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When Eternal Marriage Isn’t

By Marintha Miles

The basketball court lines on the church gymnasium floor encircled us, framing us in the wedding pictures. My new husband and I greeted well-wishers whose shoes clicked along glossy wood as they trod off to eat cheesecake.  This was the man I had chosen to share my bed with, have children with, weather sickness and health, school and jobs with.  It was to be marital bliss, timeless and eternal.

Some people dream of freedom and flings for life; others of finding the perfect person to spend life with until death breaks open the closed door of matrimony. Mormons dream of happily ever after for eternity, two souls bound in one, physically, emotionally and spiritually.

Amidst a world of casual hook-ups and laissez faire sex, there is something distinctly beautiful about being with only one person body and soul for life. We are certain forty, fifty, sixty or so years of happiness wed on earth will somehow help us make it as a couple in a celestial glory we can’t understand. It is no wonder that single members sometimes question the wisdom of being tossed together with someone unbeknownst to them in the hereafter in order to fulfill promised blessings. Yet even with the promises of heaven upon us, tragedy in marriage often strikes.

In her essay Mourning (Segullah, Inside and Outside Marriage) Kellie George writes about her own tragedy:

The Coffin lies before me, rude and glossy and solemn. It’s smaller than I thought it would be. It should be much large for what it holds—nearly thirteen years of memories. And my heart. Our dreams, unmet. And my life as it was, before. Who is going to carry it? Can it be lifted? Can it be borne?

I am battered, bruised, broken. My eyes rough, allergic to the world. My thrumming head floats untethered, lost, my neck misplaced in my body’s jigsaw. A piece of my middle; crystal-edged air seeps in, frosting my skin, slowing my blood, chilling me into disuse. I’m splitting, disintegrating, tumbling into the crevasse, motionless.

The pain George displays in her words creates a visceral reaction. I too am left numb by the painful end as the coffin lay before me on the page. And then she peeks inside, and I see inside it too.

I keep staring at the coffin. Blink—it’s still there. Close my eyes, breathe, then peek again. Still there. It isn’t going away.

It holds my marriage.

My marriage is dead.

Start the funeral.

People instinctively understand that the demise of any marriage is tragic, just like the death of a loved one. We want to know, “What happened?” and sometimes impolitely ask like we would about the death of cancer patient, “What kind of cancer?” We wish it could have been saved. We wish more could have been done, and wonder if in years to come new medical advances will save more cancer patients and new research on marriage and families will course correct the divorce rate.

Mostly there is just awkwardness, whispers in ward councils as people, “just want to make you aware that the ‘Smith’ or ‘Jones’ family is going through a divorce right now.”

Kellie George poignantly writes:

 I have wished for a funeral for my marriage. Some outward display to ceremoniously acknowledge what I have lost, what I am mourning, and the changes it has forced into my life…But of course, no one has a funeral for a dead marriage.

 She expresses her deep loneliness, the averted eyes of others and,

No tissue-sodden hands holding shoulders through tears. No funeral meal…[It’s] not like anyone DIED or anything right? I just hurt like it.

Reading her words I want to lift her out of her pain, make that funeral meal for her, hand her tissues and acknowledge what she has lost. Yet when someone is going through a divorce, I am as likely as anyone to advert my eyes.

George ends her essay on an up note, full of courage, with a smile and peace. I imagine the divorcing sisters (and brothers) around me will find that place in years to come too. In the meantime, how can we comfort those going through a divorce? Have you gone through a divorce? What helped you? What hurt?


About Marintha Miles


45 thoughts on “When Eternal Marriage Isn’t”

  1. During 5 years of any unhappy marriage, my daughter gained a lot of weight. She quit going to church because she was miserable and because she didn't want anyone to see her.

    When old friends heard her husband left her, they asked, "Have you been going to church?" As if that could have made a bad marriage work. The only compassion my daughter received was from non-member work associates who had gone through divorce. Needless to say, she is no longer a member.

  2. The comfort I have received has been in those who encourage me to talk their ears off, to purge the boil, so to speak, again and again and again, as often as I need. They have also talked sternly to me, shaking me out of self-punishment.

    They have treated me as if I am in mourning, which I am. And they have said, "I'm so sorry" and given me a hug.

