Loss Due to Divorce
The Big “D” Word
So what does the big “D” word mean? According to the Holmes-Rahe Change Scale (1967), divorce and separation are listed as the second and third most stressful changes in life, after the death of a spouse. This life event has no closure and oftentimes is very contentious. It brings with it many of the same emotions as a death such as fear, anxiety, denial, depression, anger, embarrassment, loneliness, and rejection. It is a roller coaster ride as you go through the phases of grief. To some extent there is a loss of time with children, family and/or friends, and sometimes a loss of health, finances, and a home.
My situation entailed all of those raw emotions and was difficult after 18 years of marriage and two small children. I am thankful that I had a good job and family support, so the struggles many deal with were not as devastating for me. I can admit that I made mistakes, but now after 20 years, I can look back and tell you what things we did right so that something might be helpful to you. We did see a Christian counselor, a pastor, and I read many books on marriage, which were helpful. During that long process I also read and listened to Christian and motivational speakers. It is very easy to let that negative self-talk take over your thoughts. Do not let yourself get stuck in one spot!
Because of all the hurt and loneliness, it is very easy to let someone else fill that void when you think you will never fall in love again. Give yourself time to heal and improve your mental and physical health before you start dating! When you are dating, do not let anyone rush you; give yourself time to recognize red flags, and ask your children what they think. There are far worse things than being single!
Finances are a huge issue for many people. To stay on track with bills, set up a monthly budget and stick to it. There is a spreadsheet at care.ac/vjvn that will help you. Keep a record of dates when each bill is due, and check them off as you pay them. Also keep a reminder on the calendar. My tendency was to overindulge and shop to de-stress; so be careful with credit cards, and pay them off each month, if possible.
Find a friend or counselor that you can be open and honest with. Unlike when a spouse passes away, people do not really want to talk about divorce or take sides. You need the support and encouragement of same sex friends and/or a support group. A great friend can also help keep you accountable and give you good advice.
What about the kids? They were my lifeline and the reason I had to get my head together! It was important that they hear from both of us that we would not be living together, that it was not their fault, and that they could see their father any time. When the boys were six and nine, we ended up moving an hour away. That involved changing jobs, friends, schools, churches, home, and neighbors. When I was offered that job, we went to visit the town, looked around and decided together that we liked it. (Mainly because there were several baseball fields!) I also chose that job because they would be closer to their dad, and their having a relationship with him was very important. We had great support from both sets of grandparents, and they saw the boys often. It was important that they have as normal a schedule as possible, so we kept a daily routine, played a lot of baseball and basketball, took trips together, used behavior charts with rewards when necessary, added some chores, and stayed in church activities. We tried several new things like tae kwon do, football, track, piano, guitar, drum, drama, art, choir, musicals, and Bible drill club. They eventually became proficient musicians and did a lot of volunteer work for the school where I worked. I am proud of the men they have become. We were blessed by all the prayers of four wonderful grandparents, friends, neighbors, sitters, and co-workers!
Healing takes time, usually a few years, so don’t get in a hurry! Be patient with yourself and others, choose forgiveness, and keep making steps forward. Grief and loss, of any kind, requires you to go through that journey and adapt to the “new normal.” Trust that “I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:13 NLT).
Brock, Raymond T. (1996). Handling Loss and Grief. Living Free, Chattanooga, TN
FROM DEFEAT TO VICTORY
An Interview with Kerry Miller
By Debbie Edge
DE: Kerry, you have experienced a lot of losses in your life. Please share your story and how God has given you a new purpose through all of those circumstances.
I grew up in a preacher’s home, in Doniphan, MO. I am one of those preacher’s kids who loved his parents. I thought my dad was a great communicator and pastor. I call my mom the strongest, feeble person I know. She had a brain tumor when she was pregnant and when her first born was delivered. Steve is my oldest brother and he was fine. In the Doniphan days, where they were pastoring, there were times when she had trouble walking because she had poor balance. She supported Dad through all of his years of ministry. They were like my heroes. I was a preacher’s kid who admired his parents. A lot of preacher’s kids are tired of religion and tired of church because they are forced to go. It wasn’t like we were forced to go, but it was a part of our life. That’s just who we were.
As I went off to Bible college, my first loss was David. He was a friend from high school and attended our church. My first weekend away, David drowned in Meramec River. That was very devastating, because I felt like it was my fault. You know how it is in high school when kids brag. One time I swam across Current River at a big wide spot. We were all bragging, and he said he was going to outdo me one day. He tried to swim across Meramec River, except he did not make it. Here all these years later, when I talk about it, there are still emotions.
Going forward, in 1992, I joined the military and I got married. In 1994, my son was born at Brook Army Medical Center in Fort Sam Houston, so he’s a Texan by birth. At the same time that my wife found out she was pregnant, we found out she had cancer. The doctors said, “We can’t treat the cancer while you are pregnant.” Luckily, Forest was born healthy, they were able to get her cancer out, and she’s still alive today. That was a miracle from that aspect.
When my son was three months old, my wife left me, took my son and took the car. That really just shook my world. We had gone through so much as of a young married couple: her illness, the hardships of army life, and the fact that I was gone all the time. I was a licensed minister with the Church of God and everything changed.
At that time, it was very painful, watching my son grow up and having only visitation. When he was there with me it was great and when he wasn’t, I was just empty. It just hurt. Unfortunately for me, it led to some poor choices in my life. I just really threw in the towel spiritually. I just got to the point that I did not care.
DE: Were you in the ministry during that time?
No. When I went to Fort Sam Houston, I was going to be there a year and a half. The credentials committee was going to ordain me, but I said let’s wait until I get back, since I would be in training for my military and not in active ministry. One of my losses was actually that I felt like the church had forsaken me. After the divorce, I wrote a letter to the state coordinator and got no response. For six years I felt like they just ignored me. That hurt, especially when I was going through a really hard time.
