As a family and marital therapist, I sometimes feel discouraged when working with a client who has decided to end their marriage. Like most of my professional peers, I see myself as helping rebuild marriages, not powerlessly witnessing their breakups. There is many a counsellor who wonders if they could have done more to help prevent such outcomes.
Over the years of working with couples to try to help them rebuild their marriages, I have worked with some who decided to divorce. But there are some who have surprised me by continuing to ask for help to divorce in a responsible manner, especially when children are involved. I have also been consulted by clients struggling to cope with the pain of their marital breakups. There are also some who want to learn how to move on.
I have come to see that there is life after a divorce. As a counsellor, I can still offer support to help clients on this new journey with all its challenges, uncertainties, and perhaps the hope of a new beginning.
If a divorcee, whether as a single person or someone with children, is to make a fresh start, how should those around them, be they family or friend, respond?
Firstly, I suspect that if some counsellors feel guilt that they may not have helped enough, some family and friends may also feel the same way. To these guilt-ridden souls, I say channel your energy to giving more constructive support than to mulling over the past.
Then there are others who may wonder why they should be supportive, since the couple had brought their breakup upon themselves, presuming that everyone in a divorce bears some blame. But let us not stand in judgement of others—I say let those who are without sin cast the first stone. Judgement alone does not bring about constructive change. Judgement with compassion can be life renewing.
Family and friends of divorcees can provide the social ecosystem that is so vital for their healthy recovery and growth. We all need a helping hand and words of encouragement every now and then. For believers, it is an opportunity to demonstrate that we have a God who is every ready to show His compassion to and through us.
Finally, a word for those who have had to divorce: there is a time for soul searching, a time to grieve, and also a time to move on. Mistakes may have been made, wrong turns taken, but the days ahead offer new opportunities. Surround yourself with people who breathe hope and give life, who are more committed to looking ahead instead of being stuck in the past.
Your life can be reborn as ours is a God of resurrection.
Benny Bong has been a family and marital therapist for more than 30 years, and is a certified work-life consultant. He was the first recipient of the AWARE Hero Award, received in 2011, and is a member of Kampong Kapor Methodist Church.
Picture by aslysun/Bigstock.com