Transcripts: How to Heal from The Trauma of Divorce, Improve Your Mental Health & Turn Pain Into Purpose
Keisha Blair: Welcome to the Holistic Wealth podcast. I’m your host Keisha Blair, wife, mother of three, author of Holistic Wealth and Founder of the Institute on Holistic Wealth. The show will showcase various experts in the key pillars of holistic wealth. Each week, we deliver the best information on how to become holistically wealthy and live your best life.
Today I have a very special guest with me. I have Reverend Dr. Marisha Stewart and Marisha is a licensed minister, author, counsellor, and divorce coach, and podcaster. Marisha welcome to the show. I’m so happy to have you here.
Marisha Stewart: Thank you for having me. It’s great to have you here.
Keisha Blair: And so there have been so many new stories with relationship struggles in this pandemic because of the pressure and all the mental health struggles. There are so many couples struggling and relationships are crumbling. Even during the lockdown, we’ve heard of so many couples who split up during lockdown and it’s just unbelievable to see. And so I wanted to start this podcast by getting your insights on how couples can deal with this situation when it seems like everything seems to be crumbling around. And of course, you can give us a bit of your background and story too, within your response. But I would just love to start with that because there are so many couples struggling now during COVID-19.
Marisha Stewart: Yeah, we are in a time that we have never seen, however, it’s not new to the earth. But it’s just a time that we have in our great grandparents have experienced different viruses, but this is something new for us. And you have all of these stressors. I would say that typically can stress a marriage, but I believe the pandemic has peeled a layer back from an onion to the point where the smell is so strong that it’s unbearable.
And I just see that it is just you being locked with someone that you thought you knew that is a different person from when you walked down the aisle or somebody you didn’t know. Um, but you believed in more potential than you believed in who he or she was. And so I truly believe that being locked in with someone makes you face who they are and makes you face really who you are. Do you know what I mean? And so in reality, sometimes when it comes to our identity and we get into a relationship, we lose who we are. And so being in the pandemic, it’s just resurfaced, so many different things, different emotions and then whatever issues that a couple may have had, it just exacerbated it so much because of being locked down together with someone that maybe you fell out of love with maybe who is abusive, maybe who is not good for you.
Maybe who is not healthy for you and you felt stuck and then it could be, it may not be the fact of that the relationship was unhealthy. It could just be I’m in a different place. I have different goals and we’re not on the same rollercoaster track. Do you know what I mean? So there are all of these different, I would say, different scenarios that just made the pandemic just exacerbated relationships so much that it caused stress. It caused mental health concerns and issues. It caused the abuse because intimate partner violence is up during the pandemic. You know, so many other things that oftentimes people just don’t know what to do.
Keisha Blair: Yes. The statistics are startling. I mean, there are statistics online where it’s like a 122% increase in couples asking for advice on divorce. And couples seeking a divorce lawyer and inquiring how they can get the process started. And you’re right. There are all sorts of abuse. There’s child abuse too. And so it’s unbelievable how this pandemic has taken its toll on people. And I know this is your expertise and I just wanted to get your insights too on how you overcame it because I know that around the time that you accepted the calling on your life to be a minister and to join the ministry, you also went through a divorce, a painful and traumatic divorce, and you know, it led you into your purpose, but even before then, I just want to get a sense from you, how you overcame this?
Marisha: So it definitely was my faith. It wasn’t an easy roller coaster ride and trauma typically isn’t. Because you don’t know the hills, you don’t know the valleys, you just don’t know what’s ahead. You don’t know the turns. And so you just don’t know how it will impact you. And so I was with my ex for a span of 24 years, since the age of 18, he was the only one that I was with. And it really, it was just devastating for somebody to come out and say, I never wanted to be married. It wasn’t the first time I heard it, I heard it right after my son was born and right after we got married, which was crazy, he moved on from it. But whatever that thing was, he literally just didn’t want to do it. And he decided to live the lie. And he lived a lie and unfortunately, I was a part of it and it just hit me like a ton of bricks.