DE: You have experienced losses because of divorce, loss of time with your son, loss of a good friend, and also the loss of your chosen career. Explain to us what other losses you have had and how God brought about change in your life.
I had a lot of resentment toward the church. There were a lot of things going on that people don’t know. When my dad left Doniphan and went to Virginia, he got sick. He was preaching his sermon and right in the middle of the sermon just stopped and just kind of froze, like a VHS tape that just broke. So my brother, Rory and his wife Judy, went out to VA. Dad was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. It took a while, because we were hoping he would get well.
Dad never got his degree, so he contacted what is now Christian University. They said, because of all his experience, they would give him credit for certain things; and after taking some classes they could give him his degree. However, I say they lied to him. Because the school had relocated, they were trying to expand and were in the process of getting new accreditation. Later we were told they basically promised him things they shouldn’t have. So dad never finished his degree.
He bounced back and pastored in Columbia for a while. He retired, did some interim preaching and got sick in Alton, IL. He looked like he was 100 years old, but then bounced back again. My sister moved him to Oklahoma City, so they could be close to her and central for the rest of us. Dad bounced back again and had about a year and a half of quality of living but died in 2010.
I didn’t deal with a lot of pain and issues. When dad died in 2010, my son was 13, and we did not have a good relationship at that time. My son’s best friend, his 13-year-old step-cousin, went out and shot himself. My son was not doing well that day, so I went to his house so he wasn’t alone. He didn’t want me there, but I didn’t want him to harm himself.
There was a period of 14 years, after my son’s mom and my son left, when a lot went on that was not good. I got to the point that God just had to step in. At this time, I was going to North Point Church to just simply hide. I began to get involved again, but there were two Kerry’s. I grew up serving people, so I was ushering at church, but inside I was still hurting. One day the power went out at church and I took it as a sign from God. I literally fell on my knees right there, and cried like a baby.
April 3, 2011, is the day that I’ll never forget. I tell people that’s when the lights went out, but the power came on and my whole life changed. Ever since then there has been consistency with increased faith and joy. I’m not perfect. Life is still a journey. We still have issues that we have to deal with, but it’s totally different when you know there is going to be loss in life. Whether it’s our fault, not our fault, or because of nature, the question is how do we deal with it? I wasn’t dealing with it properly, but now I am. I think if there’s anything that can come of this it’s that there is always hope. Now our ministry is to share hope, laughter and inspiration everywhere we go.
I got re-married three and a half years ago. She volunteers at Isabel’s house, which serves children in crisis situations, and we both volunteer at church. I have the ventriloquist ministry, Kerry and Friends, where through comedy and ventriloquism we share hope, laughter and inspiration. I understand what pain is. I understand what loss is. I understand that life can sometimes get hard. Now it’s my desire to encourage people to know there is hope, and to inspire them not to give up, so they can overcome when they are going through struggles. Laughter is like medicine. That’s my passion now. I understand all the grief and loss, whether it be through death or divorce, because it’s all been a part of my journey, but I do know there’s hope.
My son shares in his testimony that he had tried to take his own life. He was messed up with drugs and alcohol. When I took him to the Dream Center in Aurora, he listed 14 drugs he was using, plus alcohol. Added to this was depression. He had burned every bridge there was, until there was nothing. He hid a lot of stuff from us. He just graduated from a one-year ministry program and they recently hired him to help others.
I went to school and it took me 10 years to get my four- year degree. I got a BA in religious studies in 1994. Next spring I’m going to stick with religious studies and finish my Master’s Degree. Cox Health has a tuition reimbursement. I met with the Director of Religious Studies, and I’m grateful for what they are doing for me to be able to complete that goal.
DE: Share some things that were helpful to you or might be helpful to others.
I get this verse from my son once a week at least, Psalm 46:10, “Be still and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations. I will be exalted in the earth.” I think sometimes we just need to be still. We get too busy. Now, I can take warning signs to slow down and just be still.
It’s that word right there -- HOPE! If people will just give hope a chance, they will see changes. I have seen it with those people I just told you about. I see it in the rehab center every day where people have lost an arm or leg, and yet they are still fighting.
I believe that we all have a purpose, and if we can find what that purpose is, that gives us strength and encouragement. I’d rather thrive than just survive. I’d rather live than just exist, because I’ve been there. OK God, you are waking me up, but I don’t know why. Now I know why. When you know the why, then you have hope.
My job is Cox Health Volunteer Coordinator. We give opportunities for people to serve others and to make a difference in the lives of others. A lot of people have worked their whole lives and have never volunteered a day in their life. There is this giving of yourself, when you are not expecting anything in return, that is healing.
I encourage believers not to just volunteer at church, but also look for community opportunities. I encourage and challenge everyone to be involved in his community and get to know the people and the town. Cox is a not-for-profit hospital and we promote volunteering, like our Wellness for Warriors, which is an outreach for veterans and first responders. We also promote other non-profits, such as: Convoy of Hope, Alzheimer’s Association, and Day of Caring for United Way. Even though I’m not in ministry and am not a licensed minister, I get to work with and serve people every day.
“Kerry and Friends” is my ventriloquist ministry where we share hope, laughter, and inspiration. It is sometimes paid, but many times it’s community outreach. I have nine characters and do my own music and soundtracks. We just kicked off the Community Military Awards Show. We are speaking at the National Association of Evangelism, which is a ministry of the Church of God. They want us to share our ministry, how we reach out in the community and how we make an impact by using the gifts we have.
My passion and ministry now is to reach out in the community and share “hope, laughter, and inspiration!” www.kerryandfriends.org
See Sami's article: "Living in His Presence"