I flew to the Midwest to visit my little brother, Fred, one of the top spine surgeons in the United States. Fred picked me up at the airport and told me he either could drop me off at his home to visit with his wife and their kids, or I could go with him to the Children’s Hospital, where he’d just been called in for an emergency procedure. He would outfit me as a medical student and I could watch him perform the surgery. I agreed excitedly without stopping to think about what I was going to see. “Are you kidding? Let’s go!”
Wearing blue scrubs, booties, cap and mask, I stood by Fred along side a gurney while he talked to the patient, a twelve-year-old boy. The boy’s leg had been almost severed just below the knee in a playground accident. Dr. Fred assured him everything would be okay, and he was quickly wheeled into the operating room.
Four days earlier, the emergency room doctors had sewn the wound up and sent the boy home. However, he’d developed a high fever and when it reached 105 degrees the parents, worried and in tears, brought him back. It turned out the improperly cleaned wound was still filled with gravel, and some of the skin around the sutures had died and was spreading to healthy tissue. The boy’s body was racked with infection, and the fever had signaled what was going on behind those stitches.
I’ll never forget watching a sight that was together the most gruesome and most awesome I think I’ll ever see. Within minutes the medical team had the boy under general anesthesia, draped, and ready for surgery. I was shocked at how aggressively Fred removed the stitches, reopened the wound, and stuck his sterilized and gloved hand right down into the boy’s bloody leg to clean it out. As I stood nearby, I watched as my baby brother’s skilled fingers quickly cleaned around flesh and bone and then delicately cut away dead tissue that was infecting the rest of the leg. After the wound was cleansed, Fred directed the assistant surgeon to close up while we left to find the boy’s parents. The operation went well, Fred told them, and he gave Mom and Dad steps for follow-up care at home.
Divorce is like that boy’s injury. It’s never an intended hurt, but more like a terrible, unexpected accident, usually ripping apart family members and leaving a trail of emotional blood and guts. Too often we are quick to bind up the wounds and move on instead of getting to the deepest levels of pain and allowing God to heal us completely. After all, we’ve got jobs to do, kids to raise, and bills to pay, and life goes on. We’re often ashamed of the fact that we have been divorced, and we tell ourselves, or our loved ones tell us, “Get on with it!”? “You’ll get over it.”? “Next year you’ll feel better.” But that’s not usually the case.
Some of us have been carrying the unhealed wounds of divorce for years and the infection has spread, as it always does, into other areas of our lives: isolation, rebound relationships, workaholism or power parenting. That’s why it’s so important to reach deep into the wound to clean it out properly. If you’re a parent, imagine your children as part of your family’s healthy tissue. Failure to address the deepest emotional issues of your own divorce undoubtedly will cause the infection to be passed to them and succeeding generations. Kids pick up on your attitudes and get caught in the middle of raging emotions. Even if you don’t have children, the hurt, pain, and bitterness of divorce can spread slowly into other healthy relationships.
Our physical health, too, usually suffers as we experience sleeplessness, headaches, eating problems, and addictions. Work can become even more stressful. Friendships can become damaged and we may start unhealthy new relationships. Maybe even worst of all, new marriages will be affected – or infected – by the poison of untreated divorces and the cycle will start all over.
Has it been a while since you were divorced? Maybe you feel fine and are dating others, or have found contentment in the single life. But maybe-just maybe-you still have hidden wounds that will surface later: distrust, anxieties, anger or avoidances. Ask God for the courage to take a look at your complete emotional and spiritual X-ray-and the grace to complete your healing.
Copyright © 2001 Hendrickson Publishers. Used with Permission.
Adapted from Rose Sweet’s book, Healing the Heartbreak of Divorce.
Rose is a popular guest on national radio and television shows such as “Parent Talk” with Randy Carlson and “Life Today” with James Robison. She’s also been featured as a relationship expert on NBC’s daytime television talk show “The Other Half”.
Rose has written for Focus on the Family’s “Single Parent” magazine, is a featured columnist on several e-zines, and has authored five books including “Healing the Heartbreak of Divorce” and “Dear God, Send Me a Soul Mate”.
At conferences and retreats, Rose brings messages of hope, healing and real life humor. In the summer of 2003 her keynote message at Notre Dame, “Sex and the Single Divorced Christian” brought laughter and tears to men and women alike and changed forever their views of love and relationship.
In addition to writing and speaking, Rose provides pastoral counseling in weekly recovery groups to men and women who are in all stages of divorce. For more information on Rose or her speaking availability, visit her website at www.RoseSweet.com