And so I myself struggled with mental health issues and depression and suicidal ideation. Even though I’m a Christian, you know, I struggle with those thoughts. I struggled with my mental health, my physical health, I took care of it, but my mental health needed help. And oftentimes as Christians, we fail to do that piece. We fail to go see someone that can help us with our mental health. And so that is something that I did, but I also realized I wanted to know why the attack was so great on my life. I had a plan of what I was going to do. It went in-between kinds of active and passive. However, God just had, he had just said to me, like the reason why the attack is so great is because of the calling on your life to help other women work through this emotional trauma.
Because if you don’t work through the emotional trauma, the residue builds. And as residue builds, we stay in this cycle and don’t become residue-free. And then don’t allow ourselves to heal and go into a relationship hole. Do you know what I mean? And so that is, that is kind of what helped me to get out of it. And along with therapy, and along with my faith, I had a lot of support. My pastors were there for me. My best girlfriends were there for me. My parents were there for me. My parents didn’t know in the beginning because divorce brings a lot of shame, especially when you’ve been with someone so long for me, I thought everything was okay. I did feel he was slipping away some years prior. And I just thought it was, you know, a middle-aged crisis. It seems as if every time he turned a certain age, he went through this thing. Right. And so, you know, I dealt with shame where I didn’t want people to know, but then I had to let it go. I had to. I had to really look and see for myself who was Marisha, you know because we lose ourselves and that’s the piece that I wanted to find again.
Keisha Blair: Yes, that’s very powerful because I was in a slightly different situation. I was widowed at 31, but you do lose your identity. Once you get married and your identity is almost wrapped up in someone else. Once that fades, for whatever reason, you know, whether it’s divorce or widowhood, you have to find yourself again, you have to figure out that new person and how you want to live. And so it’s just unbelievable hearing your story. And I know for people listening in who are going through a rough time right now, they may be having suicidal thoughts or suicide ideation. I just wanted to ask you about that. Just a bit more to share what that’s like and how to know you need to get help? And you mentioned a very fundamental point. I was raised in a Christian home. My husband is a pastor’s child. I am a pastor’s child and as Christians, we don’t tend to talk about this as much, you know, and when we do, we sweep it under the carpet.
And this is why I love having you on today because you know, spiritual self-renewal is such an important part of holistic wealth. I talk about that in my book, Holistic Wealth a lot. And so I want to delve into that topic with you about number one, the suicidal thoughts, and how to recognize them. How to know when you need help? And even if, even as a Christians, like how to shrug that notion that you should be able to do this all by yourself and just pray. How do we begin to talk about this Marisha? Any tips and strategies that you can get would be amazing.
Marisha Stewart: So it’s interesting. So I’m also a school counsellor in a high school. And so I deal with students all the time who deal with suicidal ideation. And then I had my moment where I was dealing with it. And it’s so interesting because it’s easy to give advice, but then in the same regard, you don’t think about that same issue. You know, I had a young man who had dealt with suicidal ideation before, and it wasn’t in the moment, but he just, he was just talking about it and I said it to him. I just asked him a weird question. He was like, where’s this going? So I had asked him, “do you know if your mom had ever had any miscarriages or stillbirths or even abortion?” and he said “yeah, my mom did. She had a few miscarriages actually”, and I was like, Hmm. And I asked him this question, I said to him, why wasn’t that you?
And he said to me, huh? Uh, that’s a good question. And I didn’t want him to answer it. I wanted him to meditate on it because I truly believe that we have to really understand that there’s a reason why we are taking up this air that we’re breathing. There’s a reason why we’re here on this earth. There’s also something in us that gives us the strength to go through the things that we have gone through. Like, everybody doesn’t go through the exact same thing, but I truly believe that God gives us some rights. He gives us something to help us to go through the things that we go through. And they’re not in vain, so I truly believe there’s purpose in our pain. And so my piece is, there’s a reason why you’re here on earth and that is why what God had to really help me deal with.
