jumping in here to start a discussion! Maybe one day I’ll be able to set up a forum for us, but for now this works. :0)

      I would think that the circumstances of your separation and divorce would strongly influence whether or not ex-spouses can remain friends. The circumstances of mine, unfortunately, were very damaging so we had great difficulty even being civil to each other. I decided early on that the less contact we had the better. Now, however, 7 years later, enough time has passed that we are able to be civil but I don’t know if we’d ever be able to be “friends.” It’s such a sad thing.

      It sounds to me like you and your spouse and your situation are such that you’ll have a good chance at remaining friends, which is great. I definitely think it’s possible….however, very rare. But, again, I believe it’s very rare because there’s usually so much hurt involved.

      So, let’s hear from the rest of you out there!


  3. Although I am now going through a divorce, I look at some things through the eyes of a child of divorce. For my children right now, 8 and 17, it has been hardest when their dad pretends everything is “normal” because they know it is not. It is almost like a lie to them and confusing. Daddy doesn’t live at home, things are not normal. For a while we were still going to church together, out to dinner together. It was like pretending to be a family in a way that we just weren’t anymore.
    I think it is very helpful for the children for the parents to be polite to each other, speak respectfully of each other, and tell the children it is alright to feel sad, angry, etc. As a child, my mother was very negative about my father and it was very painful to me.
    I think it is wonderful not to hate each other, that is so good for the children. There is also no reason to dislike each other if there is genuinely no feelings of ill will. It is wonderful to be charitibale towards each other and a great example for the children. I would, however, be cautious about trying to continue a “normal” type of realtionship for the sake of the children. In my opinion, it is easier and less painful in the long run to let it be what it is – a seperation of the family. Let evolove into what it needs to be for now and the future…two seperate households which the children belong to and that both love them very much. Boundaries are important for chilldren to understand for their own future relationships. Specifics I think are different for each situation, and I am no expert. Certainly turn often to Christ and pray for His wisdom and guidance. He is our strength.
    For my own part, I am never mean or uncivil to my husband, but we can never be close friends again. His choosing to leave is totally against all the values I thought we shared. I need friends who are honest, loving, and forgiving. I had him and his whole family over for Christmas, and would do that again. But not out of friendship for him, more for love of his family, including our children. My opinion based on my past experiences and current situation…we are all different….Amanda

  4. Hi, `Thank You` very much ! I find your comments and wisdom extremly comforting to me at this moment in my life even tho im crying my eyes out writing this and listening to a song on the radio that has memories, ironic huh!!. I wont go into details as this is not what your asking or offering but needless to say `I`m going through sheer hell at the moment`the pain, Oh! the pain, I have never experienced pain like it. I have MS also but am physically fit and have been for many years now, but i find myself praying to the lord and asking him to give me the MS 10 times worse than to continue to punish me with this horredous `broken heart pain`. I never beleived that a broken hurt was a physical pain, but boy, do i know different now, and do you know the worst crazy thing, ……she was just my girlfriend of one year possably a bit less, but the feelings in the heart doesnt seem to understand this, it`s not like i was married for 20 years !! Why oh Why does he punish me so when i am a good `normal` person, not perfect, but good. Lord, please take this pain away, i dont deserve it.
    Thank you

    • Ian,
      I’m sorry for what you’re going through. I’m glad you’ve found some comfort here. Yes, the pain of a broken heart is horrendous and an actual physical pain. I was surprised by that, too. Pray for strength and wisdom. I pretty much neglected praying to the Holy Spirit and then realized that He’s the one I should have been asking for help.
      Please know that this will pass and that God has wonderful things in store for you if you put your trust in Him. He isn’t punishing you. The pain comes from us and the healing and hope come from God – if we let him in.
      Try to be happy for the year you had and for what you learned from that experience.

      God bless you and bring you peace.
      (Note to all: the focus of this blog is on separated and divorced Catholics. While Ian is not separated or divorced, I couldn’t ignore the obvious pain he’s in by not posting his comment and replying to it. I do, however, want to keep the focus on Catholics who were married and are now separated or divorced.)

