Peace, not Bitterness


When I faced the pain of divorce, the Savior’s teachings helped me avoid the path of bitterness.

I have always had sympathy for anyone enduring the agony of a broken marriage. Then it happened to me, and I learned firsthand how painful it can be. I also learned about the multitude of feelings connected with divorce and people’s different ways of dealing with it.

Many women decide that the only way to deal with what they consider their failure is to fight the feelings of caring that linger in their hearts. They become hateful toward their former spouses. Others sorrowfully hold on to their love, declaring that they will never love again. Life’s vibrancy seems lost to them. Occasionally these women never really “fit in” again; their identity was tied to their status as a wife, and they wonder, What am I now? Other fortunate ones learn from their experience and find new direction and growth.

As I contemplated my alternatives, I felt torn as I experienced all of these feelings. Betrayal, pain, sorrow, fear, anger, and determination seemed to be my most conspicuous sensations. And in the midst of this confusion, I still felt an abiding love for the man I had married. I could not pretend this man had never existed in my life. I had shared twenty years with him. Three beautiful children were born within this union; he is their father, and we had been in love. Although I couldn’t hate him, I needed to find my own way to survive without him.

From the beginning I knew I must make some important, life-changing decisions. If I was going to make it on my own, I had to learn to be happy alone. I will always remember the advice of a dear friend: “I have learned that I must depend on myself for my own happiness; nobody else can give me that gift. If I can’t find it within myself, it will be impossible to find it in others.” I know this is true, so after (and even during) the anger, hurt, and frustration, I made some vital decisions.

First, I would continue in faith, always prayerfully participating in Church activities and meetings, and continuing to attend the temple. With a sincere heart, I would seek understanding and guidance.

Second, I decided to seek knowledge. I needed to learn a skill, a trade, or a career in order to support myself and my children; however, even more important, I wanted to learn more about my Heavenly Father’s kingdom that I might have peace of mind.

Third, I determined that improving my skills and talents through learning more about myself and my strengths was a worthwhile ambition.

Fourth, I committed to stay close to my family and share in the blessings of their love. It was also my hope that I could continue to share good feelings with my extended family; and in fact, we have remained close.

These decisions have, indeed, affected my outlook on life. There has been more harmony in my world since I made these choices. Positive light certainly brightens one’s perspective.

One night when the pain was most acute, I felt inspired to read the entire book of Job. One scripture seemed to leap from the page: “I would seek unto God, and unto God would I commit my cause.” (Job 5:8.)

At a time when I felt helpless and hopeless, these words gave peace to my soul. Since that time, I have been much comforted by them.

It was in the early days after our separation that I began to understand another decision I must make. As far as I could see, I had a choice between bitterness and blessings. Many people have chosen bitterness and existed in misery. People who choose bitterness seldom recognize their blessings. I decided to try to let go of all bitter feelings.

It wasn’t easy, and there are still difficult days. I worry about the children, though they are all grown now, and I am concerned for my grandchildren. The budget is tight. And sometimes I feel an emptiness within as if some intrinsic part of me is missing. Life is not all sweetness and light. However, I am blessed.

Family members from both sides give comfort and encouragement. As I feel the love my parents have for me and my family, I am strengthened. My ex-husband’s mother has also been wonderfully helpful and encouraging. I know I have people to turn to, people who support me. As I recognize this blessing, I gain even greater comfort and strength from their presence in my life.

I enjoy the adventure of life, and I believe in love. Perhaps someday I may even marry again. Who knows what may be in store for me?

This I do know. I have let go. I still have fond, loving memories of the man I married, and I feel gratitude for the love that gave my children life. I am thankful for the opportunity of having been married and bearing children. These are among my blessings.

Each of us must make choices in our lives. I have made mine. When I let go of bitterness, the Lord shares my joys, as well as my burdens. Then I feel peace and contentment as I eagerly look forward to my future.

[photos] Photography by John Luke; posed by models

Deanne Ernst Allen is a Relief Society in-service board member in the River Sixth Ward, West Jordan Utah River Stake.