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What to do with the pain – Divorced Catholic Dads

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Dec 16

What to do with the pain

Divorce causes pain.  Lots of pain.  Long, drawn out pain.  Emotional and psychological pain.  Blinding pain.  Depressing pain.  Pain without seeming remedy.  More pain than I have experienced in any other way.  As I have said before, I think the worst scourge on the face of the earth is abortion – killing the innocents for sexual convenience.  But having experienced it, I think that divorce is the second worst scourge on the earth.  The pain and destruction – the devestation caused by it is enormous, affecting the immediate family, but also extended families, and friends, fellow parishoners and even neighbors.  Relationships are destroyed and the community of life forged by those relationships and the love exchanged is shattered.

Let me be clear here: I can only talk from the experience of having divorce thrust on me, unwillingly and from my perspective, needlessly.  I speak from that vantage point only.

So, as a Catholic dad, what do I do with the pain I feel?  I had the occasion to share pizza and a glass of wine with a fellow parishoner a few weeks ago who was starting down the divorce path, after his wife tossed him out.  He was with his father who was visiting trying to help his son deal with it.  The son was in pain, a LOT of pain.  I remember those days and that pain very well.  Searing, blinding pain that I thought would claim my life with a heart attack or something.  So he was in pain.  I tried to talk to him about his pain and what his Catholic faith offered as a way to deal with it.  He was angry and stayed in it.  I found out several weeks later that he had come back to the same place looking for me a week later, perhaps to help him deal with what he detected was the truth.  But not finding me, he became frustrated and abusive, and ended up being hauled out to jail by the police.  Sad.

So what does a Catholic dad do with the pain he feels as he experiences divorce?

I will give you a radical answer:  offer it to Jesus Christ for your sins and those of your family and loved ones and all families suffering.

I believe that while divorce is a scourge and has no place in the lives of any family, it represents an unmatched opportunity for redemptive suffering.  I believe that if all the Catholic dads in the world who were going through or had gone through an unwanted divorce were to offer their suffering and pain for those intentions, the world would be radically changed in the blink of an eye. 

What else can I possibly do with the pain I am in?  Oh, sure, I see it all around me.  Sex, drugs, alcohol, the wild life, escapism, a live-in, compensations, anger, revenge and even violence.   Where so many Catholic dads take their pain is more destructive, to themselves, their families and their souls – their salvation.

But I am Catholic and being a Catholic, it affects every aspect of my life, including my thoughts and actions.  Divorce did not just happen to me.  It takes two to tango.  But only one to end the tango.  One can be unfaithful to their faith or misled by the world.  I share some culpability, or maybe even most.

The great mystery of my faith is that no matter who is “at fault”, I can humbly offer the pain each day and each moment to Christ in the economy of redemption for the salvation of my soul and that of others.  If the saints could offer the pain of little discomforts , illnesses, abuse and even torture and death, then I can offer the pains, emotional, psychological, intelectual, physical and spiritual for the same reasons. 

As I work through the pain, I constantly pray to offer it yes, but also I pray that the fire of the pain in my soul might burn out all the impurities there.  Like gold in the crucible as scripture says.  So may all the imperfections in my soul be burned out! 

The pain from this divorce is so severe at times I can hardly function.  At those times, I have to beg God for the grace to take the next step, to prepare the next meal, do the next load of laundry, help my handicapped son with his shower or say night prayers with the boys.  It is a place of deep humiliation – I can only function as a father by begging God for the grace to carry out the rudiments of being a human being.  I am reduced to being a beggar to exist. 

In my pain and humiliation, I seek God, not for comfort or compensation, but for peace.  I keep thinking about the Last Supper and Jesus who knew what He was going to suffer, stayed focused on why He came and His mission of salvation. Not once on the way from the Last Supper to the Cruxification did He become angry or hateful or vengeful.  With one thought he could have ended it or the existence of any or all there.  He did not. 

He can and has shown me how to walk that some path, even though I have not walked it without failing many times.  So I take my pain there, to the Cross and give it to Him.  Hang it on the Cross with Him.  And pray for peace within me.  And not judge or condemn because I am in this place of suffering.  May my suffering be joined to His for His redemptive purposes.

Then I may know peace.  Even as I carry the Cross of my state in life.

5 comments

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  1. TU

    This is a great description of the pain I experience due to my unwanted divorce. Well written. One thing I would add is that my pain also involves the loss our son experiences through the divorce. Being a child was not meant to be in the divorce context and my soul aches for his loss, and the loss of all children of divorce. As such, I unite my sufferings to the Cross of Christ for the salvation of the souls of children of divorce especially those in most need of Thy mercy.

  2. Dave

    TU,

    You bring up a really great point. The hearts of God’s innocent children were made for peace and joy and happiness; they were never made for trauma, and the trauma of a divorce is among the worst that a child can experience as it goes straight to their identity of who they thought they were – children loved by mom and dad. (Not that they are not, but there are many distorted perceptions that become their reality during a divorce) And they discover that love is conditional and can end. And so they become filled with anger or depression, loneliness, cynicism and so on. And that becomes a breeding ground for Satan’s work.