  5. I am contemplating separating from my husband. i don’t want to because I feel like he is my best friend, but after all the secrets, lies, adultery, and a pregnancy, and the fact that even though he says otherwise (his actions are still full of secrets, and lies), I feel that for the financial protection of our family, that i would be a fool to not have legal protection. he hasn’t paid on our mortgage in months and large amounts of money are still disappearing from our bank account with no explanation from him other than “I can’t tell you”. I’ve been experiencing the pain you write about for over a year and a half, and I am now trying to be more practical and separate my emotions from reality, which is hard… The baby that he is having with this other woman, whom he won’t let me meet, is due in 6 mos. so i figure if he is still acting like this at that time then i should proceed from a separation to divorce. anyway, theres of course so many more details… I just want to know how to tell him i want a separation without him freaking out. Is this possible? Thank you for any insights. btw, i have been praying the rosary, st. michael the archangel prayer, st. joseph prayer, novenas and other prayers constantly for almost as long as ive been dealing with his infidelity… Lately I’m having a harder time praying because i realize when my prayers are so focused on him i get very sad and emotional… and I’ve been neglecting other aspects of my life to pray incessantly, almost obsessively… again, i’d appreciate any insights… thank you so much and God Bless you! glad to have found this site!

    • Kara,
      I’m so sorry. I know the pain you’re feeling as I experienced very similar things.

      Are you familiar with Faith & Family Live? I highly recommend that you go there and search the term “divorce.” They have some excellent articles there from women who have suffered in their marriages and relating the things they decided to do. Actually, here’s the link for you.

      Strangely enough, I just finished writing an article with the title, “Is Divorce Inevitable?” for the Sept. newsletter which will be sent out today! Please sign up on their site to receive the newsletter so you’ll receive this issue. If you miss it, though, let me know and I’ll send the article to you.

      You and your family are in my prayers and I look forward to hearing back from you! Please feel free to write to me at .

  6. I have just recieved the final decree for my divorce. My husband decided after 20 years that he no longer loved me and added he had not for at least 10 years and that if I did not do anything about it, perhaps I should find a job and an attorney. Almost 2 years later, I am divorced but still devastated. I am alone with my 2 children in a place with no family. Yes, I have the kids and even some of the money but my heart hurts beyond anything I have ever felt. I just wanted him to love me and I knew I could not change it. I miss being home with my children and I spend every night crying now and yes, I do miss my husband. I know I am supposed to grieve but this is the worst pain I have ever felt. I put on a happy face each day I go to my dreaded job but some days I can barely muster the strength to go on. I don’t know what to do. I lost a brother a few years ago but this is so much worse. I pray a lot and many pray for me; I guess God has to take me through it so I can put this behind me but I don’t know how. Any advice.

    • Katherine,
      I’m so sorry. I’ve been where you are, and heard what you have (from your husband) and I know the incredible pain and fear. I had even been married for 20 years when it happened and had been a stay at home mom and homeschooler for 18 years. It does take time to get through the feeling of devastation and move on into happiness again. I assure you, that it IS possible and WILL happen…and that it takes work, perseverance, faith….and time. If I got through it and am happy again, you can do it, too!

      You say you’re in a place with no family. Could you possibly move closer to family? That would be a great help to you. Do you have at least one close friend to whom you can vent? It’s SO important to be able to talk when you need to. I even joined an online community where I vented often.

      I recommend that you go to and join the forums there…the PERFECT place to talk with others going through this, too. I so wish this one had been available to me back then.

      Don’t hesitate to contact me via email at whenever you’d like.

      God bless you and your children and bring you peace (soon!).

  7. I have been with my husband for nineteen years, we have two daughters, one twelve and one eight. We have been seperated for 7 months and have started the divorce proceedings around a month ago.I know that divorce is the best for both of us. We both literally have torn our love apart. We both come from disfunctional upbringings I want the best for my husband and just have started praying for him again. I pray that God will send him a woman that will be good for him, I also pray for Gods will for him. I cant help but wish that my husband and I could be together the rest of our lives and wish that God would allow us to both mature enough to forgive one another and be one, the way God made a marriage to be. At the same time I cry and wonder why God put us together only to seperate us and cause us so much pain. I miss all the good things about my husband, and wonder why the bad out weighed the good. Is it because its true or is it because I was not a good enough wife. I want to blame my self but know deep in my heart that its not so. My husband has much pain from his past and takes it out on me. I wish I was strong enough, smart enough to handle his anger and pain, but it seems I was never good enough in any area of our marriage and if he said I was it did not last very long. I dont believe I will ever allow myself to marry again, for fear of the harsh pain of another divorce and I dont think I will every get over my husband. I dont believe I make a very good wife. I have been told I am a great mother, friend and a hard worker. Pray for me to find Gods will for me.

