Wednesday, April 23, 2014

How the suffering of divorce has helped me through the suffering of infertility part II

This is the second post of two on this topic. It is written by Mr. M. For the first part click here.

Until, my dear Mom saw that I was going off the deep end into despair. I can only imagine what she thought at the time: "Hmm, it's probably not that normal for your teenage son to lock himself in his room for three or so days yelling to very angry music, ignoring even your mild attempts of offering food, and claiming he was busy just 'doing body weight exercises for sports and other things'" Yeah right! Phew, glad she saw through that obvious lie! So she encouraged me to attend this religious retreat. Oddly, I didn't outright reject it. The reason I didn't reject it simply was because I liked the priest who at the time was the campus minister at my high school. He was cool and convincing in the way he talked and holy, but I still didn't see any point of attending. So I waffled at the idea. Eventually, by an odd circumstance and literally out of nowhere (I now see it as a grace), a friend of mine who wasn't that religious encouraged me to go to the retreat with him. When I say 'not religious' he and I literally never talked once about God. He said he wanted to go because his brother was suggesting to him to go. So I agreed. But then the day before the retreat he opted out! I was like “What the heck (except a little bit more expletives were added at the time :-) )?” So I didn't want to go, but my mom dragged me in the car to the retreat. The priest sort of forced me (through good ol' guilt) to go as well. Probably not the best idea for retreat masters, but it really helped me in the end. However, I was miserable to be around on the first day of the retreat. Eventually the priest got to me or “got under my skin” so they say. His words pierced my heart, touched my soul. He shook me up and I went to confession for the first time in several years. That confession broke the ice on my soul and let the warmth of love in that I needed.

Things started to reveal themselves slowly from then on. I looked around at my peers on the retreat and realized they had a joy I didn't have. What was it? Was it simply that they didn't have to deal with divorce or a similar terrible suffering? No. Most of the kids who worked the retreat came from broken or high conflict homes too. Most of the presenters talked openly about their sufferings. I remember one being a drug addict that overcame it. I could relate with my dalliance into drinking although nowhere near an addiction. Teenagers shared witness stories about how they had used others and been used in sexual relationships and overcame that suffering by living healthier lifestyles. I felt pretty guilty at those witnesses and could relate totally. They spoke to my heart too about the emptiness they experienced. The priest also had a deadbeat, alcoholic dad who shunned him for his entire life until the very end of his life through a beautiful deathbed conversion. The priest shared how he overcame extreme anger toward his father and eventually offered forgiveness to him on that same deathbed. They actually reconciled in the last moments. Wow, I related to that experience with anger toward my own father who treated my mom and I so badly! It was this last witness that particularly moved me, but throughout the entire retreat I thought to myself: “These people have went through the sufferings I have gone through. This is not just a theoretical Christianity that hasn't dealt with the hard blows of life and has followed Christ out of a place of comfort. No this is a Christianity that has triumphed over suffering. I triumph that was real and evident in their joy. They went through the same type of suffering but they had joy? What was I missing? How can I get this joy?” The answer was clear: a dynamic faith in Christ.

My life was changed from that retreat forward and healing started slowly to ensue. There are too many details to get into about how I was healed. But here is the nub in relation to infertility: I had to deal with extreme suffering pretty early on in life. I have extrapolated many of the lessons learned from that school of suffering to the current suffering of infertility. But the biggest lesson from my past was that I had to find meaning in my suffering and by doing so I would reclaim my life and my childhood. As one of my later spiritual directors once said, “It is never too late to have a happy childhood.” But how? By reclaiming it by finding a meaning for all of it. A meaning that can then be transformed into being a witness. It is this discovered meaning that gave life and fruitfulness to my suffering. This 'aha' moment that suddenly makes everything redeemable – even my distraught childhood. This meaning can only come from discovering the truth of Christ. Christ can redeem even our broken childhood and our broken families. It is never too late to have a happy childhood. We, children of broken homes, do we believe that?

Basically, through many years of searching and suffering, I realized that the meaning of my suffering was to defend the truth of marriage and family as proclaimed by the Catholic Church, especially the truth of love as a total self-gift. This was the key to love that restored my trust in relationships and opened my heart back up; and it was only the Church I realized that got this truth of marriage right in our messed up society. As part of this teaching, I especially saw the meaning of my suffering was to witness to a complacent bourgeois society the truth of indissolubility and the utter harm that divorce wrecks upon everyone – the alienated spouses, the alienated children, and all of their alienated friends who have to deal with all the suffering and fallout. But most importantly, the suffering of divorce made me realize the importance of a good marriage and a home and it is on this subject that I would like to be a witness to all of you in this post.

I wept tears of joy the night my wife and I came home from our honeymoon. Perhaps it was the next morning, but I distinctly remember looking around at the four walls of our small apartment and I cried out that “I finally have a home again!” I wanted to do an Irish jig or an Italian polka for joy. (Luckily, I refrained from embarrassing myself and probably more accurately I felt the need to drop to my knees and cry.) And at the center of that home was a beautiful, faithful God-fearing wife. There would be no adequate home without a loving spouse like that as it is their love that really makes the home a true home, rather than a war zone. I remember telling my wife these ideas and I remember these thoughts every time I feel the crushing weight of infertility. I constantly think to myself “I have a home again with my wonderful, loving wife!” "We even have a home with a Sacrament in it, right there in our living room!" "We have a home that is a sanctuary, like a Church, and not a grave of unending conflict!" Thinking these thoughts makes the suffering of infertility a lot less painful. Knowing the beauty of a home through the absence of it was how the suffering of divorce has made the suffering of my infertility easier. Knowing the peace, forgiveness, wisdom, and grace of an indissoluble, total love through the absence of it lived out was how the suffering of divorce has made the suffering of my infertility easier. Knowing the importance of shared faith in God for both love and suffering through the absence of it was how the suffering of divorce has made the suffering of my infertility easier. And so on.

