Q: There is nothing about divorce on your site except to mention it as a social problem. I am practicing gratefulness with regard to the divorce I am going through. Can you give me more spiritual guidance on this? — Wendy Elaine, Johannesburg, South Africa

A: Dear Wendy, even though you do not describe how you are practicing gratefulness regarding your divorce, it is nevertheless an admirable attitude to take during this painful dissolution of your marriage.

The life passage of divorce can be a gateway to a fresh spiritual perspective and to psychological growth. One of the great services of marriage, although it is experienced as pain, is to show us where we are in disharmony in our most intimate of relationships. Such disharmonies almost always are rooted in the ways in which we are in disharmony with ourselves. Relationships are objectified mirrors of our own spiritual and psychological integration. Learning about ourselves through such mirrors creates the possibility for healing and greater wholeness. Divorce then, offers an opportunity for looking inward at our emotional complexes and psychological drives that create the primary divisiveness and disharmony within ourselves.

It’s possible to see clearly the spiritual and psychological limitations that oneself and one’s partner operated by, while at the same time holding a clear remembrance of the genuine love and good aims by which both were motivated. This perspective enhances our self-knowledge and the virtues of forgiveness, tolerance, and compassion. Above all it is clear that we have a choice about how we respond to the sad situation of divorce. No doubt some negative states of mind such as bitterness, anger, and resentment will confront us as a life we once knew falls apart. But what we choose to identify with and affirm will be a reflection of our ideals and spiritual intentions.

As people of faith holding a spiritual intent, we hear our inner voice telling us to choose forgiveness, love, and understanding over resentment, bitterness, and condemnation. The latter are poisons that do terrible harm to us and, if there are children involved, inflicts heart-wrenching damage upon them. If we can choose the way of the spirit, the authentic love that was always there between the couple will be affirmed, even though the form of the relationship has changed. This will be a life-enhancing gift to everyone: oneself, one’s ex-partner, and the children, for all will learn that the heart of love runs deeper than any social form, or even psychological relationship. It teaches us that the Heart, where love resides, is a reality much deeper than even personality. It is the personality that must make adjustments to the movements of love, not the other way around.

It is this core of love in the heart that never really dies. It is from here that constant bonds of love remain intact. The meeting place of human love and eternal divine love in the depths of the heart is the spring of all authenticity in the various forms of social love: marital, parental, intimate friendship, and so forth. The outer forms may suffer change, but what was always authentic and real will remain so, recognized by the two involved.

In every passage in life where we experience deprivation, such as loss of support, comfort, companionship, trust, fidelity, connection, or passion, we must grieve the fact and acknowledge the wound it leaves in us. That wound is a particular way in which we are vulnerable to the world and to ourselves. Our ego structure is not so crystallized in this place of wounding. If we can muster the courage, we can explore this wound to find where it leads. This is one of the merciful ways grace manifests, in that our wounds offer a greater openness and access to the spirit. For we can only enter these vulnerable places in ourselves with delicacy and nakedness. It is we who habitually block the spirit; but in the case of exploring our wounds, the very necessity of delicacy makes us receptive to the spirit’s healing response.

So in practicing gratefulness during this time, we do not fail to acknowledge our grief and woundedness, but rather embrace them with a gentleness aimed at discovery and healing. The wisdom of life offers us growth toward the spirit always, but especially in times of great difficulty. For this we feel grateful and guided by such wisdom we take courageous action that engages us more deeply in life. When we do this humbly and sincerely, the spirit never fails to respond to our deepest and truest need.

— William Young