  3. Re: Course correction
    I think what was meant by the question about whether your daughter was attending church was that it is within our wards and the Gospel that we receive support and help when our lives do not go as we had hoped or planned. The gospel and the Saviour's atonement is not a way to avoid pain, but to strenghten us and help us get through the pain. We are to to bear one another's burdens and encircle one another in love, thus drawing us all closer to the Saviour.

  4. The most comfort and love I have felt has been from non-Mormons, hands down. The offerings of acceptance, compassion, love, friendship, concern from members, is paltry and pathetic.

    "eyes allergic to the world". That was perfect. My spirit is allergic to the world right now, and after trying so hard.

    George describes things perfectly. I'm one less a year to mourn but all the pain she described.

  5. LDS Mom,
    You might be right, but in that there is still the assumption that is she was going to church, the comfort would be there, if not–then it won't be. Usually within our wards, even if someone is not attending church, there are members who know about the person and hopefully reach out to them.
    I'm not sure asking,"Are you attending church?" is any different than asking, "Are you reading your scriptures?"
    It comes across as accusatory, although it may have been meant as a harmless question.

  6. I was so struck by what Kellie wrote the first time I read it.

    For the first time I have dear friends who have recently divorced…in my ward. She hasn't been attending church. He has, off and on. It has been rough for them and their children.

    I have made an effort to preserve our friendship, both with the husband and wife, throughout the last several months. I haven't asked why they aren't at church. I have continued to invite them to do things with our family and I've had meaningful conversations with them. I've watched their little girl, both when the father had her and when the mother had her. I've taken flowers.

    Yet I wonder how well I've done and look forward to your insightful comments.

    This reminds me of a recent post regarding how we can better mourn with those that mourn. For many of us, I believe our desire to love those around us in pain far exceeds our ability to effectively channel and share that love.

    Thanks in advance to those willing to share your experience and guidance.

  7. This topic has been on my mind a lot lately. I just re-read George's essay the other day, & realized how much it had helped me in my process of understanding this issue over the last several months. 2009 seemed to be the year of divorce for close friends and family members around us. 2010 was the year of death. As I have watched so many people around me mourn, I have struggled to know what to do. The other day as I was thinking about this topic, I finally reached some clarity of how to approach my desire to comfort those going through divorce or death of a loved one. I realized that the phrase in Mosiah 18:9 "and are willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort," contains two separate & different commandments. That mourning with someone is NOT the same as comforting them. And that when I have really fumbled a situation, it has been because I was trying to comfort someone who didn't stand in need of comforting just yet–what they really needed was for me to mourn with them.

    Because even though the gospel of Jesus Christ can heal all wounds and bring us hope and comfort, it doesn't take away all the hurt of our mortal trials. Nor is it intended to. Describing the necessity of the Fall, the prophet Lehi spoke of Adam & Eve (and ultimately, all of us) "wherefore they would have remained in a state of innocence, having no joy, for they knew no misery; doing no good, for they knew no sin." (2 Nephi 2:23).

    But it is hard to mourn with someone else. Allowing myself to feel someone else's pain is painful for me. So sometimes I want to jump right over the mourning part to the comforting part. But if I try to comfort my friend before she is ready, I only succeed in comforting myself. Worse, I may hurt her by minimizing her need to mourn what she has lost. This realization made Christ's example of crying with Mary & Martha before He raised Lazarus from the dead have much more impact on me than it had before. He loved them enough to feel that sorrow with them. I only hope that I can learn to do the same.

  8. Kristin, just keep doing it so that they never feel like they're a project, something to prove just how great a Christian you are to anyone who might be watching. Endure with them. Ask how they're doing even months later. Bring meals. Take her out to the movies. Let them know that you're comfortable with listening without judging but that you also don't need to know anything to care.

    What you're doing is wonderful and could make up for five gestures or acts of judgment.

  9. I felt prompted to address this topic in my Sunday school class a few weeks ago. I knew of one YW whose parents were divorcing, and I knew it was ripping her heart out. Being in lessons that touted happily ever after and being sealed in the temple were so painful, she often just quietly walked out. I couldn't blame her.

    My parents divorced when I was very young, and it was a very wise choice. It was an abusive marriage and I am confident that my mother saved my life when she took us and left.