Amazing this paradox!? Suffering can help alleviate suffering. This is the fruitfulness of suffering through discovering a truth and meaning behind it. The suffering of divorce has made me realize the greatness of having simply a home with a beautiful, loving wife whether or not a child comes. Of course, I want to share this sanctuary of love with my own children God-willing or other children unlike my own childhood. Really I want to share my home with everyone and I get a great joy just welcoming others into our peaceful, loving home. For me, one of the biggest times of feeling fruitfulness comes when I have had a chance to be hospitable to others. I pray everyday that our home is place of God, prayer, peace, love, joy, and laughter to others. This is my mission and I hope to share it with everyone, especially those who ache in their bones for such a taste of the home. "Open up the home for it too is my gift to this broken, homeless world," I hear the Lord say everyday in my prayers. 

There is a tear of joy in my eye every time I look around at my home (like right now) and I try to remain grateful about that every time I feel down about infertility. There are many, many people who do not get to experience this type of homecoming I have had. So I keep them in mind through prayer and I am grateful of the gift of a home with my wife that I have been given. This having of a home is the “go-to gratitude” for me to help deal with suffering. You know the one thing you are just so grateful for in life that it dissolves even the worst suffering into an internal smile of the soul (if only for a few moments). Therefore, I wanted to share my experience of divorce and infertility so that you dear friends along the infertility journey may know about the greatness of the home you have and give you something to reflect upon. Even if your home is in trouble now, there is still a great beauty to it if you are married and fighting for it. Keep dying for it. Don't give up. God will bless you and please know that you are such a witness to me, like my own mother who has despite the civil divorce against her will has remained all of these years faithful to her covenant started by God long ago.

My prayer for all of you is that you all have great and glorious homes. Share those homes with the world and reflect upon this grace of a home next time you struggle with your infertility. It won't remove all the pain, but it will help make it lighter because I think we often neglect this beauty of the home since it is in the background of our love constantly or something perhaps you have always had (thank God!). Don't take it for granted.

Finally, I wanted to share this story with you dear friends because it shows how suffering can beget healing and be fruitful for later suffering. I believe, through my previous experiences of suffering, that the suffering of infertility is therefore but an opportunity of grace to help us and others to endure and to be healed from greater suffering down the road. We never know where that suffering may come from, but I think if we find that path of healing along the road of infertility then this will do nothing but good for later suffering of our own and others. Infertility, when properly suffered through, can then become a healing balm and not just a big vat of sorrow. Only suffering can heal suffering. This is the mysterious paradox of suffering when it participates with that one suffering that keeps on giving and making all things fruitful – the suffering of Christ. My suffering through my parent's divorce is living testament to that. I pray my suffering, our suffering of infertility, does the same! Indeed it is never too late to have happiness during this time of our lives. “Keep your head up, love!” (From Stubborn Love by The Lumineers.)

FYI: For all those who are children who have went through divorce check out the song Stubborn Love and its video by the Lumineers on Youtube. It is just downright moving, meaningful, and healing to me. There is a light at the end of all the pain. While the video doesn't say what this light is, the light's name is Christ. Christ says to us, “Behold I am the light of the world.” :-)


  1. "My prayer for all of you is that you all have great and glorious homes." I pray the same for you!!

    A great wrap up. While it's not always easy to think that suffering can heal suffering, it is absolutely true. I look back on my lowest of days and thinking now, "Getting through all that rough stuff has made me the stronger woman I am today." I'm certainly not perfect, but I'm getting better!

    This all reminds me of a GREAT quote by Archbishop Fulton J. Sheet that I just found on the internet today. I'm totally posting it on my blog tomorrow. And you have to wait 'til then to read it. 'Cause you made all of us wait. You're welcome. :)

    1. Touche! lol I will wait in eager expectation on pins and needles. Thanks for your joyful humor! Laughter is such a healing remedy for suffering and tonic for the soul on any occasion, which is why I included it as one of my adjectives for our home!

  2. Thanks for sharing this reflection on divorce and infertility. It's interesting, until about 5 years ago, I would have told you my parents' divorce wasn't that bad and that it all worked out for the better. Then 3 years ago, I went the symposium at JPII Institute and spent the whole weekend going "how do they know that about me" and starting to understand myself so much better.
    But, it wasn't until the last year or so that I would say I've really dealt with my parents' divorce and the fall out from it, and it has been infertility that has led me to do so. The details are too much, but ironically, the suffering of infertility, while later in sequence, has taught me to suffer the experience of my parents' divorce in a much more productive way.
    Thank-you for helping me to understand why/how that was possible :).

    1. Thanks for your comment Rebecca. I am glad my story has been a little bit of help. Divorce/high conflict homes are horrible, horrible wounds. My prayers go with you. I am so glad you are able to draw strength from your infertility to help you get through the divorce pain. There is the fruitfulness of suffering yet again! Although, I am well aware that while we can be healed we are still in constant need of healing. The wounds never fully dissolve until our last day. My prayers go out to you and if you ever want to talk about the whole divorce experience, then let me know. I really think a lot of us adult children of divorce are in need of continual processing of the pain, much like the infertility bloggers do here on this neat support group of people on the internet. Know that you are a beloved daughter of God and that you always have a loving home not only with your DH but also in the Church (I should have emphasized this a little more in my post). In these homes, we can have a happy childhood again. Finally, I leave you with my favorite Bible verse that is very dear to me because it helps a lot to overcome the pain of being an adult child of divorce: "Perfect love drives out fear" 1 John 4:18.

  3. Paradoxes... So many of them in life and faith.

    Again, so glad you two are choosing to make a difference!