Nan McCulloch lives in Draper with her husband, who has made all her dreams come true. She is a sometimes actor and theater-goer and has been published in Irreantum, Dialogue and Sunstone. She is pleased to be able to contribute to Segullah.

We separated just before Christmas 1980. We told the children living at home. When we told our youngest son, he said, “But Dad, you promised it would never happen to our family.” Next I worried about telling our daughter. She was coming home from Ricks College in Rexburg, Idaho, for the holidays. I wanted to warn her, but her father wanted to tell her himself when he picked her up at the airport. Our hearts were heavy that Christmas Eve. I trimmed the tree, turned on the lights, and fixed clam chowder, homemade rolls, and a red and green tossed salad. I set a beautiful, festive table and sat down and waited for my husband to bring our daughter home from the airport. When she walked in the door she looked like she was in shock. She came home for a wonderful family Christmas and found that her life would never be the same. None of our lives would ever be the same. I didn’t want a divorce, but it was not my decision. It was devastating to all of us–worse than death. The children never really recovered from the pain. Our son told me that his dad had spoiled our genealogy. My husband asked me to write him a letter expressing my feelings about what had happened. I wrote:

“You have asked me to write my feelings and I am not sure why. It’s hard for me to share my suffering. I have always kept my problems to myself. Do you really want to know my feelings, or do you just want me to have an outlet for them? Yesterday I heard a positive mental attitude tape, it talked about the amputees in a veteran’s hospital. They have to be drastically reprogrammed to learn to accept their loss of limbs. For months they awaken feeling their toes when they have none, wanting to scratch their arm when they have none, starting to walk to the bathroom when their leg is gone. The children and I are trying to reprogram, to get used to the idea that you are gone. Each morning I awaken and the cold realization stabs my heart that you are not beside me and will not be. Then the day begins and I have to face the children and try to send them to school with a cheerful heart.

On Sunday I had to play the piano in Junior Sunday School. When we sang, “Families Can Be Together Forever” I had to duck down behind the piano so our son couldn’t see me crying.”

You chose to leave and I chose to stay. We write our own stories; we just don’t get to choose the endings.


  1. jendoop

    December 4, 2009

    Nan, Thank you for sharing this sensitive and personal post.

    I’m a little confused by the dichotomy between your bio and your post. I assume you’re remarried?

  2. JES

    December 4, 2009

    My parents divorced after almost 30 years of marriage. The last child was graduating from high school, everyone else had already left home and most of us were married. It still drastically changed our relationship with both parents. My parents are each happily married to other people, probably happier now than they ever were with each other; but for the children, no matter how old they are, divorce sucks.

  3. Tracy M

    December 4, 2009

    I’m going through divorce right now. This is a nice into, but feels very incomplete. Maybe that’s the point But I wish you told more of your story… how you got through it, and how you now find yourself so happy.

  4. Michelle L.

    December 4, 2009

    You’re right; it’s incomplete. I’m trying to talk Nan into a follow up post. Help me beg her, OK? 😉

  5. corktree

    December 4, 2009

    Nicely written, but it does feel incomplete. I’d like to know how long it took for things to get better, because 10+ years after my parents went their separate ways things are still difficult on the holiday front (among others).

    The first Christmas after my parents *separated* wasn’t so bad, because for some reason, they remained in the same house for a few years (kids still at home, financial constraints). It wasn’t until my dad finally moved out and I was away at college that things got bad. In fact, each Christmas after that for a while just seemed to be worse than the last one as far as civil family relationships were concerned. There was so much back and forth emotional manipulation and digs from one parent to the other. And it certainly didn’t get better when he remarried.

    Just one of the reasons (though a big one) we don’t go anywhere for Christmas now.

  6. Teresa

    December 4, 2009

    Nan, thank you for your thoughts and stirring recollection. I am so sorry you had to live through such an ordeal. Divorce is such an amazingly destructive force that seems to rip every happiness and security from its tortured captives. It took me 15years to find release from the stabbing pains of dispair and loss from my parents divorce. They, too, are both happily remarried and thankfully with seemingly deeper relationships than they had with each other. As I have gotten older and looked back with adult eyes, my memories are not romanticized as they were when I was younger. Although, I have always said I wouldn’t wish a divorce on my worst enemy … I can honestly say my own marriage is stronger because of what I have seen and gone through. Hopefully, your kids have found the same peace. God Bless.

  7. al

    December 4, 2009

    Divorce was my life before I joined the church at 16 years old. By then my father was happily remarried to his 3rd wife and my mother’s third marriage was ending. I just thought that was how life was suppose to be. I had full-sibling, half-siblings, step-siblings. Things changed every few years and we moved-a lot.