    When she remarried in the temple and had my siblings, it was very difficult for me to be on the outside of a eternal family. Because of circumstances from the divorce, I wasn't legally allowed to be sealed to the parents who were raising me until I was 21 or married. During lessons on eternal families and sealing laws,I would ask, "What about me?" when I felt brave in my primary and SS classes- no one ever had an answer.

    At best, they would say, "It will all work out". It took me years to understand that that wasn't a platitude offered out of ignorance, but a testimony of the Savior's love and intervention on our behalf.

    My students (turned out 80% were children of divorce) were having the same issue I had- "what about MY sealing to my parents? Can I be sealed to just Mom?" They hadn't done anything wrong, and they had very righteous desires.

    It was a pretty poignant class as we discussed how the Savior could fill the gap between the LAW and how far our righteous desire and actions have taken us. Just as we need Him to carry us the last few steps from repentance to forgiveness, in situations such as these, where there has been no sin, and there is only hurt, despair and righteous desires unfulfilled- He carries us that extra step- closing the gap between reality and what we deserve.

    I firmly believe that had I died before being able to be sealed to my parents- the Savior would have made that right. That is what the atonement is for.

    I think that ultimately, that is what anyone suffering from divorce needs- they need us to have charity like unto the Savior's, and they need to know that His love is real and they haven't lost any value or status in His eyes. They are infinitely loved, and there is a way from them, prepared by Him.

  10. I think you Segullah writers are inspired. This is exactly what I am thinking about. It's almost for sure that my parents are splitting up after 25 years. While both have their faults adding to the end, my mom is trying – still – while my dad is not. I'm devastated and relieved at the same time, but my emotions are all over the place. How do I comfort my mom? How do I encourage her to keep going, to help her feel like less of a failure? All her work, patience and perseverance in trying to make her marriage function and succeed feels
    like it was for nothing. I look forward to the answers to these questions, for they are mine also.

  11. bekah and Leah I really appreciate your insightful comments.

    I look forward to more responses. I especially would like to know how to broach the topic when you've heard 'through the grapvine' and want to offer support. It is especially difficult when you're in a calling that requires confidentiality so you aren't supposed to let on that you know. Or even how to help when the divorce isn't official, but the marriage is in dire straits.

    For now I try to remember how difficult my own marriage is. I feel that I'm the norm, not the exception when I say that with just a few changes of attitude or circumstance and I could be the one facing divorce. Marriage is difficult and at any time your partner can decide that the price isn't worth it any longer. Before the grace of God go each one of us.

  12. That's an interesting question. It seems that these situations are beyond our human ability to "fix" or "make better. Usually the task at hand, the comforting, and how to approach are so unnerving that we simply turn to trite statements, or worse, ignore it.

    In my experience, the one thing that has made the difference in being the consoler has been the spirit. Living worthy of it's companionship and actively listening throughout the day makes all the difference.

    For instance, after an adult session of stake conference I went with all my single friends to get some yogurt and hang out. I was really tired and didn't want to stay longer, so I was about to leave when something told me I needed to stay and wait. I repeated that pattern of pondering leaving, and thinking I should wait until late, late at night.

    It was just me, another guy, and a girl. This other brother received a phone call and asked if I'd be able to help him give a blessing. We went, not knowing the circumstances fully, and I was able to offer a blessing to a young woman who, I later learned, was going through the divorce of her parents. It was deeply spiritually, and they both still thank me for it. Being aware of the spirit allowed me to succor when my mortal ability to understand was more than lacking.

    I think that's the important take-away. And now, I'll gladly accept the award for longest comment ever.

  13. mmiles and Leah thank you for your perspective. I have two friends in my ward who are currently separated from their husbands. While they aren't officially divorced, I know that they are dealing with the loss of their "ideal" life. When I see them I give them hugs. I pray for them. I give them a smile. I put my arm around them when they are crying in church. I send them notes letting them know I'm thinking of them and when they aren't at church I call to let them know they were missed. I try to love as the Savior would love them. Will the answers ever come for them? I don't know but I want them to know they have a friend who cares about them, no matter what happens in their lives.

  14. Thank you for this post, as I've wondered the same thing.

    I really liked this comment:

    "And that when I have really fumbled a situation, it has been because I was trying to comfort someone who didn’t stand in need of comforting just yet–what they really needed was for me to mourn with them."

