It was July 28, 1993. I was pacing the kitchen floor, trying to get up the courage to call my husband, or as I was totally unwilling to accept, my soon-to-be ex-husband. It had been just three days since he asked for a divorce and walked out, never to return. There had been little communication since that day but on this particular day, I had an extremely important reason for calling.
You see, I come from a very large, traditional, Spanish Catholic family and on the approaching Saturday, we were gathering from all over the state of California and other parts of the country for a family reunion. This reunion, as typical of any family reunion, had been planned for at least a year and there would be family members present I hadn’t seen in ages. So the thought of showing up without my husband and announcing I was getting a divorce was completely out of the question in my mind. My pride would not allow that to happen. And so, I swallowed a massive piece of humble pie and made the call. It wasn’t a pretty conversation as you can imagine, but I was able to convince my husband to come with me to the reunion and pretend that nothing was wrong.
That Saturday was probably one of the worst in my life. We showed up as a couple and, just as planned, no one knew there was anything wrong. On the outside I smiled, but on the inside, I was a total wreck. It wasn’t until then that I realized what a mistake I had made. I knew my family loved me and would have surrounded me with their love if I had only been honest. But now, I couldn’t experience that. I just had to keep up the facade.
But more importantly, another relative of mine who was present that day was also getting a divorce and was also keeping it a secret because of the scandal it would cause. We could have been a help and support to each other. I will always regret letting my pride and sense of shame circumvent what could have been a real opportunity for my family to grow closer and show their love, even if it was due to terrible circumstances.
This is one of the reasons why I have worked to serve the divorced community within the Church for the last 12 years. I see what I went through as a sort of gift – not that I would ever want to experience divorce again, but it’s definitely something that helps me connect with people and give them support. It’s like a cancer survivor talking to a cancer patient; they speak the same language. Someone who’s never had cancer can certainly offer support and consolation, but the cancer survivor understands exactly what the patient is going through and how he feels. In the same way, I understand how difficult divorce is and don’t want others to feel alone or alienated.
The only reason I bring this up and in this manner is because I would like to encourage you to share your experience with someone who may be struggling with their own divorce. We all know the holidays are very difficult to get through after a divorce and there may be someone who really needs to hear from you, a veteran. They need someone who truly understands their circumstances to listen, be compassionate, and offer some hope. They need someone who can speak the same language.
This is a gift you can give that has an eternal value. It’s eternal because you are affecting the soul of someone else and likely helping them remain close to their faith instead of falling away. It is also considered one of the Spiritual Works of Mercy; to comfort the afflicted.
There is one added benefit and that is you, yourself, will experience additional healing. As divorced people, we all know there will always be a part of our hearts that has been darkened by the devastation of divorce. Therefore, each time you give the gift of your compassion to someone else, another layer of healing balm is applied to your own wounds.
I hope you will consider giving this precious gift to someone this Christmas and share the real meaning of the celebration.