How Irene's Faith Helped Her Find Peace
How Irene's Faith Helped Her Find Peace
“You have no idea how excruciating it is.” Irene Myers recalls the first months after she and her husband came to the mutual decision to end their marriage. “I was married 28 years, and even though my marriage wasn’t good, the divorce ripped my life apart.”“There was really no communication between us. When my physical therapy clinic closed, I lost my job and was home all day while he worked from our house. It became clear we needed to end the marriage. We don’t have children, so that made it simple in that regard. I spent a frenzied summer purging things, getting the house on the market and moving.
“People say divorce is like a death, but that’s not quite right. In some ways, death would have been easier. When a spouse dies, you get sympathy. People make food for you. They mow your lawn.
“The best analogy isn’t death. It’s amputation. Your identity is shattered. You don’t just lose your spouse. You lose your in-laws, mutual friends, Christmases with his brother’s children.” Tears fill her eyes.
“With a divorce, people don’t really know what to do or what to say. And divorced people don’t know how to reach out. But they need the help. That summer and fall, I didn’t think I was going to be able to handle the pain and panic. First thing in the morning, I’d wake up and cry – even before I sat up. I had a couple of close friends who were very supportive, but you can only dump on the same people for so long.
“Though I had given up on the Catholic Church as a teen, I returned a bit in the late ‘90s when my marriage wasn’t going well. Searching, searching, searching, the Church didn’t have what I was looking for, and I didn’t know how to reach out. I felt so alone in the pews that I decided to build a library of spiritual readings at home instead.
“Then, in 2011, I was diagnosed with lung cancer and had my right upper lobe removed. Luckily it was stage one, so I didn’t need chemotherapy or radiation, but it gave me the strength to reach out to the associate pastor at St. Andrew Parish in Saline. Father Dave Rosenberg [now director of the St. Francis Retreat Center] agreed to provide me with spiritual direction for both the cancer and my marriage difficulties.
“By the time my husband and I had decided to divorce, St. Andrew was my home. It was a very special grace that God gave me to hold onto my faith, because after the divorce that was all I had left. I Googled resources for divorce support at local parishes, but there wasn’t much. I did find a website called the Catholic’s Divorce Survival Guide [featuring a program designed by Rose Sweet], and found Rose was leading a “Healing at the Well” retreat nearby. I registered.
“One month later, still a hot mess, I found myself surrounded by about 30 other Catholic women and men in various stages of healing from their divorces. For some, like me, the wounds were fresh and emotions really raw, but others had been divorced for years. Their experiences were different, but we all needed healing.
“I knew I needed to bring the Catholic’s Divorce Survival Guide to St. Andrew so I could continue healing myself and other divorced men and women in our parish. Rose gave me some suggestions that I immediately put into action. Our pastor, Father Francis Mossholder, tapped Deacon Paul Ellis to facilitate the sessions, and within two months we launched the 12- week course with eight other St. Andrew parishioners.
“The first session was titled “Getting Your Bearings,” which was exactly what I needed! The experts on the program helped me understand that when you’re in emotional and physical turmoil, you have to go higher to your intellect to make it through. You won’t necessarily feel God’s presence, but you can will yourself to turn to God. Attending Mass regularly, going to confession, maintaining a prayer life – even if sometimes the only prayer you can form is “Help” – these are lifelines for people like me who just feel like they’re drowning. If I hadn’t followed them, I honestly don’t know what I would have done.
“The weekly sessions go more in-depth on topics like anger, dealing with your ex-spouse, forgiveness, letting go and much more. Each week builds on the lessons already presented and helps you keep on track toward God. You can learn more about it and sample the segments at www.catholicsdivorce.com/.
“It was so powerful to share this journey with people at all stages of recovery! Some went through hell on their own because the Church wasn’t there for them years ago. The Catholic Church has been slow to respond to our needs. But it is responding now. A lot of misconceptions need to be addressed, but things are changing.
“When we wrapped up that first course, I began facilitating a second course with one of my colleagues from the first one. We had five regular attendees in various stages of healing from their divorces over different time periods. Then, we launched our third cycle of courses.
“I’ve always been fascinated by mystics, but it would scare me if I ever actually experienced anything like that! About the time our first course ended, I was struggling with loneliness and isolation and had so many questions. I decided to spend some time in adoration of the Eucharist. As I sat before the host, I had what I can only describe as a moment of clarity. My head snapped up and I had this thought, clear as a bell: “You will not find what you are looking for in other people until you find it in me.” Irene’s eyes open wider as a smile warms her face.
“After that, the heaviness lifted and I felt happy for the first time in so long. You could see it. Throughout the spring, people would ask what happened to me, and I just told them I surrendered. God threw me a bone.
“My life’s been turned inside out from a quiet, dull life that lacked meaning to one where God has lined up all these wonderful things. I went through anxiety, meltdowns, and overwhelming pain, but everything I lost has been replaced with something greater.
“It’s just too much to say it’s all chance. I believe God used me to bring this program here, and it’s already impacted other people’s lives in a positive way. I hope my story of recovery is a testament to the healing power of Christ and his Church, and that it might help other divorced Catholics find peace.”