    • Marcella,
      You’re a great mother, friend and worker…and you have faith. I believe you can be successful in any part of your life with a foundation like that. Not that it won’t take work and prayer and picking yourself up, dusting yourself off and starting over sometimes…and forgiving yourself.

      I’m sorry for what you’re going through. Many of us have experienced what you have and felt the same feelings.
      I hope you’ve joined the forum at where you can have conversations with others about these things. That helps a great deal.

      May God bless you and your family and bring you peace.

  8. Dear Manya, here I was, crying on my sofa wishing there was someone who could help me to process these feelings, and I found you! I’m not sure if you can advise me, as I’m a mess. Will I ever be ok? [this comment has been edited by Manya – Phaedra is in a long term marriage where there is emotional abuse – she feels she needs to get out of the marriage but is feeling a huge amount of guilt and fear.]

    • Phaedra,
      I’m so sorry. I can’t advise you but I can tell you that you’re a very wise woman! I was impressed by how you stated your situation and the insight you have. I suggest seeing if your parish, or a parish in your area, provides counselors. Counseling for yourself might be a good idea. If your husband would go, that would probably be good, too. Speaking with your pastor or a priest you’re comfortable with would be a great idea. They’re there to help us with these things and they have resources to offer, so please approach them. And don’t assume to know ahead of time what a priest will tell you.
      And, YES, you will be okay! I have NO doubt about that.
      Seek help for yourself, keep praying even if it feels useless…and I’ll keep you in my prayers.
      May God bring you peace!

  9. My husband and I have been separated for almost 8 months now. (24 years together). He moved to another state with family but still keeps in touch. It seemed hopeless at first but now he’s been talking about coming home. Well he’s been saying that for some time now but he seems to be more serious now. I have been praying and praying for strength so that he won’t hurt me again. I’m afraid but feel that I should try it out if he comes back. I feel God brought us together and I should try to restore our marriage. I fight with my feelings about this all the time. I’m not sure if i’m hearing from God or the devil. Because I know the devil knows my weaknesses which is the love for my husband. I feel the need to hear from him more often because I feel empty without him. I have a son from a previous relationship whom my husband raised since he was 3 (we have a grandson now). He left because he wanted a child, he doesn’t have any. He claims he may be able to live with it now. He feels he can’t live without me because he thinks about me all of the time. He was unfaithful prior to our separation because he wanted to have a kid. He’s 47 years old. Any advice? I don’t know if i can trust him. Should i face my fears?

    • I can’t advise you beyond recommending that you keep praying about this and trust in God. As for the devil…I wouldn’t think he’d sway you towards reconciling with your husband…that’s not the kind of thing the devil would want.
      I believe that a marriage relationship in which both people want to reconcile can be healed. It will take a lot of work and a lot of rebuilding of trust and a lot of prayer. Please talk with a priest and, hopefully, your husband will go with you. Also…have you considered Retrouvaille?

      My prayers are with you!
      P.S. Again, this is purely my personal opinion, but I think it’s always best to face ones fears.

  10. Continued.

    I should mention that when we married 17 years ago we tried to have a family and the pregnancies were unsuccessful. I’m 47 years old as well. Adoption is out of the question for him and he doesn’t want to try surrogacy. He says he loves me all the time now but how could he if he’s not home yet. He has his own place and claims he’ll break the lease which he didn’t want to do a month ago. It just seems he’s having an easier time with this than I am. He doesn’t seem to see how much pain he’s caused me. My family says he’s selfish. He’s on my mind 24/7 is this normal? Or am I obsessed! Help!

    • It also sounds to me like he’s going through a midlife crisis. Yes, he’s hurt you terribly and he’s destroyed the trust you had in him. He’ll need to work to rebuild that and you’ll need to be open to working at trusting him again. Can it be done? No one can say but you’ll never know if you don’t try.
      Have you read the stories on that I gave links to on my site? Sorry, I don’t remember off hand which post those are in but you can search for them using the “search” box at the top of the right hand column. Or go to that site and search for articles on marriage, separation and/or divorce. There are some excellent stories there from people who have been through similar experiences and were able to heal their relationships! I apologize for not doing the search for you but I’m in a hurry this morning….we just brought my mother home from the hospital yesterday and I need to be leaving soon.

      May God bless and bring you peace!
      P.S. Updating this reply….see this article – Is Divorce Inevitable – for links to the articles I mentioned.