    During my first lesson with the missionaries, the good news I heard was that families can be together forever. Learning that marriage can last for a whole lifetime, and beyond the grave, was radical and new to me. I made it my goal and worked hard to be married in the Temple.

    Now 7 years into my marriage, I can see why they end. At time, my husband and I have both been unhappy enough to leave, though neither of us ever have. I’m very lucky to have a man that stays and works harder when things get rough. We have both given up our childish notions that marriage is a blissful eternal first date with the love of our lives. We view it as a relationship that takes hard work to stay together.

    It’s not what I thought I was signing up for, but I’m glad I did. My husband and I always joke that we are together forever, happily or unhappily, and we choose happily.

  8. Melissa

    December 4, 2009

    I’ll join the team to beg Nan to write more. My eyes are tear filled at the moment because I fear that this scenario may one day happen to me. I am not leaving and am committed to working through difficulties. He may never be happy and may choose to leave. I realize there is nothing more I can do. I don’t think our difficulties are insurmountable, but he may very well feel that way. There is some definite learning and growth that needs to occur for us, but if he gives up what can I do? I am interested if Nan will/can share as to a general reason for her husband’s departure and if she thought there was more that could have been done. If it’s too personal, I understand. Thank you Nan for sharing what you have. I LOVED your letter to your husband. I wonder, too, why he wanted your feelings written down, but your description of an amputee’s recovery is exactly how I would imagine the feeling to be.

  9. Jen

    December 4, 2009

    It is so interesting to me that your son reproached his father that way. When I was a little girl, I asked my mother (the one who ended up leaving within a couple years of the question) if she and dad were getting divorced, and she reassured me that they weren’t.

    I understand the incomplete feeling of this post. A broken family is a complicated endlessly detailed picture, and we have to live the rest of our lives dealing with the details as they come into focus through fresh experiences and new relationships.

  10. John Dehlin

    December 4, 2009

    Love you, Mom. Things were tough, but you handled it all with such grace and strength.

    You were amazing….and remain even moreso to this day.

    Your ever grateful, devoted…..always slightly in awe #2 son.


  11. Heather Olson Beal

    December 4, 2009

    Thanks for sharing, Nan. I join the chorus of voices who would appreciate reading more. We love your family!

  12. namakemono

    December 4, 2009

    reading the comments about children`s reactions to divorce is why I am still in my very unhappy marriage – even though people tell me this is not good either, but somehow kids seem to do worse when parents actually divorce. I guess until then they are too wrapped up in themselves to notice just how unhappy mom or dad is.

  13. Sam Thomas

    December 4, 2009

    Powerful. Sad. I know a family in my ward that went through this last Christmas after 30 years of marriage. They are handling it in a manner any stoic would be proud of. This reminded me of the truth of the pain. Thanks.

  14. Candance Melville

    December 4, 2009

    Nan, it breaks my heart to read of that terrible time for you, but I’m so very glad that you are now part of OUR family! You are ours forever, and we love you.

  15. jks

    December 5, 2009

    I am also a little confused. There are many things that seem unclear.
    Perhaps the writer wants it that way? Someone in her situation is overwhelmed, confused and in pain and doesn’t know the ending either which adds to the difficulty.

  16. Cathy Arends

    December 10, 2009

    Nan, I loved it. As you know I am the product of divorced parents and it isn’t easy. But I was into adulthood before I really realized how much it hurt our family and how hard I wanted to be close to my siblings. My parents not only divorced but our whole family separated – I went with my mom and my brothers went with my dad. That is something I hope no one else goes through because of divorce. You obviously handled it with grace and I’m so happy that you have found such total happiness!

  17. Salli Hollenzer

    December 27, 2009

    I, too, am a victim of divorce—as a child from an LDS family that split up, and as a married person. When my parent’s marriage ended, I promised myself, and the Lord, that I would never get divorced. That determination kept me committed to a union that ultimately ended–at my request—much longer than it needed to. It seemed the very direction I held strong prejudice against was the very decision I ended up having to make for the preservation of my well-being, as well as my children. That was ten years ago. On my website, I describe divorce as an “amputation without anesthesia”, despite the fact that I initiated it. No, divorce is never easy or comfortable. But for the past six years I have been happily and well-matched with the eternal companion, I feel, the Lord always knew I would find! Life can be complex. But I can testify its worth the heartache. Check out–a website dedicated to divorce support that reflects LDS values. Leave a comment while you’re there–I’m happy to share my experience and encourage you on your journey.

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