And that is what therapy had to help me deal with, that question “why am I here?”, You know, let go of what was done to me because that right there, we internalize that and make that our identity and it’s not. And unfortunately, that’s what we do. We take those things on. It’s not who I am. The rejection is not who I am. The divorce is not who I am. I need to let that go and realize what is my purpose? Why am I here? God, why are you allowing me to go through this? Because I’m not going through it for anything. I’m going through it for a reason. And what is that recent? And so that is typically what I try to help. Even my students try to realize, because I truly believe when you have a history when you have gone through something, when you’ve overcome something, you have the ability, you have the skillset to help somebody in that regard versus somebody who’s never had that experience.
You know, it’s so similar to Alcohol Anonymous. When you’re in this group, you’re in a group of people who have experienced the exact same thing you had on various levels. Do you know what I mean? And so even if it was a divorce group or widow group, whatever it is, we all have had different experiences and you bounce off of each other, your lessons, you bounce off of each other.
The biggest piece is realizing you aren’t alone and suicidal ideation, most people make you feel like they’re the only one going through it, and they’re not, life has its buttons and anybody can be pushed. Do you know what I mean? The question is, do you have support? Do you have people around you and are you willing to get the help that you need?
Keisha Blair: How can people know when they’re at that point where they absolutely need to seek help and seek help soon? Is there a point that they should be able to recognize that, okay, I’m at a breaking point now and I need to get help?
Marisha Stewart: So there’s a difference between active and passive suicide ideation. If you are at that breaking point of active suicidal ideation, where you’re having those looping thoughts and those looping thoughts won’t go away. And they have started to affect you deeply, and you’ve started to create a plan. You need to seek help. And I do believe people feel shame because of what they feel, but most of the time, what they feel is just honest because of what they’re going through and what they feel like they can’t handle. And so really just seeking help. They will be providing the tools that they need in order to figure out what’s going on within, you know what I mean?
And that’s, they, all therapy is trying to help you figure out the answer. You already know this in you. That’s what therapy is supposed to do. A therapist is not supposed to tell you to do X, Y, Z X, Y, Z. And then all of a sudden, wham, no therapist is supposed to pull out this toolkit show you which tools are helpful and what they could be used for, and then you have to figure out what tools are good for you in order for you to figure out the answer that’s already in you.
Keisha Blair: It’s so amazing with relationships that one minute you can think everything’s okay. And the next minute it’s like a war zone and it’s unbelievable. So I’m wondering for you what you took and in terms of the lessons and how you came out of the divorce. What did you learn about yourself coming out of it? And what lessons did you take coming out?
Marisha Stewart: So, one of the lessons that I learned that there was purpose in what I experienced another lesson is I had to learn how to water myself. I really wasn’t loved. The way, I would say Ephesians five 25, “love your wife the way Christ loves the church”. I wasn’t loved in that way. I knew he loved me, but he did not love me in that way. And so when it ended, I didn’t feel loved. And so I literally had to go through these steps, as God brought me through and these were my lessons.
I had to learn how to experience God’s love for me, because I just didn’t feel loved. I felt loved, you know, from my parents, I felt love from my friends, but I just, I needed, there was a hole that I needed to fill in and I knew God could be the only one. Then the second thing I had to figure out how to love myself. And I needed to figure out how to water myself in a way where I got back to Marisha. I wore a lot of hats, you know, I believe I changed and that’s what we do in relationships. We change, we change so much for the other person and it’s not reciprocated. And so I changed so much. And so I had to get back to me. I had to figure out what type of water I need it from me and not allow the rejection to be my identity, you know? and then I had to be open to love again, and oftentimes when you’ve been rejected, there’s that saying hurt people, hurt people. And when you’ve been rejected, Oh, you can reject others. And so, whatever that thing is, it’s so easy to reciprocate it back to what was done to you, but how could I be, I had to learn also how to be open to love again and not assume is this person going to reject me? Am I going to be with this person? Or they’re going to tell me they never want like. Am I going to keep looking back like, like lot’s wife like that, that is the thing that God kept instilling in me.
