Dealing with Divorce as a Family: For Adults/Parents

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A close up shot of the feet of an adult and a child on the shores of a river
Photo credit: Daiga Ellaby

While I personally have not experienced what it’s like to be divorced or to have gone through a rough marriage, I have compiled a list of 5 steps to help you deal with divorce as a family (even if you don’t have kids). My list is inspired from both my own personal observances (from watching my own parents and friends go through divorce) and from other helpful articles written on this subject.

Step 1: Strengthen your Relationship with Heavenly Father

It’s funny, but a lot of the advice in this article is going to mirror previously mentioned steps in my first two articles, which were aimed at children and teenagers of divorce. And while it might sound a little repetitive, it’s definitely not a coincidence that they all essentially have this step in common, just not in such blatant terms.

Whenever going through difficult times and trials, clinging to Heavenly Father for comfort and guidance is a natural and necessary step. Weakness and trials are part of the human experience because they teach us to be humble and accept that we need Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ’s Atonement in our lives.

Through the Father and Christ’s Atonement, we are able to sort through our emotions, recognize our mistakes and weaknesses, ask for and receive forgiveness, and move forward strengthened and heartened from the process.

After I read an article titled “Hope and Healing After Divorce,” I liked how the author wrote about how keeping in constant contact with Heavenly Father helped her to work through her divorce:

I spent a lot of time each day praying. Sometimes I prayed for increased hope, faith, and understanding. Sometimes I prayed for strength to make it through the next five minutes. Sometimes I prayed for forgiveness, sometimes to find the strength to forgive. Many times I just cried and told Heavenly Father how much my heart hurt or how angry I was. I learned that He listens patiently and with love. I was also reassured to know that I could reach Him at any time or place. Most of all, I learned that through His Son and because of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, we can receive power, comfort, and strength beyond our own.

The after-effects of divorce are always emotionally charged, sometimes especially so if you have children. It’s important to understand that your Heavenly Father wants to hear how you’re feeling and any questions you may have.

Sometimes the best blessings we can receive are only available if we ask for them, so don’t be afraid to ask. Just make sure you try to listen to the occasional hard answers as well.

Step 2: Establish a Support Group

Large, dark brown hands hold smaller and similar handsAllowing and/or asking for help from others can be a humbling yet difficult circumstance for many. However, going through a divorce is not something you should do alone.

Yes, family is always a great place to start when you’re looking for support and you should pursue that avenue if it’s available to you. However, sometimes divorce can hurt familial relationships and you might not feel comfortable going to family members so soon after the divorce.

It’s essential that you realize the Church is organized in such a way that maximum support can be achieved, especially when you don’t know where else to go. Support can be found through your bishopric, visiting teachers/home teachers, relief society/priesthood presidencies, Sundays school teachers, and/or close friends.

The biggest (and possibly the hardest) part, however, is reaching out to these groups. Some people can tell when you’re in distress or can be inspired into action and reach out to you, but sometimes you need to take a leap and ask for help yourself.

In the same article I referenced above, the author writes this about having a support group:

Surrounding myself with people who care about me has been essential to my personal healing. I was blessed to have parents, siblings, extended family members, close friends, home teachers, and visiting teachers who were loving and supportive. They listened compassionately when I needed to talk and refrained from judging or criticizing me. They helped me through feelings of loneliness and isolation, encouraging me to put one foot in front of the other when I did not know if I could go on.

These friends and family members provided me with tremendous strength, even when others who were unfamiliar with my story were unkind or made hasty judgments. As more healing took place, I made new friends in my ward and community. I went back to school and began associating with other singles my age. I found ways to serve others, even though sometimes I just wanted to stay home.

Staying active in the Church is another necessary step, however, in both staying close to your Heavenly Father and receiving help and support from others. If you have a calling, please stay active and work hard to magnify it.

In my opinion, callings are largely there for you personally. Sure, your callings are largely meant for you to serve others in your ward, however, “when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God” (Mosiah 2:17).

Through service, you can learn to love others and feel good about yourself. And when you’re serving through a calling, you’re bound to come into contact with others and make powerful friendships.

Another article I read had this experience to add:

For the first two years after my divorce, I was surrounded by supportive and loving friends in the Relief Society presidency. They cried with me, they laughed with me, and I felt close to them. Through my calling I became aware of some of the needs of my ward sisters, and giving service to them helped me keep my perspective and find healing within my own heart.

If all else fails, never be ashamed to ask for professional help or therapy. Talk to your bishop about professional counseling because the church does have counseling services that could be of help to you.

Step 3: Dissolve your Bitterness and Forgive

Bitterness is a likely side-effect of divorce, but it’s important that you don’t let it run your life. One article I found talked about how the Atonement helped the author to get through their divorce. Here is one of the author’s discoveries concerning bitterness and overcoming it:

As I sought inspired direction and then submitted myself to Heavenly Father’s will, I saw more clearly how my experiences could become opportunities for growth.

The bitterness I felt about my former spouse and my circumstances seemed contradictory to the Atonement and its blessings. My efforts to draw closer to Heavenly Father helped me overcome my feelings of bitterness. Rejecting bitterness helped me deepen my relationship with God and better understand the character of his Son, our perfect example.

