By Leonie Dennis
I remember feeling like my heart was being crushed from the inside out after leaving my abusive marriage to a pastor 4 years ago. I felt like my entire being was coming apart—like I was shedding a part of myself. It literally felt like death. Throughout my abusive marriage, I was slowly dying on the inside. But after leaving the relationship, I experienced a new wave of death. This death didn’t feel slow and sad like it did during the course of my 4-year marriage. This new death after I walked away from a life of toxicity was fast and furious. It was a pounding hammer in my heart. It was gut wrenching.
My experience may sound like I was devastated that the marriage ended. It may sound like I was going through depression. Or that I was so in love with my ex, I was going through a severe heartbreak. Actually, none of the above.
The marriage was toxic from the day we came back from our honeymoon. Up until then, I had only met his love-bombing representative; not the real him. His narcissistic abuse was present from the start, so I wasn’t devastated that the marriage ended because he put forth no effort to change; leaving was a blessing. My experience of feeling like I was dying on the inside at an accelerated rate was due to my inner self literally separating itself from being joined to a toxic person. And this was a part of grieving after a divorce.
This grieving carried some of the same symptoms of depression, such as feeling extremely down in my spirit, felling lethargic, feeling uninspired, wanting to just stay in bed, and not wanting to talk to anyone. These feelings were symptoms of the part of me that was joined to him dying off; it was my “spirit man” going through the grieving stage of the death of a marriage.
I most certainly wasn’t grieving because I was in love and now that love was lost. I definitely wanted to be in love though. And I truly thought we would become madly in love with each other based on the charming version of himself he presented before we came back from the honeymoon. Not to mention the upright man of God he presented himself to be, and all the so-called prophesies of what God was going do to. (I was truly naive at the time. But you live and you learn).
Because things were so toxic from the start and throughout the duration of the marriage, there were no opportunities to become in love with him, and truly build a oneness with each other. I was just in a marriage with a person I had enough love and compassion for to make it work should he had chosen to change how he treated me.
If my abused pastor’s wife testimony resonates with you and you’re currently going through some of the symptoms I’ve described, it’s possible that you’re going through a grieving process from the death of an abusive marriage, and unfortunately, this process can feel very similar to depression. Of course, you know yourself better than I do. You know if your feelings of sadness are causing you to spiral down a dark tunnel and it’s bigger than just grieving. If you feel within yourself that your heartache is impairing your ability to properly function throughout your day-to-day life, then by all means, seek help from someone you trust or from a professional counselor—don’t try to just handle it on your own and risk putting your well-being in jeopardy.
My goal in sharing this part of my testimony is to get you to better identify whether the feelings of moderate or extreme sadness you’re going through as a result of leaving an abusive marriage is a byproduct of your soul going through a dying phase to shed off the soul-tie you have with your ex or, if your feelings of gloominess is literal depression that may require some form of mental health counseling.
Not to say that if your soul is grieving after a relationship that you can’t seek mental health counseling anyway; that you should only seek professional help once you’re full blown depressed. Not at all! Just as we do things to prevent illnesses in our natural bodies, we also need to do things to prevent or curb instability in our mental health. So at any point in your healing journey, you should never feel embarrassed or ashamed about getting professional counseling if you feel you need to—doing so doesn’t diminish anything about who you are.
In my healing journey after grieving a divorce, I was able to come out of the process with a new sense of life. For me, fasting and praying broke the soul tie and strongholds that were operating in my life, and completely set me free. Fasting and praying alone may work for some. For others, this may need to be coupled with counseling. Whichever method you choose to help you heal, just know that there is abundant life on the other side waiting for you. You can heal! You can get your life back! You can get your light back and shine bright like the beautiful creation of God that you are.