I’ve written a lot about how to forgive your ex-spouse and anyone else who may have played a role in the break-up of your marriage these past months, and as our Jubilee Year of Mercy comes to a close, I’d like to write about taking a step toward healing that is closely related to forgiveness, but is often overlooked; letting go.
Initially, the issue of letting go might seem to be the same as forgiving, and in a sense it is. But letting go is really practicing the virtue of detachment, or as the American Heritage Dictionary defines it: “The act or process of disconnecting or detaching; separation.” Not only is it different from forgiveness, but it has more of a psychological aspect to it, while forgiveness has more of a moral aspect to it.
A friend of mine, Lance, described to me his difficulty in letting go:
For two years after my wife and I divorced, I thought about her several times during the day. In the morning as I got ready for work and had coffee, the silence in our empty home was very loud and I would remember her fixing breakfast. During the day, I would think about finding a reason to e-mail her – any problem with the pending sale of our house or any detail about our son that could be discussed seemed like a valid reason to get in touch with her.
It was the same thing at night. I tried hard to get thoughts of her out of my mind, but I never found anything that really helped to distract me from those thoughts. I found this ridiculous given all the pain we had put each other through, I mean, it was pretty brutal at times. We had hurt each other deliberately and deeply during the last years of our marriage and throughout the divorce. What was I, a masochist? I knew there would be disappointment waiting for me if I reached out to her.
I found my state of mind very annoying because I felt I should have been well past this stage after two years. When we first separated, I had been angry with her. Then I became hopeful that after a cooling-off period, we could work it out. That hopefulness didn’t last long when she told me she was involved with another man and I became indignant. Defiant. I became depressed about losing her; then I just got angry all over again. It seemed to be a vicious cycle. Why was this happening after so long?
For many who go through a divorce, especially an abandoned spouse, holding onto the past holds some comfort. Even the worst marriages had at least some good times and it’s normal to want to keep those memories close to you. These good memories can serve to help you find ways to be grateful for the good things you experienced in your marriage, despite it’s sad ending.
However, clinging to the past is not healthy if…