When properly utilizing the Atonement, you, like our dear author in the above quote, will notice that it’s hard to stay begrudging of others when you realize that Christ was betrayed and killed but continued to preach the importance of forgiveness.

It’s all too easy to talk bad about your ex, especially after having a recent fight or encounter with them. Yet, it’s important to remember that all that anger, resentment, and hate is hurting you and your spirituality more than you are hurting your ex.

However, just as a sort of side note, if you have just divorced yourself from a toxic relationship and it’s necessary for you to keep your distance from you ex, it is entirely possible and reasonable to forgive them without having to keep them as a part of your everyday life.

To finish off this section, I’ll leave you with a story from the same article of the above quotation to help you learn how forgiveness can help you (and your children if you have any) to grow and become more loving toward your former spouse.

My experiences have given me a desire to emulate the Savior’s ability to lift others. As I went through the divorce process, several people counseled me never to tear down my husband in front of our children. The wisdom of this advice was evident almost daily, as occasions to demean him arose frequently. I prayerfully sought the ability to withhold criticism and to emphasize his positive traits.

At first this was extremely difficult because he had hurt me deeply and made serious mistakes. But as I tried to help my children see his worth, my capacity to continue doing so increased. Each time I used words that would build him up truthfully and fairly, I felt closer to the Savior. I chose to allow—even foster—the tender feelings my children wanted to have for their father. When the Spirit prompted me to pray for him in family prayer, I was able to do so with compassion.

Step 4: Stand in Holy Places

A young woman sits atop of a mountain overlooking the breathtaking view of mountains, a lake, and the sun

A trend I noticed in my parents and the parents of my friends was that after they got divorced, one or both of the parents would become inactive in the church.

My mom moved out and spent roughly 20 years away from the Church, even turning completely against the Church at one point, and eventually, she slowly made her way back to the gospel in these past couple years.

My father however, while a strong and faithful member of the Church for many years, went through an inactive period right after their divorce. I was young, but I knew for myself and from memories of church-going that we were supposed to go to church on Sundays, and yet, sometimes we would only end up going once a month if that.

Eventually, I turned 8 and I knew that meant I was supposed to get baptized. I went to my father fully expecting to get baptized right away, just like my older brother did and the rest of my friends.

However, even though I didn’t fully understand the reasoning at the time, we both ended up needing to get taught by the missionaries in order to properly prepare for my baptism because we had gotten too distant from the Church.

Eventually, just after my 9th birthday, my father baptized me and my whole family attended. By that time, my father had also met and married my step-mother and our family became active in the Church again thanks to both the preparation it took to get me and my father ready for my baptism, and my step-mom’s steadfast faithfulness to the Church.

Through observing both my father and mother’s experiences in how they dealt with their divorce, I was able to see the extreme necessity the gospel and staying active in the Church had.

I’d like to encourage you to stay active in your callings, become worthy of and attend the temple regularly, and make your home a holy place by being an example to your children and/or others.

Also try to read the scriptures, study your patriarchal blessing, and keep the Lord’s commandments. Doing these things will make you more susceptible to forgiving your former spouse and becoming strong and confident in yourself as you begin to move forward.

Step 5: Moving Forward

Moving forward after a divorce is sometimes the most difficult part of dealing with divorce. Hopefully, by this point, you’ve started forming a strong support group, you’ve developed a close relationship with your Heavenly Father, you’ve stayed active in the Church, and you have started down the path of forgiveness.

You may experience or feel the need to “rediscover” yourself after getting divorced. Especially so if you had been married for a long period of time or you encountered abuse that confused your vision of yourself and/or your self-worth.

It’s important that you realize that your Heavenly Father is there to help you down this path of discovery. Reading the scriptures and learning about Christ is one of the best ways to get to know yourself in fact.

And through strong and healthy friendships, hopefully, you will see that you are priceless in the eyes of God.

Have faith in knowing that you can heal and move past this trial. This woman’s realization of how she can heal and move forward after experiencing divorce may help you to understand just what I mean:

In some ways, divorce seemed like experiencing the death of a loved one. I wondered whether the possibility of an eternal family for me was now void. Sometimes I refused to acknowledge that I felt sad or angry, because I didn’t want to appear ungrateful for the blessings I still had. But over time, I learned I had to go through the steps of grieving—denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. I never experienced the steps in that exact sequence, and some of them still come and go, but I have faced each of them to some degree.

Healing from divorce is not easy. Despite the abuse and heartache that happened in my own marriage and the shock and pain that accompanied my divorce, the learning and growth that continue to come from these experiences have been my greatest blessings. I have learned to rely on the Lord and to become an advocate for myself. And although there are still days when I struggle to look forward with faith, I accept where I am and then trust that the Lord will completely bind up my broken heart (see Isaiah 61:1–3).

Trust in the lord and love those who transgress against you. These may be extremely hard commandments to follow, but I have faith that if you start down the path to forgiveness and progression, you will become a stronger and better person for it.

Camille Beecroft is a senior at Utah Valley University Studying English with an emphasis in Writing Studies. She loves to speak and learn different languages, always searches for ways to satisfy her wanderlust and connect with people, and compulsively buys/watches movies when she gets stressed.