    Our compassion for our children, and all children of divorce as you point out so well, should wound our hearts and cause us to look beyond our own suffering. Would that all Divorced Catholic Dads see what you see – to unite our sufferig to the Cross of Christ, as He suffered in His compassion for the loss of so many of His creatures He had begotten through all time. As we enter into the pain of the loss of all children of divorce, we take our eyes off our own pain and look to theirs, just as Christ did in His Passion. Then we are truly united to His Cross. And again, your prayer is perfect…”for the salvation of the souls of children of divorce especially those in most need of Thy mercy.”

    I pray that this message, your insights, might reach all Divorced Catholic Dads so that the world might be changed. God bless you in your suffering. You are in my prayers.

  3. Mike

    Hi Dave,

    Very well written post. I can echo much of the same thoughts and feelings in my own experience here. I have also made the connection that this process is an awesome opportunity for redemptive suffering. Just a thought I’d like to share – the last few Sundays while I was at Mass with my daughters, I just felt the urge to offer the suffering I experienced on that particular day for my wife, in reparation for her sins, and for her conversion. I’ve had the idea of offering my suffering each day of the week for either something or someone in particular.

    All the best on your journey through this. Please pray for me, I am still in the process of getting divorced – still live in the same house with my wife, and we haven’t told the kids yet. I’ll remember you and your readers in my prayers as well.

    Mike

  4. Dart

    I understand offering up the pain to Jesus Christ for my sins, my families’ sins, for my children’s peace and security, for others who are suffering, as Palanca as they say in Cursillo. As the lever so large it can move mountains so to speak.

    It has been two years since I slept in the same home as my wife, one year since she divorced me. I believe that she has had no sexual relations with anyone else in at least 16 years, I know she wouldn’t take that step lightly and we share custody of three children so we are always seeing each other and attending functions together for the kids etc. I love this woman like the day we were married. I love her like the day our 9 year old son was born, like the day our 8 year old daughter was born, like the day our 6 year old son was born. I cannot honestly comprehend the thought of moving on before she does. I don’t know how I will cope with another man in her life, so I really work very hard at trying to keep my consciousness in the present, to not think about what hasn’t even happened yet. When I find myself worrying about things that I have no control over. When I allow my mind to use my memories to make predictions of the future, I ask Jesus to help me to clear my mind, through prayer and meditation. I wish it was a linear path to the peace I seek, but it is not. It get’s easier, but then it gets harder again. I’m in a better place overall spiritually than I was 6 months ago and was better 6 months ago than I was a year ago, but I have days that are as raw and emotional as any of my entire life. I have to fight a spiritual war within myself nearly every time I leave the kids with her after they’ve spent a few days with me. One and a half years ago I couldn’t even get out of the house before the tears would start to flow. A year ago sometimes I wouldn’t cry after leaving the kids. It’s been at least six months since I cried at my desk at work, but I’ve hid in the bathroom stall and bawled silently like a baby at least once in the last couple of months. I guess I’m saying that you have to fight your way back from a loss like this, and it doesn’t always get a little bit better every day. So when the pain is there, you’ve got to let it out, feel it, let it wash over you, and then as soon as you realize where you are, ask the Holy Spirit to fill you up again. Don’t know if this will help you guys, but it’s been good for me.

    5 years ago my Mother died suddenly, my Dad had been ill for about 5 years with his arteries slowly shutting down and all the ill that goes with that. 4 1/2 years ago I placed my father in Hospice and was told he wouldn’t live through his next upset stomach. Turns out they were right, when you have no blood circulation, any little stress on the organs causes them to just turn off. Dad died exactly 11 months after Mom, I saw his broken heart after Mom died and it renewed my love for my wife exponentially, I knew we would stay together forever and die in old age. Then 3 years ago the company that I worked at for 10 years went bankrupt and was picked up by a competitor. 2 years ago my wife told me she wanted a divorce (All I could think about was whether or not she had been waiting for three years to tell me she didn’t love me while I was going through one challenge after another). One year ago the divorce was final and two months after that I turned 40! Someone mentioned the stress of divorce being physically manifested in having a heart attack or other illness. Vicious circle ahead! You’ve got to exercise your mind, body and your soul, you need them all to LIVE!

    GOD BLESS ALL YOU WHO ARE HURTING, IT’S PRETTY AMAZING WHAT YOU CAN LIVE WITHOUT.

  5. Dave

    Mike,

    Thanks for the comment. I apologize for not responding sooner. I have had a heavy travel schedule that included a visit to Lourdes where I have prayed for you and all Divorced (or Divorcing or Separated) Catholic Dads, and have a Mass scheduled soon for all your intentions and those of your families, and for miraculous healings of relationships where God wills.

    Your observation that “this process is an awesome opportunity for redemptive suffering” is right on!! If nothing else, that is what this site is about in the end and hopes might be the intention of every DCD.

    Can you even begin to imagine what would happen if every DCD had your attitude? They would become saints – like Bernadette of Lourdes. But wait, isn’t that our calling, to become holy saints? That calling is for EVERY person, not just priests and nuns or whoever you might think holy people of the past were.

    I have a saying: “For me, God is in the mud and the blood and the beer” of our very common and every day lives. We can be the saints Heaven needs to accomplish the transfomation and redemption of the world. And an unwanted divorce which causes incredible pain, offers an incredible opportunity to help the mission of Heaven as Christ wills it.

    I am praying for you. Jesus Christ is with you every moment of every day and will not leave you for a moment – ever. May He be extraordinarily present to you as you turn to Him.

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