I needed to stop looking back. I don’t need you to turn into a pillar of salt because when you stay stuck, you can’t get out of that and you can’t move forward. You can’t be whole into a new relationship. Do you know what I mean? And so, so those are the things that God dealt with me on.
Keisha Blair: That’s amazing. And, you know, since this pandemic started, we’ve been having like our zoom family sessions, our extended family around the world and the millennials, especially the millennial women in the group, have been asking the older experienced women about marriage because they’re so interested and they’re so fearful when they see relationships crumbling around them.
And one of the questions they’ve come back with time and time again, that I also wanted to ask you about was there’s this issue around millennial women and their whole independence. And for some reason, they’re not attracted to giving up this independence in a marriage situation. There’s a part in the Bible too, that I hear them asking about over and over again, where it says a wife should yield to her husband and they want to know to what extent and what if he’s not treating me right? What if he’s not giving me the type of Love that the Bible talks about? And I wanted to ask you about that for women who are looking on looking at marriage as an option, especially millennial women, what advice would you have for them with regards to that? Especially with the way, you know, we’ve seen relationships crumble during this pandemic?
Marisha Stewart: That’s really interesting but I truly believe, yeah, millennials, that’s a whole new generation that that’s not my generation, but I get it. But I truly believe if you meet someone and you two are equally yoked. If you are on the same level, same page. You’re bringing the same thing. You’re connecting. If he is everything that you’ve ever asked the Lord, or I don’t think it is an issue. I think, unfortunately, I think that sometimes we, as females can make it an issue, but if everything is there, why is that important?
You truly can find someone who doesn’t have that same attitude. Do you know what I mean? Definitely, generations are different and even the millennial males, right? Did they have that kind of attitude? You know, like older generations, but I truly believe millennials can find people who their companions.
I think it’s all about compatibility, but what I’ve learned is sometimes you can be compatible at 20, but at 40, you might not be.
Keisha Blair: And that’s interesting. That’s so interesting. And so Marisha, you became a single mom and that must have been hard. I know firsthand how hard that can be, even just mentally and emotionally, and when you put in the financial part that may also be difficult that can even make it worse. And so I wanted to hear from you how you made it as a single parent on one income. And how did you do financially? How did you cope? And especially with the emotions that you were going through with your own breakup and your own divorce. And in your faith, like how did you make that work?
Marisha Stewart: Very interesting question. Because the first time my ex brought it up, my, I had just had my son and I was at the time I was a sign language interpreter. Freelance had no benefits. I was on his benefits. I was on his health insurance, and I was at a place where financially, I was like, I don’t know what I’m going to do if this if we stay this way if we stay separated, I don’t know what I’m going to do.
However, I did say to myself, I said he did this to me once. If he ever does this to me again -not realizing 13 years later, it would resurface. And it did. And by that time, the first time he wanted to separate and we did for about eight months. That prompted me to go back to school. I had already had my bachelor’s. I had wanted to be a pediatrician, but it just didn’t work out. I wanted to be a speech pathologist because I was fluent in sign language that didn’t work out. And then I was like, I needed somebody to encourage me to get my master’s. And I was like, I don’t know what for, but it was at the perfect time.
So I went back, I got my master’s in school counselling with an emphasis in mental health. And then I loved grad school so much. I went and got my doctorate. And so because of that, because of that Valley, I was in, it prompted me to go back to school. And so when it rolled around again when my son was about 13, I would say. I was financially ready because I knew, I said to myself, I said it and I didn’t think that I would go through it again, but unfortunately, I did and I was financially okay. Full-time school counsellor. And then I had started teaching adjuncts as a professor. So I was okay. Cause I wanted to be in a place where, whether you give me money or you don’t, I want it to be okay.
I only have one son. I wanted another, my son prayed for another. I wanted a girl. My son put pictures up in a room and his sister, but God just never allowed me to get pregnant. I wasn’t on birth control, but God just knew what was coming down the pipe. And, and so for me, I was blessed in that regard that I could financially take care of myself and my son.