    Another question I have is how to approach those who are divorced who move into my ward. Do I ignore their single status and not talk about it and just try to make friends over the discussion of other things? Or is it okay to ask things about their situation. After all, if they were married, I'd probably ask them about how they met DH, what brought the two of them to our area, etc.

    For me, I've decided that I can ask questions (please someone tell me if they think that's nosy.). I felt like I never really got to know one gal in our ward until I asked her about her divorce, how long ago it happened and whether her ex was involved in their lives. We had a good discussion and I told her I think she's doing a great job.

    Knowing more about her situation made me feel closer to her and more understanding.

  15. Oh my gosh, Bekah, it is so important that you said this:

    "But it is hard to mourn with someone else. Allowing myself to feel someone else’s pain is painful for me. So sometimes I want to jump right over the mourning part to the comforting part. But if I try to comfort my friend before she is ready, I only succeed in comforting myself. Worse, I may hurt her by minimizing her need to mourn what she has lost. This realization made Christ’s example of crying with Mary & Martha before He raised Lazarus from the dead have much more impact on me than it had before. He loved them enough to feel that sorrow with them. I only hope that I can learn to do the same."

    Very profound and so true. I have been annoyed when people have tried to comfort me when I wanted to mourn and when people have wanted to mourn when I have been happy about things. It's so important to have good listening skills and to remember that people want to feel validated. There's also nothing wrong with asking, "Are we sad about this today or happy?" if you can't tell. To try to be anything other than what the person who's actually going through the divorce is feeling can be really insulting. Like, if you're more sad than the person who's divorcing? Keep it to yourself.

    I would also suggest being careful when asking about how the kids are doing with everything. It can feel like you're saying, "So, how bad is this screwing up your kids?"

    Divorcing in the church is really painful, when the church offers only a couple of situations when it has the church's blessing, and when there are no talks or even reading materials that I know of on how to respond to members who are divorcing. My soon-to-be ex and I both feel like there is not enough support in the church. As for members, even their polite and friendly silence can be lonely and hurtful. Like when a friend of mine lost a baby at six months pregnant and no one said anything to her about it, didn't ask, nothing. It was like it didn't matter.

  16. My husband's sister married a few months after we did in 1998. She is currently single, having divorced twice (no children). She has made it very clear that we weren't properly supportive during and after her divorces. While we can't fix that, I wonder what our place is now, six years after the second divorce. How do we comfort and mourn with her? She is clearly still doing both of those things, but we feel powerless to help.

  17. Thank you for your excellent post, mmiles, thank you for your incredible essay, Kellie and many thanks to all who have participated in the discussion.

    Mourning with those who mourn, thank you Bekah. Thank you.

  18. What Natasha said in #5. My non-member friends and coworkers have been wonderful. The behavior of ward members towards both myself and my ex-wife, on the other hand, has ranged from laughable to hurtful, with a couple of minor exceptions.

    Bekah and Kristin, thanks for your efforts– I'm sure your friends appreciate them.

  19. This topic is very close to my heart. My parents marriage started to unravel when I was a Junior in Highschool. We had a wonderful ward that supported our family but I struggled. My whole concept of our "eternal family" was turned upside down and I wondered who I would spend eternity with.

    The ward members who helped me the most didn't ask specific questions about my parents (sometimes I felt like people were more interested in digging up dirt than they were in mourning with me). I was also drawn to the people who didn't "choose sides" between my parents. Even though my Dad stopped coming to church for awhile I didn't like when people told me how wonderful my Mom was and made cutting remarks about my Dad.

    Divorce is horribly difficult for all of those involved. But I have a testimony that if we turn to the Lord we can experience peace, even during the pain.

  20. Bekah – Your thoughts about Mosiah are profound, insightful and so important. Thank you. I will always remember them and try to have to spirit to know when to mourn or comfort.

