My divorce was finalized a month ago. My church members took the separation well, and they have been supportive throughout this whole painful process. One of my greatest struggles as a newly divorced minister has been what to do about weddings. I am scheduled to officiate at two weddings in the next few months, and every time I think about standing before a congregation and blessing a marriage, I feel so sad and a little sick. I worry that I might break down and cry. Do you think it would be wrong for me to ask these two couples to find another minister?
The Wedding Bell Blues
I am deeply sorry for your loss. Those words may seem strange, but you are grieving the loss of your marriage. While the support of your congregation has undergirded you thus far in this painful process, you are understandably experiencing trepidation as you imagine what it will feel like to stand before them in that particular context. Just as a pastor who has recently lost a loved one is aware that the first few funerals she conducts will trigger fresh waves of grief, you know that officiating these weddings will evoke deep emotions for you.
Should you ask these two couples to find another minister? Only you can answer that question. The proximity of these weddings to your recent divorce has escalated your anxiety. You don’t want to become a distraction at an event where the bride and groom should be the center of attention. But declining to officiate may be taking the easy way out–allowing you to postpone the painful but necessary interior work that will lead you to a healthier place, a place where you can rejoice as a couple takes their wedding vows, even as you mourn the loss of your own marriage.
Have you been seeing a pastoral counselor during the period leading to the dissolution of your marriage? You need a non-anxious presence outside of your church family who can help you to process your feelings in a safe space. You can model good self-care for your congregation by getting the help that you need to wrestle with your pain and grief.
May God grant you peace and courage for the living of these days.