Healing a Divorced Heart


broken heartMany people carry the painful wound of a divorced heart. The pain can be hard to understand for those of us who have never been through a divorce. It is a wonder to me that you can pray for your future spouse, sacrifice for them and get counsel to help you discover if this person is the one, you can take that leap of faith and let loose your heart to love, only to find, in the end, that your commitment is paid with tragedy, loss, and a divorced heart. I never knew the pain of a divorced heart until I met Joan.

I once worked as a dishwasher at a casino restaurant. It was a hectic and demanding job with plenty of high hopes dashed all around me in the big casino. On weekend concert nights, work was especially hectic.

I worked with four other 20-or-30-somethings for around nine hours of washing dishes. It was high-paced action and I liked it the way I liked exercise. We were a cohesive team that couldn’t be broken, until we got a new member. Our boss hired a sixth dishwasher to join our team. This was a tough job, with plates coming out of the industrial-sized dishwasher 175 degrees hot, and you had to move fast to get them to the racks.

The newly hired dishwasher was named Joan. She was as far away from what we needed as you could get. She was a bitter woman, 60 years old, cold as ice, and hard as steel. She was five feet of ferocious death stares through horn-rimmed glasses, her hand always shaking for her next cigarette. She did her work her way, and if you ventured outside of that, she let out a volley of profanity complete with a promise to get you fired. Few talked to her; none liked her.

One day, I was tired of Joan’s way of doing things and I told her she was way too slow while spraying off the dishes. This was a major-league mistake. She gave me a Medusa death stare and hissed. I knew she could resort to violence at any moment. She punched other employees, why not me? I was frustrated with her not being a team player, and we got into an argument on how best to do things until she finally blew her top and told me where to go.

Later, I felt bad about what had happened. I waited for the other dishwashers to go on break and leave us alone. I tapped her on the shoulder and told her I was sorry. She looked right into my eyes and I saw a lot of things there in that moment. She told me how bad she felt about not working as a team member. She was always in the habit of working alone. She told me how hard her life had been since her husband divorced her 25 years earlier and left her to take care of the kids alone. She was still bitter and hurt by that. She had left the Church and relied on no one, not even God.

We got along a lot better after that talk and I was always impressed by Joan’s unrelenting determination and will of steel. She never quit at anything and I witnessed that every day that she did work that was difficult for even energetic twenty-year-olds to handle. I hugged her and she became a person to me. Inside that prickly shell was a woman with a beating heart; you just had to get through to it. We became friends, and for the life of me, as I got to know her, I couldn’t understand why that guy would leave such an awesome lady. Meeting Joan helped me have compassion for those who carry the wound of a divorced heart, a wound which can be healed in time with plenty of love.

Please pray for Joan to rest in peace.




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  • The children of divorce also have divorced hearts. I endured two divorces before I turned 18. To this day it breaks my heart that my parents, united in marriage, nevertheless do not love each other. I have seen my father a few times as an adult; and I live near my mother and see her all the time, but I will never know the joys and pleasures of a healthy family. My pain will probably never heal this side of Heaven.

    Joan sounds a lot like my mother. After her first divorce, when I was five, she vowed never again to let a man control her economic destiny. With no college degree but experience as a telephone operator, she went to work in the telecommunications industry and was a driven, hard-working climber. Our frequent moves as she climbed the ladder added further to the instability of my childhood. She remarried to a man who demonstrated many of the same character defects as my father; he was emotionally abusive until he left the family when I was 17.

    It’s left to me and the other children of divorce to pick up the pieces. I suffer mental illness and emotional disability; I’ve been in and out of hospitals and for the last three years I’ve been on Disability. Mom is still Mom – bless her, my adult perspective and freedom have enabled me to love her more than ever. So at least we have each other. We’ll make a pretty package for our Lord some day when we get to His throne; I’ve forgiven her a million times over and wish her the happiness that always seemed to elude her in this life. Pray for us and for all the families of divorce, that we might find peace.

    • Ryan

      PrairieHawk – I would suggest praying the Divine Mercy chaplet at the 3:00 hour. Jesus was present during all the abuse and the divorce as well. His heart hurts 2. Compassion – that word means – to suffer with – you suffer with them because you have compassion for them. I would not write off not being able to have a family, or that you won’t be healed this side of Heaven – last time I checked God is still God and the Lord of All. He can do anything brother. No divorce nor any wound is the last word – God’s mercy is the last word.

      Joan taught me more about compassion and mercy than I can say – because Christ was hidden in that woman’s wounded divorced heart. Our Lord and all of us who suffer this wound suffer with you – you are not alone. Many carry this pain, and that pain can help open our eyes to all those who suffer that we would of otherwise been blind too.

      • Ryan, thank you for your kind words. I have been the recipient of an ocean of God’s mercy in my life and I am confident that all of the evils I’ve suffered have an end. “The gray rain curtain of this world rolls back, and all turns to silver glass. And then you see it – bright shores, and beyond, a far green country under a swift sunrise” (Gandalf). Unless our hope is rooted in the world beyond, it’s going to eventually fail. That’s all I’m saying.

  • GuitarGramma

    Oh PH, how true. While I have been happily married for 34 years, I carry the scars from my parents’ divorce always brewing just beneath the surface. The pain never goes away. Several of our friends have recently divorced, and I have spent hours trying to convince them that they’re ruining their children’s lives.
    “Oh no,” they respond. “Our kids will be happier when I’m happier.” Don’t they know that the emotional scars last an entire lifetime?
    “I’ve talked to friends whose parents were divorced. They say it’s tough at first, but they got over it.” Why give your kids something to get over? Besides, you never do “get over it.”
    When my parents attended a brother’s tech school graduation, and I saw the daggers pass between their eyes, I actually had the thought, “I can never get married because I can’t have these two people in the same room together.” Three years later, my father died. At his funeral, my mother and my step-mother stood next to each other staring into my father’s casket. I thought that they’d start tearing each other’s eyes out. It turned out they’d never met, so they had no idea who each other was. But think of that: I was but twenty years old and instead of being allowed to grieve at my father’s funeral, I had to worry about divorce dynamics.
    It never stops. When my deceased father’s 100th birthday came around, there was no one to share it with. A paperwork snafu resulted in the house my father paid for being given to my step-mother instead of being split amongst his heirs; recently I saw on the Internet that she’s willing it to her sons. Old wound, ripped open anew. I could go on and on. And on. But you said it best, PH. The children of divorce also have divorced hearts.

    • I have come to believe, that unless there is violence involved and danger to life, it’s far better for kids to live with their (deeply) flawed parents together than it is for the family to split up. Even if there is violence and the wife has to get away from the husband, it doesn’t necessarily follow that she needs to divorce and remarry. Looking at families from the perspective of the children changes everything – Dad may be an alcoholic, but he’s Dad, not Mom’s new boyfriend. That’s got to count for something.

      • GuitarGramma

        Sounds like Church teaching. Hmmm, maybe the Catholic Church was right.

    • Ryan

      GuitarGramma – the pain hurts – but I wonder how much this wound hurts the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Even though it hurts – God can bring greater good out of it – we can be cauterized in our hearts and love more deeply – those with the divorced hearts can love more deeply more genuinely. Joan may very well be St. Joan for what she endured and I ask for prayers for her repose.