Jennifer Croly, an evangelical, British, religious education teacher and mother of four, shares her tragic personal story in “Missing Being Mrs.”
Years ago, Croly’s husband took their oldest two children and left her. Croly, writing under a pen name, talks about her ups and downs in the pilgrimage from initial devastation to a new marriage a decade later.
Croly was married for 22 years and her ex-husband had no interest in reconciling. She was helpless to bring him back. At some point, he started dating another woman, and he and Croly divorced. Both parents continued their relationships with all of their children.
When Croly’s nightmare began, it shattered her. She writes: “This can’t be right … not my husband! God! You can do all things! Make it right again. Bring them back to me.”
Others whose husbands died at least had funerals and closure, received sympathy and went through a grieving period. But she lost her husband with no closure and endless grieving.
She envied bereaved women: “First because they were honored, whereas I had been shamed, and second because they had a chance to celebrate the good things about their now-ended marriage.”
Croly lost some friends, and others tried to console and sympathize. People were always wondering whose fault it was.
“A divorced person doesn’t need your judgment; he or she needs your acceptance, your support and your love,” she writes. “Above all, he or she needs desperately to know that they are an OK person. They will have been told in considerable detail, by the person that knows them best, that they most definitely are not.”
One day Croly was a wife and mom of four. The next day, she was a shocked, abandoned, single mom of two young children, unable to see her way forward. Buried in intense emotional pain, she sought solace in denial: He’ll return eventually.
Fortunately, Croly also drew close to God, who provided for her and enabled her to go forward.
She could not understand why her husband left, having had no abuse, affairs, big financial problems, crimes or other serious problems. Buried by guilt and shame, she felt a total failure. But eventually she realized it was mostly just self-imposed, false guilt and shame.
“I felt as if I had been mortally wounded … as if a sword had passed through me. Right through the core of my being. There was no rest from it. And it hurt. Sharply. Deeply. Constantly.”
Anger at her husband’s cruelty led Croly to hate him, but God eventually healed her wounds, enabled her to pray for her ex’s relationship to their children and open her heart to a rich romance and marriage to a believer. They now share a ministry to families.
“‘Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed,’ says the Lord, who has compassion on you” (Isaiah 54:10).
Richard Penn is a member of Southeast Christian Church.