By Dena Johnson Martin, Crosswalk.com
I live in a world of single parents. Some are widowed. Some are divorced. But, we all walk the difficult road of single parenting together.
Recently, a dear widow friend of mine wrote a blog post about the most meaningful acts people did for her and her children in the days after her husband’s death. I know it must have been overwhelming to have so much love poured out on her in her grief! I was touched to see all of the ways the church was truly the hands and feet of Christ in her time of need.
And then I was sad.
I am not a single mother by way of death. Instead, I am a single mother because of divorce. A bitter, angry divorce. A divorce by way of betrayal, adultery. A divorce that left me, my children, our church reeling from the lies. A divorce that almost ended my life and my ministry.
While my friend had an outpouring of love, financial help, and incredible acts of kindness, I was left to pick up the pieces of my life mostly alone. I had dear friends who were there to listen. I had family who supported me in ways I could never repay. I had listening ears and kindnesses. But there was no organized effort to reach out and minister to me and my kids… quite unlike a death.
Many people look at those walking through divorce with shame and condemnation. Rather than reaching out in love, looking for ways to minister to those walking through the pain of divorce, some feel it’s their duty to make sure they know how they are disappointing God and the church.
My point here is not to argue for or against divorce.
My desire is to offer you some tangible ways to minister to those walking through the pain of divorce, to give you some ideas of how to love someone who feels so unlovable. My desire is to help you pour out God’s love on someone who is in desperate need of knowing they are still loved and not rejected.
Do you know someone who is walking the painful road of divorce? Here’s some suggestions on how to love those people.
1. Financial help.
My widow friend was blessed with a memorial fund that allowed her to remain at home with her young children for a period of time. Other widows are able to use a life insurance or social security benefits that help secure their financial future. But in divorce, there’s no such safety net.
In my situation, I had been a stay-at-home mom for a decade. I was in nursing school and working a part-time job in the hospital, but my income was minimal. There was no way I could provide a home, food, and clothes for me and my children. Without my parents and the grace of God, I would have never made it financially.
Divorce is a costly process that drains many homes financially. Even those with the strongest finances suffer brutally. Start a fund for the one going through divorce. Find out what needs there are and help financially.
2. Cards, calls, and texts.
I went into hiding when I first separated from my husband. I only left the house for work or when I needed groceries. When I saw someone I knew at the store, I made it a point to walk the other direction and avoid an encounter.
I had a few dear friends who were there, who wrote me letters or sent me the occasional words of encouragement. Maybe I responded, and maybe I didn’t. But I guarantee those words were treasured, stored up in my heart and soul. They were the morsels that got me through the moment.
Don’t neglect to reach out with words of encouragement, words of hope. There are few people in this world who need hope more than those walking through divorce.
In the wake of a death, people tend to bring food. Casseroles and desserts. Vegetables and salads.
In a divorce? No one showed up with food. I think my kids and I existed on chicken nuggets and macaroni and cheese for at least a year. There was no time or energy to waste on cooking food. As much as our bodies needed healthful food to overcome the battle, it was not in my budget to buy the food and not within my ability to cook it.
Organize meals for those walking through divorce. Provide healthful food that nourishes the heart and soul. And don’t let it stop after a week. It takes months and years to reach a place where the divorcee is emotionally healthy, ready to tackle the world and accept the new reality.
Being a single parent is exhausting. Even now, eight years into this journey, running teenagers to endless activities, I feel as if there’s never enough time in the day. At least now that my kids are old enough, I can escape for a few minutes while they stay home alone.
When they were younger, it would have been so wonderful to go to the grocery store without trying to herd three young children through the store. It would have been amazing to have even 30 minutes of quiet to spend with God.
And on the flip side of this one? As much as I longed for a few minutes of peace, my children were my reason for continuing this life. When they were with their dad, the grief was overwhelming. Keep tabs on the one walking through divorce, and help him/her stay busy while the kids are gone.
5. A day of pampering.
One thing I did for myself when I felt so unlovable was to treat myself to the occasional manicure and pedicure. It may seem a waste of time and money, but for me it was so much more. When I felt so ugly and rejected. When I thought no one could ever love me. When I had such a negative self-image. Treating myself to something so simple made me feel pretty, boosted my self-confidence, reminded me I was special.
The occasional massage to wipe away the tension. A manicure or pedicure. A relaxing facial. It’s amazing what a day of pampering can do for the spirit of the single mom.
6. Yard work and housework.
One of the most anguishing tasks I had to do was keep up with the yard work. Pushing a mower. Using a weed eater. Edging the yard. Not only were they time consuming, but they were physically taxing.
And cleaning the house. Even though it was something I was used to doing, time constraints made it impossible for me to get everything completed, to keep my house clean. A clean house for me is so much more than a nice thought; it’s a necessity for my mental state. When my house is dirty and cluttered, I am on edge, irritable, and mentally unable to focus.
Volunteer to do yard work. Buy several weeks of maid service. You will never understand just how much help you have given.
7. A long walk.
Exercise was so important to me during the early days of my divorce. I would lace up my shoes and hit the pavement. The tears would stream down my face as the prayers wafted to heaven. The love of God would embrace me as I walked and ran my way to a healthy place.
Lace up your shoes and ask to go on a walk with someone walking through divorce. Give her a chance to get some exercise and an ear to listen to his hurt and pain. Be the one who steps up and helps the divorcee walk away some of the stress and pain that is inevitable.
Divorce is excruciatingly painful. Few people need love and compassion more than those walking the painful, lonely journey.
Do you know someone walking through divorce? He needs you. She needs your love and your friendship. Be the Church. You will never know how much simple acts of love mean to the one walking through the most painful days of his/her life.
Dena Johnson is a busy single mom of three kids who loves God passionately. She delights in taking the everyday events of life, finding God in them, and impressing them on her children as they sit at home or walk along the way (Deuteronomy 6:7). Her greatest desire is to be a channel of God’s comfort and encouragement. You can read more of Dena’s experiences with her Great I AM on her blog Dena's Devos.
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