  21. It's really sad when people don't understand that a family is not necessarily unable to be together in the celestial kingdom just because of a broken sealing. We aren't sealed so that we can buy a house together in the CK and sing Kumbaya together, as the family we were on earth. A sealing doesn't give us permission to each other. We need to be sealed so that we can get to the celestial kingdom and if someone in our family ends up in another kingdom, that's when we can't always be together. Women and men need to be sealed to someone so that they can be gods together, not so that they can be allowed to see their kids. Anyone in the CK will be able to see each other. I think that's why it doesn't really matter who is sealed to whom. It matters to us on earth when we don't really understand. My children found it really comforting when we explained that they will be sealed to someone some day and that will be more important to than to which parent they are sealed, and as long as their mom and dad are sealed to someone and worthy to be in the CK, we'll all be together, just as we will be with our friends and other church members (presumably).

  22. My aunt died three days before my parents separated. It was SO hard for me because I'd just watched my family rally around my uncle and my cousin, who was just a little bit younger than me, and give them lots of love and support. My cousin was allowed to publicly grieve. But when not long after my parents there was no rallying and no support system. I was expected to grieve in private. I can't tell you how powerful I think the image of having a "funeral" for a divorce is.

    In my opinion divorce is harder– much much harder– than death. In death you have the comfort of knowing where people are and that you will see them again. You have the comfort of knowing you will still be an eternal family. But with a divorce all you are left with is shards and questions. You have to pick up the painful pieces for the rest of your life.

    I think that even though divorce is becoming so common we can't forget that it isn't a common experience for those going through it. I think the idea of treating it like a funeral– allowing people to grieve openly– is a beautiful idea.

  23. Almost four years ago my husband and I separated with the intention to divorce. We did get back together after four months, but I can share my brief experience with being in this situation. At the time I mostly felt deeply humiliated–I didn't want anyone to know that my husband had left me and our children. I think part of that was just my mental state at the time and maybe in time I would have gotten over it, but I could barely even talk about the situation with anyone. A few people in my ward, including my visiting teachers, found out and they were so kind. They made sure I had help with my kids at church and otherwise and mostly were just there to listen. Like others have said, I think being able to be aware of what the other person needs is crucial. I was at a point where I just wanted to pretend that things were fine and I didn't want to talk about it–one sister tried inviting me out for lunch and asked me a bunch of questions about my future plans, and it was actually a horrible experience for me because I just wasn't ready to talk yet. I just wanted to feel safe and loved, because I had been so badly betrayed by my husband. Plus I didn't want to talk about the reasons behind the divorce because they had a lot to do with personal issues of my husband and I didn't want to air his dirty laundry (and mine) in public.

  24. What an excellent post. Kellie's essay was indeed stunning, wrenching, eye-opening. Re-reading it here brought back the same sense of longing and compassion I felt for her during my initial read. I think this is an appropriate topic to approach, and you've done so with such gentleness. I believe MDB's responses to her post about mourning her son's death are absolutely applicable.


    I salute each of you who have bravely shared or been hurt. My heart aches for you. Thanks for the wonderful insights.

  25. My RS president paid me a visit last week with some cookies, inspired by that article. It was kind of her to do it and I KNOW it was hard for her, because it is just a damn awkward situation.

    Frankly, my family isn't much better. They love me, I know, but they have NO idea how to "handle" this and just ignore it most of the time. I understand that, and I would probably do the same thing, but I don't think it's the best.

    Like FoxyJ, I felt plenty of shame when we first separated. Frankly, I didn't tell anyone in my ward about it for a year. I didn't have VTers and, frankly, friends in the ward at that time (I was a working mom, so had very little social contact with the ward), no HTers, either. I had a baby during this time, too. It was enormously lonely.

    Anyway, my ward basically became hip to the situation AFTER the fact. Yeah, it's awkward. Plenty of people straight up ignore the situation. My better friends acknowledge my reality, but it is not necessarily the subject of conversation. A few people have asked me if I have changed my name–this alerts me to the fact that they know, but they don't conduct an autopsy, thankfully.

    I would not like an interrogation on the details of the divorce–that doesn't feel like mourning or comforting, that feels like gossip, or people trying to reassure themselves that I had more significant issues than they have in their marriages.

    I REALLY appreciate the small kindnesses. One of my friends brought my family dinner for no reason–that was so nice to have one less thing to worry about that day. Once in a while someone says something about babysitting for me "anytime" but the really helpful people say "I need your kids on Tuesday" and encourage me to go do something fun.

    My divorce is mine and I don't think anyone else can really assist in my grief, but being a single mom can be very taxing, and help in that realm means a lot to me.

