how to cope with divorce

How to Handle Your Divorce Without Losing Your Mind

On one beautiful spring morning, I came down the stairs to sense an eerie stillness. Then I noticed the open door that was always closed up tight this time of day. Suddenly, there was no air to breathe. The silence was screaming. My mind was racing. That door led to our master bedroom. She was gone—not at work or headed to the store or I’ll be back later gone, but gone for good. Somehow, I just knew it. I could feel it. The pattern we had created during the previous few years of our marriage had been chaotic and exhausting. I was completely done in. I had no idea how to cope with divorce.

After my wife left, I found myself in a brand new place, a circumstance you wouldn’t wish on anyone. I was shocked by my family’s new normal. You never realize the sounds of companionship until they’re gone and all that’s left is an incredibly noisy hush. What I did hear were my thoughts of shame, fear, regret, and confusion. My friends were supportive for the most part, but I couldn’t help but feel an undertow of a few thinking, Of course this happened! Why do you sound so surprised? I wasn’t surprised. I just didn’t want to believe it. We have sayings in our culture like “when it happens, you will know it’s right” and “if it’s meant to be, it’ll be.” When it—the situation—arrives, it’s undeniable. This it is what I call the condition. So how should single dads handle these first stages of divorce without completely losing their minds? Here’s how.

Focus on the constant.

It’s actually quite simple. Single dads who are going through divorce need to be aware of what they deem the constant. Being aware of the constant requires taking a full account of what your reality is, not what it appears to be. You will need to function as an observer of the situation instead of being defined by the situation. I believe this is a part of what Jesus is talking about in Matthew 6:25-33.  In this passage, Jesus not only reminds us about His care for us, but He also asks us to change our focus in practical ways to respond to that care. Jesus tells us not to worry because he sees the big picture. No matter what condition we face, that circumstance is not the whole story or the big picture. There is a much larger context and reality—the constant—that exists beyond what’s right in front of us.

What exactly is the constant?

The constant is accurate and trustworthy, while the condition is just a piece of the story and always provisional. The constant is permanent; the condition is temporary. You can think of it as taking a snapshot of a mountain, which cannot adequately capture the scope and majesty of the beauty surrounding it. In the same way, our current condition cannot possibly represent our entire reality. Yet God always knows our entire reality. He offers us the constant: His truth and viewpoint. He is never surprised or caught off guard, even when the world seems to have turned upside down and landed on you.

Learn the truth about conditions.

Let’s be honest—the condition is often a lie. It’s the tale we tell ourselves. You know those movie scenes when the hero is being chased and runs into a dead-end wall? We have no idea how he’ll escape. Then the camera angle changes and we see the circumstance differently. There’s a hidden lever or some other apparatus to provide safe passage. That’s how I grew to see my condition. My wall, my dead end, just like yours, is seldom what it seems to be. If we change our perspective, we’ll see a new path right in front of us. Yes, the giant barrier is actually there, but so is the way out. The condition does not define or trap us. You see, the situation in which we find ourselves during these dark hours can be navigated only with the correct perspective, the constant, the viewpoint of God.

Decrease the chance of losing your mind.

In my first few months of being a solo parent, I would go into my room, close the door, lie down flat on the floor, and find the stillness, reminding myself of what I believe: “God is completely in control.” “This has not caught me off guard.” “He intimately loves me and my kids.” “He is big enough to create the universe, so He will carry us through this.” “I must simply look to Him.”

My job was and still is to trust Him—not the way things appeared, how I felt, the whispers in my head, or even the well-meaning voices around me. I needed to trust Him in the moment and not worry about the next. I needed to put one foot in front of the other, even if I was crawling.

I understand that right now, hanging on to the truth may feel impossible to you; you might feel as if that giant wall is blocking your way. But believe me, choosing this mindset and using the practical exercise I described are the best choices you can make for your family’s survival.

Excerpt used with permission from Robert Beeson’s book, Going Solo: Hope and Healing for the Single Mom or Dad.

Sound off: How can you add value into a friend or family member who has recently gone through a divorce? 

Huddle up with your kids and ask, “What are the things in your life that you can count on the most?”