Have you ever opened the wrong door and winced, with a quick “I’m sorry!” or “Excuse me!” This week, I opened the wrong door as I was trying to leave our chiropractor’s office. I opened a door into someone’s massage. Oops. Frankie Ann, please look for the Exit sign, honey! My bad.
Today, in part 3 of The Post-Trauma Transformation, we’ll walk through the analogy of doors—closed and opened. In part 4, we’ll consider the endings and beginnings that can be associated with a trauma or loss.
These two exercises—about doors and about endings/beginnings—will help us answer these questions. How do traumas and losses change us? Who we are, how we think, what we do, what direction we’re heading?
Post-trauma case study: Frankie Ann’s first marriage and divorce
Let’s reread what I wrote about my divorce in the very first post in this series.
When did I learn how to cry and that crying actually feels good when you need to cry? During my first marriage. Boy, did I become an expert at crying during The Nine Years of Misery. Did I ever. And, strangely enough, that was a very good, crucial thing. Through the losses, the traumas, the intense practice at grieving, I became a fuller, better person. While many doors closed at the end of those nine years, many more doors opened in my life. Later in this series, you’ll read about those experiences and the many truths that they illustrate.
My first marriage and divorce provide a wonderful example of how we can be transformed for the better as a result of our hardships—our dark, lonely, scary places. You may be wondering, How in the world?
Traumas and losses provide us with an opportunity to go deeper—emotionally and spiritually. The traumas of The Nine Years of Misery (i.e., my first marriage) taught me how to cry, how to say no, how to benefit from professional counseling, how to get saved, how to know God, how to trust God and much more. Those are life-changing things, aren’t they? You betcha.
As I reflect back on my first marriage and divorce—that devastating chapter—am I thankful for it?
Yes, I am.
Eternally thankful. I’m a different person, a much better person, because of those experiences and what they taught me about myself, my life, relationships and God.
I experienced many traumas during The Nine Years of Misery. Those traumas served me; they didn’t steal from me. Those traumas formed me into something better; they didn’t frighten me into a frozen state. Those traumas taught me; they didn’t trick me. Those traumas gave me gifts; they didn’t grab my heart and keep it. Those traumas expanded me; they didn’t end my hopes and dreams. Those traumas prepared me for my future; they didn’t put me in a prison in The Land of Denial. Those traumas blessed me; they didn’t bring me to a bad place—emotionally or spiritually.
My traumas built me into a better me.
35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Could oppression, or anguish, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 37 No, in all these things, we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. Romans 8:35 and 37, World English Bible
What does a conqueror do? A conqueror takes the spoils—packs up the goodies (i.e., my enemy’s valuable stuff)—and heads home. A conqueror celebrates. A conqueror leaves the battle behind and is victorious.
I left the emotional battlefield of The Nine Years of Misery, I drew the post-marriage boundary lines with Greg in a healthy place—no more contact, I did the work of grieving, and I moved on with my life—my new life, my better life. I left the battle and I was victorious. I was a conqueror.
The conquering didn’t happen overnight, but here’s what did happen.
After it was all behind me,
I looked back on that chapter and I smiled—
not because of what Greg did to me,
but because of what God did for me.
I felt the victory.
I still feel it.
The other choice
Do all people benefit from their trials? We know the answer to that one, don’t we? Do you know someone who “never got over” a particular chapter or loss or trauma? I’m thinking about my Aunt Greta. I wrote about her in this post. She left a big, handsome photo of her ex-husband on her bedroom wall—after he cheated on her, dumped her and married someone half his age. She didn’t want to do the work of grieving and grow into a better person. She wanted to live in the past—in The Land of Denial.
We can choose to go deeper because of our sufferings or we can choose to fight it. We can refuse the opportunity to do the work of grieving, to heal and to grow.
People fight emotional and spiritual growth by choosing something destructive instead: revenge, anger, bitterness, unforgiveness, self-righteousness, gossip, physical/verbal/emotional attacks, addictions, distractions, control issues, living in the past, denial, mental illness and more.
Peaceful Readers, go deeper—emotionally and spiritually. You won’t regret it.
Learn from the past.
Live in the present.