  26. These are heartwrenching words and thoughts. I often end up feeling near hopeless after discussions like this because everyone's needs can be so different even as they may be in "the same situation."

    I also think of several people I know who mourn what is happening behind the facade of what seems to have 'normal' lives.

    The only answer I can come up with is what Sister Beck encouraged — that we seek the Spirit and pray earnestly every day to know how we might be of help. I have so far to go to be that kind of person, but reading posts and discussions like this strengthens my determination to try.

    To all of you mourning — whatever you are mourning — my heart goes out to you. Please be patient with people like me who may goof as we try to reach out. I think most people care so much but often just aren't sure what to do and so for fear of goofing, they do nothing. I tend to be the other direction — for fear of doing nothing, I may goof by doing the wrong thing!

    I love specific ideas that people are sharing — I think it does help to hear the range of ways we might be able to serve those who are grieving. Please, keep sharing.

  27. my sister divorced over two years ago. she has not be actively engaged at church for over 10 years.
    but something that a few of you brought up was the presence of lack there of, of your visiting teachers & home teachers. i know some who snub or often mock these church programs but the power of these callings really can be life changing. dropping by meals, a note, a phone, an email…opening a door way for someone to express concerns, problems, needs for support, or just what they need or that they don't know what they need. i really feel like if members of the church took these callings more seriously, prayerfully considering their responsibility and opportunity they have to affect individuals, we really could rally more around each other without judgement or awkwardness.

    my sister had a visiting teacher for 5 years…a sister in her 60s who took her calling as my sister's visiting teacher to heart. she didn't re-activate my sister or bring her gospel messages every month…but to me, she did much more. somehow she was always present…waving as she drove by in her car, dropping by gifts on my niece and nephews birthday, supporting my sister at various community events, even caught shoveling my sisters drive-way numerous times (YES, i said she was in her 60s!). but what sticks out to me most, being actively apart of my sister's grieving process (the 2a.m. driveS over to her house, the crying, the screaming, the regret, the rollercoaster, the pain, the long walk in the snowy rain with her for over an hour when neither of us spoke a word…) is the night my husband and i were at her house and her visiting teacher (kathy) stopped by. she didn't call ahead but she brought a warm meal, that was much needed. her visit was very brief, pretty much in and out, but as the door shut…there was one of those "pauses" and my 9 year old niece said
    "mom, how do you get your heart to be that good?"

    being there for people doesn't mean having all the answers for them or helping them plan for the future. it means being present and apart of their lives so when challenging times (ie. divorce in this case) arise, we can love like our savior loved.

  28. My aunt went through a divorce after 35 years of marriage. It was an abusive situation and she shouldn't have stayed as long as she did, but that's what happened. She said that being divorced was worse than being widowed, because when someone dies they are gone, but when you are divorced there is no closure, just the fact that you were rejected.

  29. Camille, your comment made me want to be a much better visiting teacher. And that question your niece posed—"How do you get your heart to be that good?"—well, it brought tears to my eyes. The woman you spoke about, Kathy, obviously knows something about Christlike love. That's how our hearts get to be that good.

  30. Course Correction: I am so sorry for your daughter's heartache, and yours, as she divorced. I read this post yesterday and was running this morning thinking about it. I realized that I wanted to reach out to you in a small way.

    Isn't it all about love? We need to sincerely love each other.

    I also have a thought about visiting teaching/home teaching. If we did it correctly, loving and serving our sisters or brothers, then when challenges and crisis come we know so much better what to do, because we already know and love the person.

    There is a woman in my ward going through a challenge which I have personally faced, but I don't know her at all and it can be intimating knowing what to do to show her my compassion. Unfortunately, I had felt months earlier a few gentle nudges of the Spirit that I should find a way to get to know her better. I wish I had followed them!

  31. As members of the Church, we are usually masters at "doing". Its the "being" that often trips us up. Just "being" with someone when they need the physical comfort of another human being nearby; just "being" with them to listen, to cry with them instead of feeling we need to help fix things. Visiting teaching can be seen only within the parameters of doing: "doing" the visit; "doing the message"; "doing" the cutesy gifts or handouts at Valentines or Hallowe'en or whatever. While that's much better than nothing at all – maybe the clarion call for each of us who are priviledged to be visiting teachers is to examine what we are "being" as visiting teachers rather than how we are "doing" as visiting teachers. Maybe then our sisters will fee we really have time for them and we'll hear the whisperings of the Spirit more clearly.