  11. Hi have been divorced for 1 1/2 – 2 years. My fiance and I were together for 6 years before we decided to get married. The reason why we divorced well the main reason was one day after I came home from the fertility doctor he sat me down and said he does not want to give me kids. We tried to work things out. We went to couseling but I came out more mad after counseling and he never tried to spend time with me while we were trying to work out our marriages. He would rather work overtime then save our marriage. The last straw was when my grandmother had a stroke and I went to go see him because he was the only one that knew how much she meant to me and he acted like he didn’t care. Yes I filed the paper work. I now feel like I am still getting punished by God for the divorce. I am trying my hardest to move on with my life and there are so many road blocks that are coming up and I just feel like its part of my punishment. Im trying to date again and the guys that I attract I feel like God is putting them in my path as part of my punishment because they are no good. If I knew it was going to be this hard I think I would have stayed with my ex-husband. Then I think again I couldn’t I want a family and he didn’t. Am I still getting punished for the divorce? Should I have stayed married? How do I move on? I am 28 yrs old going on 29 and everyone says Im young and I still have time but all I think about is my future and do I even have time. I also do not want to rush in another relationship and make the same mistake twice.

    • Becca,
      I don’t believe God is punishing you…I don’t think He does that. You’re doing more than enough of that yourself.
      “I am trying my hardest to move on with my life and there are so many road blocks that are coming up and I just feel like its part of my punishment.” That’s called “life,” Becca. God helps…He doesn’t make our lives harder for us…we do that.

      I highly recommend that you go to confession and really speak to the priest about your worries. I also recommend that you make an appointment to speak with a priest about this outside of confession. They are there to help us. Granted, some priests are better than others when it comes to giving wise counsel…they’re human after all. So, if you don’t already know a priest like that, ask around.

      Have you pursued an annulment? I recommend that you do so, for all the reasons I’ve given elsewhere on the blog…it’s a healing process.

      “I also do not want to rush into another relationship and make the same mistake twice.” Listen to all that wisdom coming straight from yourself in that last sentence. 🙂 Use this time to get to know yourself better and make changes if necessary…and to figure out what went wrong in your marriage…and to figure out what you really want…and to become stronger in faith.

      And, here’s a recommendation I make all the time because I feel so strongly about the help that is here….run on over to and sign up for their newsletter and daily inspirations…and then get involved on their forum…and look around their site. Take advantage of all the help they offer! And listen to their blog radio show…they have past shows recorded and accessible…you can get to them by clicking in the left hand column on the Blog Talk Radio icon on each page of my blog. 🙂

      Hang in there, Becca. God bless and bring you peace,

  12. My situation is that I would like to find a group for suppport in my area….I am a 58 year old man..whose wife of 14 years cheated..moved in with her lover and we divorced…it has been 13 months and I am still in a fog….not only have I lost my wife ..I also had retired and lost all contact with my grandchildren who I love very much…life has come to a screacing halt…..anyone know a support group in RI…………Thanks

    • Kevin,
      Hopefully someone will leave a comment with a support group in your area. In the meantime, I suggest contacting your diocesan office and asking them for referrals. Also…go to You can find support there!

      God bless and bring you peace.

  13. Its almost been 2 years since my divorce and I am having a relapse of grief. I believe that it has been brought on by Christmas and my ex husbands remarriage. He dosent like to speak to me, even though we were together for 12 years and have a son. Its really hard to go from being everything to nothing at all. I am also getting ready to go back to college and will have to travel 2 to 3 days a week, 3 hours on the road a day away from my son. Im sad, all I want to do is be mom, you know.

    • Tara,
      It is indeed a sad and challenging time for you. Your story is similar to mine, returning to college and all…but without the 3 hour commute. Personally, I think it’s fantastic that you’re going back to school. Not an easy thing to do but it will serve you and your son well! And what a great example you’re being for your son!!
      I understand your longing to be “just mom” again. But you’re being an amazing mom and refusing to be a victim. I’m sure God has wonderful changes in store for both of you.

      May God bless and bring you peace.

      • Thank you for your words… Some times I just need to know that Im not alone. After my husband left, I sought out God. I had been asking for conformation that he was with me and well, he let me know. My son and I were shopping and decided to stop and grab a bite to eat at our regular stop. I was ordering the food and my son was picking a booth to sit at. I walked over to him and he says “mom whats this”? He was holding a Christian pamphlet that read, “Is There Something Missing?” all I could say is, “OK Gods I am listening”.

Comments are closed