Hope and dream for the future.
How do you go deeper? You ask and answer the hard questions. You complete the How to Unpack a Trauma or Loss checklist. You walk through exercises like the one below about doors. You do the work of grieving. You dig and you keep on digging until you’re done.
Most of all, you pray to God every day and ask him to help you and show you what he wants you to see. Ask him to teach you and guide you. Thank him for his presence. Hold his hand, every step of the way.
Let’s walk through some of the doors that closed when Greg and I divorced, as well as the doors that opened because of our divorce.
Our marriage and our relationship
His friends and extended family
Being a two-income household
Joining a church
Career and job changes
Meeting and marrying Brandon
Moving to a new home
Spiritual and emotional healing
Obviously, I could’ve been active in a church while Greg and I were married, but I chose not to be. Even after I got saved, I didn’t want to be married and go to church by myself. I attended Bible Study Fellowship (BSF) every week, but I didn’t go to church on Sunday. Interestingly enough, right after Greg moved out, I started going to church by myself. I’m shaking my head—at myself.
I had some kind of mental block in that department. I guess I was afraid to answer questions that I didn’t want to answer. Are you married? Where’s your husband? Etcetera. Years later, while Brandon worked the graveyard shift, I took Logan to church every Sunday and helped in Sunday school with the three year olds. They were adorable. I guess you could say that I came out of my shell in the I-Can’t-Go-to-Church-Without-My-Husband Department.
What truths are demonstrated by the doors that were closed and opened as a result of my divorce? Let’s focus on The Big Four.
The first truth
I wanted something temporary. God wanted to give me something eternal. My deepest need was not for Greg to love me.
My deepest need was to receive God’s love for me.
The second truth
Consider this passage from the book of James. Note that the passage says when you face trials of many kinds not if you face trials of many kinds. In this life, we will face many losses, traumas and difficulties—great suffering. The Seasons of Grieving offer us an opportunity to go deeper—to a stronger faith, to perseverance, to spiritual maturity and completion—to a place where we lack nothing. James isn’t talking about physical luxuries. He’s talking about spiritual luxuries—knowing and walking with God, in deep faith and assurance of his love, goodness and truth.
God desired to give me the greatest luxury—himself.
The third truth
Don’t stay in a mess that God has called you to leave behind, thinking Well, I’ve already invested/wasted all these years. There’s nothing out there for me. It’s too late. Those words come from fear.
For God hath not given us the spirit of fear;
but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.
2 Timothy 1:7, King James Version
The word resignation means to quit. It also means to accept something as inevitable or unchangeable.
Don’t be resigned to a reality that God has called you to change.
Read this wonderful article by Colin Smith: “God Can Restore Your Lost Years.”
The fourth truth
Were more doors closed or opened in my life as a result of our divorce? I listed four doors that were closed and eight doors that were opened. My marriage to Greg lasted nine years. That sounds like a long time. But it ended 21 years ago. So much has changed and blossomed in my life since then.
God’s plans for my life included many blessings—
much greater than I could have imagined.
I wasn’t too old. It wasn’t too late.
Here’s just one example. If you had asked me years ago if I’d ever be a writer, I would have answered “No way. I don’t have anything worth saying.” Hmmm…. Consider this. Even during The Dark Times—my 33 years without Jesus—God was giving me stories to tell… amazing stories that speak truth. In part 1 of this post, Testimony, I shared some of those stories with you—about my testimony in court, a murder plot and more.
God had so many gifts and blessings to give to me. I just needed to open my hands and say yes.
Choose one of your traumas or losses from the past—one that you can look back on with some perspective and understanding. Write your answers for The Doors Exercise. Then reflect on and write your feelings about the doors that were closed and opened for you.
Coming next: Come back next time to learn about The Endings and Beginnings Exercise.
Healing through truth and music
Peaceful Readers, I’ve found great healing in my life through the beauty and truth of God’s word and through music. I hope the truths and songs that I share at the end of each post will bless you too.
Truth from The Word: This is one of my two favorite passages in the Bible. Enjoy the beauty and the blessings of Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians.
Song for Healing: “I Will Praise You” by Ginny Owens