  32. We can listen and love.
    We can offer respect by not judging.
    We can nurture our friendship, the social side included.
    We can refrain from talking to others about the situation.
    We can offer help with child care.
    We can share Sunday dinners, FHEs, and holidays.
    We can sit down next to them at church and other meetings.
    We can hug them. They no longer have a partner to do so.
    We can visit them in their homes and enjoy being there.
    We can pray for them and act on promptings.

  33. Cami – your story is so touching. I want to be like Kathy. I want a heart that good. So glad you're here and that you shared. I'll email you about the sisters' dinner. We're still working on a date.

    to all of you – this has been such a nourishing post. Thank you.

  34. This topic is really important, and the comments have been very insightful, but I'm left with the impression that it's as easy to unintentionally offend as it is to help.

    It's easier to know how to mourn with someone who's grieving a death – each divorce seems different from every other divorce with its own unique little landmines and emotional wounds.

    And I'm probably one of those members seen to offer no sympathy: I bolt for the Primary room right after Sacrament meeting (after sitting for nearly all of that in the foyer with my 2-year-old). Half the couples in the ward could swap spouses and I wouldn't know about it for months.

    Still I would like to learn more about how to handle this. I'm not heartless, just overwhelmed with my own (admittedly happy) challenges.

  35. Thank you for such a considered and gentle treatment of such a painful subject.

    The refusal of others to let me mourn the death of my marriage and hoped for future was the hardest thing I had to deal with, after the loss of my hoped for future and my then-husband's infidelity, and the fire behind my writing the essay. There was a loss, and loss upon loss, for a longer time than I would have thought possible – but the expectation was that I would just 'deal with it', like it was a business transaction and not a total catastrophe.

    While all divorces are different, I believe there are similarities in caring for those in the midst of the chaos, all of which come under "What can I do, for YOU?"

    First, I totally agree with the "mourn and comfort with" advice. If you're there to 'help' or 'listen', but first you "just really need to say you knew there was something wrong, thought so-and-so was worthless/stupid/too smart/clever/odd" – just stay away. For a REALLY LONG TIME. You're not helping, just hurting.

    Second, ask "What can I do, for YOU?" Wait (it may take a while), listen and then do. Don't judge the response.

    Third, if no response to the answer is forthcoming, or relates to the kids/family/dog, and if you know the person well enough, just fold your arms across your chest and refuse to budge until they tell you how they REALLY are. The good, the bad, the ugly.

    See the person, not the labels, the gossip, the rumours, the situation – the person.

    To the person who asked how to talk to those moving into your ward who are divorced, I think you only need to talk about it – initially at least – once you get to know them, not as part of it. They'll bring it up if it's applicable beforehand, and just saying "So you're divorced?" will give the opening for them to say as much – or as little – as they want and are comfortable with. And I'd respect that.

    The best help I received was people following my lead – avoiding the topic if I did, listening if I was venting or crying, letting me be weak or strong and helping accordingly – and also watching me, loving me, seeing when I was struggling, following promptings, and standing stubbornly in my way until I let them be my friends and share my awful load.

    Thank you to all who have commented and enquired so thoughtfully to this discussion – and may we all "have hearts that good".

  36. This has been a really great discussion. Thanks especially to the sisters who have gone through, or are going through divorce for sharing their experiences.

    I hadn't considered children of divorce when writing this post, and am glad those who went through it as children shared in honesty their own need to mourn and acknowledgement.

    I really like the idea that though divorce may be common, it isn't for someone going through it. It was good to remember talking about it is not always the answer, and yet, at times it may be. I hope I will be more open to the spirit in the way I am being with others in their mourning.

    Kellie, your candor has blessed us all. You are beautiful.

  37. A male friend of mine is going through a divorice right now. I cry for him when he's telling me, because it's so hard to see him in pain.

    He does a good job at masking it, but it is going to affect him for a long while. I'm just there to listen- sometimes he wants to talk about it other times he doesn't. I let him decide, but he knows I'm always there to listen.