Keisha Blair: Yeah, that’s amazing and such a touching story too. And I just love this story because there’s so much there that people can learn from. And I’ve been connecting with so many women who said that to me, even just this week about moving from pain into purpose. And so I just wanted to get those lessons from you in terms of how women can move from pain to purpose.
Marisha Stewart: So the biggest piece. Is I met this lady. I had an interview with this lady. Her name is Tarina Ali. And she said the pillow does not lie. And we have to take the mask off and we gotta deal with it, that’s doing the work. I think that the shift comes when we let go of what happened to us. And just identify that it, it went through us, but it didn’t happen to us, you know?
And when you can say I experienced it, but it didn’t happen, you know, I’m not gonna take it on when you don’t take it on, then you can take the mask off and you can really do the work. You know, we must learn to flow with the river and flowing with the river sometimes requires us to take the mask off, really realize what happened, realized the faults on their side and our side. Cause that’s, it’s still two sides. Right? I had to deal with some things that I may have said that maybe, you know, probably not, probably I truly believe there were some things that I said that manipulated my ex too. Marry me, however, I didn’t put a gun to his head.
Do you know what I mean? In the same regard came back up like what? I remember what you said to me. And so that’s something that I have to work on. And so even in regards to my emotional roller coaster, I had to do work. I couldn’t just keep complaining about it. I couldn’t just keep saying he did it. And I had to shift my focus on really getting my mental health, my emotional health together. And that’s the piece. And that is when you are ready to take a step left foot, right. Foot left foot, right foot. Right. And not looking back. And that’s the, that is the shift. When you make the shift, then you will realize, Oh, I can turn the page.
Oh, there is another chapter in this journey. Oh, there is more for me down the road. Oh. You know? And so it’s all about the work and doing the work and not running from it, you know? And. And that’s what’s key when you talk about that shift in identity too, for a lot of women, we get so wrapped up in our spouse’s identity.
Keisha Blair: So in my book, Holistic Wealth, I mentioned that most of us transition into adulthood, not having gained a sense of our own personal financial identity. We get influenced by others around us, whether it’s a spouse or friends or parents, And so we end up not having a sense of our own personal financial identity. And I know you’ve taken that quiz and I just wanted you to share with us your results and any thoughts you have on that, because I know whether it’s divorce for women or widowhood, we come out and we realize that you know, we have to almost find ourselves again and we also have to develop the confidence in ourselves too, with our financial goals as well. So there’s the emotional aspect for sure, the mindset. And of course, there’s the financial aspect. And so if you could share your thoughts on that, on your results, that would be amazing.
Marisha Stewart: So I came out Risk-Taker. Isn’t that interesting? And even the questions are interesting too, you know, I don’t impulsively spend. And that’s really never been me, but I’ve always been a Risk-Taker. So like, if it’s any type of entrepreneur idea, if I believe that I could do it, I tried and I’ve always been that way, but that’s only, you know, my mom is still in me and when I was little she told me that I could do whatever I wanted to do, I just needed to make it up to my mind and do it and so I’ve always believed that. I went and got my marriage license, and my dad was mad at me, but I went back to school and I got my AA, my Bachelor’s, even during that time, I had studied to be a professional clown.
I had a clown business for a moment. My clown’s name was shampoo. I’ve always been. And during my transition of when I was separated, started a paint party business. I was called Pink Diva and now I’m a podcaster, you know, I’ve always, you know, I grew up always saying you always try and something always been a Risk-Taker. I’ve always, done that. But financially though, I can’t say I’m always a Risk Taker. You know what I mean, but I literally am when it comes to pursuing my goals and my dreams and I will try it. I definitely can.
