Life after a divorce or the death of a spouse can leave you reeling and wondering about practically everything — your judgment, your future, your fears, and your faith.
Below is an interview I conducted with one of the most thoughtful and inspiring women I’ve met through my “Alone and Content” workshops.
Caroline (not her real name) was divorced when I met her and has since remarried, “happily,” she added with a smile.
Her faith lifted her up and carried her through the hardest times following her separation. It is my hope that her journey will inspire yours.
• Would you care to share a little bit about your faith?
I’m a Christian… I’ve looked at other religions and have made a conscious decision to remain a Christian, even though I don’t understand it all. I am learning to embrace the mystery.
• What role did your personal faith play in your adjustment to living alone?
My Christian beliefs hold to the tenet that I am never alone — that Christ is with me wherever I am. I’ve prayed a lot and have found indescribable peace in that praying.
• What was the biggest challenge you faced living alone and how did your faith help you heal?
Grieving the end of my marriage caused me the most pain while alone. All the ‘if onlys’ and ‘why me?’ really tore at my heart. The Bible was my constant companion. I was also inspired by “The Purpose Driven Life,” by Rick Warren, and other Christian books and radio programs, which helped me put things into perspective.
Talking with others in my congregation was also a huge part of my healing. I get emotional when I think about the support and caring that surrounded me, rescued me.
• Is there a particular experience you had that captures the power of your faith?
My youngest son was 7 at the time. After dinner he brought me his homework book to sign, as was his teacher’s daily requirement. He’d been at his dad’s house the previous three days and I saw his dad’s girlfriend’s signature on the parent line in the book. My heart stopped.
Then, something in me snapped — all the times my precious children were away from me … all the awfulness … all the anger and injustice and fear. I sucked it up and forced my shaking hand to sign my name next to hers. I made my way outside, stumbling, and collapsing under the maple tree in my back yard.
I laid on my back clutching my chest, my heart. No tears. Just intense pain. I did not, could not, make a sound or move. But after a while, my mind prayed a lament, begging God for relief from this excruciating pain.
In that instant, a ‘peace that passes all understanding’ moved over me and I felt my golden retriever appear and quietly curl up next to my body.
• Did you ever lose faith or struggle to regain your faith?
I did not lose my faith but, boy, did I ever have a few words with God! One morning during breakfast with my two boys, I ran to the garage and grabbed my bike after learning of the girlfriend’s ongoing involvement my boys’ lives.
I needed to get out of the house so the boys wouldn’t hear my rant at their father. I tore down the road, enraged and screaming at God, ‘How could you let this happen?!’
About a half mile from home, I saw a doe quietly standing by the side of the road. I calmed down immediately and just sobbed. I turned the bike around just as the sun burst over the horizon, washing the sky, the quiet country road, and me in the warm morning light. I was reminded again ‘You are never alone.’
• What advice would you give to those whose suffering has challenged their faith?
Remember a time when you risked it, trusted God, and felt a measure of serenity after you did. Remember that, ‘This, too, shall pass.’ Remember that there are things we can only learn when in solitude. That God has a bigger plan than our plan.
• What role does prayer play in your life?
Prayer is the great wireless communication connection to God. God speaks to us in three ways, through the Bible; through people, which includes books people write and teachers like you; and through prayer, which may encompass comforting things embodied in nature, dogs, deer, sunrises, and so much more.
• How can those who live alone activate their faith more fully?
It’s like exercise and eating right. You get out of it what you put into it. You prepare yourself for the years ahead by continuing to move and by putting good things into your body.
You prepare your heart and soul for the times ahead by studying your faith of choice and by nourishing your mind and actions with uplifting words and passages, helpful deeds, gratitude, and inspirational music and images.
• Was there a favorite scripture passage that lifted you up during your challenging times that you’d like to share with my readers?
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” — Philippians 4:6-7
I hope you have found this interview helpful and supportive. While I find my spiritual bearings in nature, meditation, love and a humanist philosophy, I am inspired by the words and wisdom expressed by Caroline. We can all be strengthened by a spiritual life, wherever that path leads us. Embrace it.
Gwenn Voelckers is the founder and facilitator of Alone and Content, empowerment workshops for women and author of “Alone and Content,” a collection of inspiring essays for those who live alone. For information about her workshops, to purchase her book, or invite her to speak, visit www.aloneandcontent.com