An anonymous reader writes:
I would love to initiate a conversation about “The Big D”: divorce. Really difficult divorce, (not that any divorce is easy!). Please, some realistic conversation! I have read other articles that are not, in my opinion, helpful in my situation. They usually run something like this: Sister Nielsen is surrounded by her large, loving, helpful, supportive family; she comes to terms with her ex-spouse, even begins a friendly relationship for the sake of the children includes him and his new young wife in family activities, dusts off her degree (teaching, nursing, etc.), and gets back into the work force. She adjusts to her new life and later will marry a wonderful man.
Sorry. That is just not the reality for most of us. Far from it. I was nearly 60, had never worked outside the home, lost almost everything, had to start over, still have no idea where I am going or if I will ever get there, struggling daily with everything.
Yes I am bitter; yes I am alone and lonely. I still have my testimony, still attend the temple and serve in the Church, still love the Lord, but please know that there are women my age out here! I live in an area where there are NO active men my age. Could we please have a voice?
The serpent is sharpening his talons, delighting in the pain he can cause as the millennium approaches. Nowhere is this more obvious than in the amount of agony that can be inflicted upon a woman who is reduced to financial ruin and endless months of sorrow and panic by a spouse who loses interest and wanders away. The church tries so hard to bolster marriages, even awful ones, to try to keep everybody as safe as possible, that it often feels to the divorced sisters that they are invisible or at least inaudible.
I can completely appreciate your sense of disconnection with the “can-do” cuties who march back to school while mom or doting Auntie tends their young kiddies, and emerge with a CPA or MD and probably a handsome new hubby. More power to ’em, of course. But we are not young anymore, nor as strong or healthy as before, and we are going to have to figure out how to live on our Social Security check in somebody’s basement or over their garage if we are that fortunate if we can’t pull together a decent retirement somehow. Maybe we can figure out a way to utilize our resources in the Circle of Sisters.
I have been reading in Mosiah about the several references to living according to Abinadi’s teachings. A priest was assigned to preach the gospel to every 50 people, they convened as often as possible, and all the widows and children were cared for. Those who had plenty gave abundantly, those who had more than they needed contributed what they could, and those who had nothing were sustained. I think this is an ancient prophecy about the purpose for our latter day wards and branches. This is surely part of the answer. You might have to “cast thy burden upon the Lord,” and lay your financial needs at the feet of your bishop, allowing him to find a way to help you. Then your job will be to trust and obey. What a prospect!!
We never, never expected to find ourselves in this particular pickle, but we learn to adapt to the hand we are dealt, with whatever “courage and hope from above” that we can muster. A sixty-year-old LDS sister without a dime can still behave like an elect lady when she knows she is being proved by a Father who loves her and knows He can count on her to trust Him and exercise her faith and confidence as never before.
I attended my 90 year-old Aunt Mayola Miltenberger’s funeral this morning. She served as secretary to Belle Spafford and Barbara Smith, two general presidents of the Relief Society. She was married to a non-member, a fine Catholic military officer, until his death in 1962. He was a wonderful, provident, and supportive husband to her, and I doubt very much that she ever regretted those years of her life.
Dear sister, you are vulnerable and emotionally needy at the moment. Please promise us you will not take any wooden nickels. Don’t jump into anything. Be doubly and triply vigilant against charmers and scammers. But if there are no active members in your region, and you find there are nice men in your neighborhood who are kind to you and whose companionship you enjoy, I think you should allow them to befriend you. You can make friends without inviting or assenting to a courtship, and you might find you can bring these friends with you to church activities and actually enjoy a pleasant evening or even a daytime event if your new buddies are retired. A guy does not have to be an active member to bring you to church and show you a nice time.
Please put up your Halloween decorations and exchange a few pleasantries with an acquaintance you trust who might become a friend. Allow your bishop to sustain your financial life for a month or two until the pain becomes manageable and you can examine your alternatives rationally and choose one that is feasible. I’m sure our sisters who have walked your path will encircle you with their love and assurances this week.
It is unbelievably difficult for me to imagine the whirlpool of feelings you must be experiencing at this time. The loss and desperation you have described are so understandable when one considers your new, jolting reality. At 60, the prospect of “starting over” must be daunting, at the very least. Because you wrote to “Circle of Sisters,” I am going to assume that you not only want a “voice,” but would invite some comment, as well. This may not be exactly what you want to hear, but I feel very strongly that it is what I need to say:
One thing, by your own admission, that is fairly blatant in the description of your life is the word “bitterness.” Although I have not been divorced, I am no stranger to loss, loneliness, hurt and the bitterness these things can bring. From very personal experience, I can tell you that of all the obstacles you must face and overcome, it is unbridled bitterness that will become your worst enemy. It will infect and even supplant every good intention, every positive and motivating force in your life. It can make you caustic and undesirable as a friend or partner and eventually it can take on a life of it’s own; sacrificing your possibilities for happiness in it’s wake. Unchecked, it can even rob you of the things that are intact: your testimony, Church and temple service, and your love for the Lord.
Losing that bitterness was the most difficult journey of my life, but I tell you dear sister, it was worth every prayer, every tear, and every setback to be able to say the words “I forgive you.” Now there is light where there was blackness in my soul. There is joy where no other feelings but anger and hatred had place. Optimism and charity have replaced the bitterness that served only itself. By removing that obstacle, life’s purposes are clearer and I am open to those Heavenly voices that will never fail to comfort and guide when earthly voices disappoint.
What has happened is unjust and just plain lousy. No doubt about it. No one should have to begin again at age 60+. Some, maybe even most, of the things you are dealing with are out of your control. That dark, defining feeling of bitterness is one of the things you will be able to control and eventually, banish from the vocabulary of your emotions. If you work tirelessly on this one aspect of your attitude, I absolutely promise that the Spirit of God will enlighten you and help clarify, order and resolve those things that loom so fearfully on your horizon.