Keisha Blair: I know that’s amazing. And it’s great. I love the fact that women who are listening in can take from your story and think about the ways that they can take some risks to even if they’re scared of taking those risks because you came out of it, you came out of that situation and tried and did many different things, which is amazing. And I mean, some of the examples that you’ve given are potential ideas for others, for things that they can start as well. And so Marisha, before we end, I just wanted to ask you to share your thoughts about how couples can also help each other through this crisis that we’re faced with? And I know it’s difficult on each person, individually, some people have lost jobs. Some people have lost family members. Some people have been demoted, you know, and it’s unbelievable. We’re doing online learning. Some people are homeschooling. I know I’m homeschooling three kids. It’s not easy. It’s a time where we have been stretched in so many ways as individuals, and it’s it feels like it really does be like a test. And so a test of your endurance, a test of your resilience. And so if you have any words of advice for couples who are soldiering on and they’re hanging on and could deal with a dose of inspiration, a dose of motivation, any words that you have would be greatly appreciated.
Marisha Stewart: So I believe in, you mentioned tests multiple times, but it’s tested. You have to have a test before you can test them out. And even though the one thing we have to realize is that in this life and I think this one is the most challenging on every level, but in life, we’re always going to go through things we will never, ever live where there’s not something we’re going through.
I truly believe that if families would talk more about issues, then when the test comes, we would be able to stay even when it comes to death. It’s just not something that we talk about. We don’t know to talk about it, especially in certain cultures, because we’re afraid to talk about it. But we’re afraid to talk to our kids about it, but in the same regard, grandparents are going to pass. Family members are going to pass. Like these are conversations that need to happen. And I truly believe as couples, families, we need to get back to family time and really sit down and have conversations with no phones. You know, I don’t know what millennials are going to do when, when it comes to relationships because that is a lost art, a lot. The art is that communication piece. And so when you sit down and really talk about what’s going on, maybe set aside once a week and have family time and talk, talk, maybe the couples have their own couple of time and then maybe have time with the kids. But. I truly believe that’s something that needs to happen.
There needs to be a time in the week that we can sit down and talk about what’s going on with us. What’s going on in my life personally, mentally, spiritually, and share it right. And share it with one another. And if there’s a disconnect, see how we can figure it out as a family. And if we can’t go find help, you know what I mean? And maybe help that is unbiased. Somebody that the couple does not know. Do you know what I mean? So there, it doesn’t seem as if, well, you were coming here because you know her, that’s your sister’s friend, you know, all of that. Somebody who’s unbiased, somebody that, you know, doesn’t know the husband or the wife and really try to work through the issues, but I think that is really what is needed. We need more family time to really talk about different things to talk about. And when you, especially when you practice that with children, then children will figure out, okay I remember when mom and dad sat us down and they dealt with all the pipe bursts in the house and it was I mean, it was really stressful, but then I remember we sat down and we talked about that, and so they will start to learn how to handle different tests because that is unfortunately by me being a school counsellor, I see this all the time. Our young people don’t know how to, there’s no conflict resolution, right?
They don’t know how to handle conflicts because all I got to do is text my mom and my mom will get me out of this. My mom will help me. And so as a result, they don’t know how to do things on their own, but tests and trials will come up. But if we can come together as a family unit and as couples, and really sit down and talk about our differences.
And I think even if there are differences with the couple, even if we are, you know, our goals are going in different directions. Sit down and talk about it because really honestly, what I had to learn, my girlfriend said this to me and I was a little salty about it, but it’s so true. Everybody has a right to not want to be in a relationship anymore. Everybody has that Right. Do you know what I mean? We feel like, Oh, I gave them my time. I gave them two babies. I gave them, but really honestly, We have a right to say, no, we have a right to say, you know, this is, I don’t know if this is really what I want and be okay with it. But that’s, again, these are conversations that we really need to have in order for us to work through these trials and tribulations that we go through, you know? And so that’s, that’s kinda my piece. We need to have family time.
Keisha Blair: Yeah, that’s amazing and great words of advice Marisha. And for those who want to connect with you or to find you on social media, where can they find your website and social media?
Marisha Stewart: My website is https://www.iamthelionessqueen.com/ and then on Facebook: lionessqueen or Instagram, @RevDr.lioness queen.
Keisha Blair: Okay, perfect. And thank you so much for joining us again. It was a pleasure having you.
Marisha Stewart: Thank you so much for having me. This was awesome.
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