  38. I went through a divorce when my parents split 21 yrs ago. My mom was a relief society president and my dad sat on the high council. I had NEVER seen my parents argue. When they disagreed they did it alone, where we couldn't see or hear; not even from other rooms.

    I remember the day my mom came home and told my dad she wanted a divorce. My dad came out of his room, ghostly white, and didn't talk for days. I thought he was dying, I was 8 and didn't know what "divorce" was.

    After signing on the bottom line my world changed forever, and not just with my parents. Our LDS world changed too. Families whom we had been great friends with didn't talk to us anymore. The adults didn't talk to my parents and their kids didn't talk to me or my siblings.

    Rumors started and people talked about the reason for the divorce. My mom went through a disciplinary council and was excommunicated because of rumors told so convincingly to the bishop (and my mother's stubborn nature in repudiating the allegations).

    I slowly gained a handful of my friends back, either as their families left the church, or their parents divorced as well. Even then, they took awhile to accept their fate was the same as mine, who they'd shunned for so long before.

    Only one family in our entire stake helped and stayed consistent with what they claimed to be. However, even the children in that family had a difficult time being forced to associate with the kids no other kids wanted anything to do with.

    What helped? I grew up, moved away, and have my own life. However, I've watched my Dad grieve his marriage, the death of his brother too early, and the death of both of his parents. By far he grieves his marriage most,even still it's easy to see.

    I only hope that in 21 yrs people have learned how to respond differently.

  39. I was separated 20 years ago, and divorced more than 10 years ago. When my husband left I had 4 kids, toddler to preteen. Everyone's experience is different, but for me, being married was a lot harder than being divorced, although that pain was largely invisible to others. You rarely know the pain in other people's life. (In fact,I think we often don't know/acknowledge the pain in our own life, but that's another subject.) I most appreciated people who treated me just like any other mother in the ward. And that is, in fact, how most people treated me.

  40. Thank you Patty for your words about being married is sometimes harder than being divorced. Others certainly do not understand about bad marriages. We are encouraged to stay together, work things out, endure! But how long do we stay, try to work things out, and endure if only one person in that marriage wants to do these things? Where do you draw the line and decide enough is enough? This is about love or the lack thereof. Compassion for others is so important who are going through divorce and there are so many divorces happening. I look at couples that have been married many (20+)years and wonder if they are truly happy.

  41. I have been Divorced and have been remarried for 17 years..If I had held everyone responsible for my happiness in the divorce years, I would have been in trouble!
    The Church is True and Perfect… the people in it are not!!! That is the test.. From a Bishop who told me to just drop off my kids and go to another ward due to the married women being uncomfortable.. to people not talking to me for at least 2 or more years…
    Divorce and Death are two things that people fear! the fact that people don"t come running is really no surprise!! I am sorry that your Daughter choose to hide from the possibilities of the women of her ward..But when people turn their back on help.. or the possibility of help..people notice..There may be more to the story ..did she turn away people before the Divorce? most people who start not going to church regardless of why are usually not that welcoming to visits from more active members..Usually guilty feelings are tied with that..Unsocial people are a hard READ..
    Most people, unless very close..would find it hard to approach someone that had possibly been unwelcoming at a earlier date..
    My husband had a Grandma who when they built a new chapel and she had to go to a different building became inactive..she just wouldn't go..She had a car.. the ability but no the faith!
    When I have come to know people who have chosen to be inactive.. they always blame everyone else..
    But the truth is..If you really believe.. nothing anyone says or does matters..they would go and sit all alone if their faith was intact! It is just easier to blame others..
    There really is no way to fill the hole of a Death or Divorce! it is a hole for only that person to fill..
    Yes.. it would be nice to have hand holding and meals and such..But if everything in your life is influenced by that.. you will be buffeted by the wind..
    You know that in school, the bad kids always befriended the new kids first..Were they the good choice? No.. Just the easy one…
    My Mother use to joke that when you become inactive .. your income goes up ten percent. you get a day off and you have lots of time to your self! See… The easy way out!
    I know that were my Mother alive, she would have never let me point to someone else and blame them for my choices…Someone else dropping ball is not a reason to leave the church..What else is she going to bail on if that is her life strategy. People are not perfect in or out of the Church..


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