Rebuilding My Life after Divorce


When my husband left, I faced life as a single mother with 10 children looking to me for answers.

Three and a half years ago, my 29-year temple marriage ended in divorce. My life up to that time had centered around the Church, my husband, my children—eight still living at home—and two grandchildren. As a result of the divorce, my life changed in ways I could not have imagined.

Since then I have been a single mother trying to meet the needs of five boys heavily involved in sports, a teenage daughter, and two adult children who have been working while going to school. In the first months of our separation, I felt alone, discouraged, and often depressed. I was simply overwhelmed with all the tasks and responsibilities that had fallen to me. How would my divorce affect the children? Would they still have any trust in marriage? Could we ever again be a “forever” family?

My life as a single mother demanded much, and I learned to do things I had never done before. My children, too, learned to accept greater responsibilities that at times I wished they did not have to bear. Among other things, we learned about repairing sprinkling systems, cabinets, and plumbing. One day I took inventory of the many repairs my house still needed and sat down and cried. I didn’t have money for repairs, and I didn’t know how to do them myself.

Although life as a single mother has been challenging, I have learned that Heavenly Father does not expect me to do it alone. As I’ve come increasingly to rely on Him, I have found comfort and support through dedicated gospel living, supportive ward members, and a desire to seek for the good in my life.

Setting My Gospel Foundation

Staying active. As additional responsibilities settled on me, I increasingly felt a need to reevaluate where I stood in living the gospel. I made perhaps one of my most important decisions immediately: I would stay active in the Church and attend ward activities, even if I had to go alone or felt uncomfortable participating alone. Though I was single, this decision helped me continue to feel part of the larger ward family.

Reading scriptures. Although I had read the Book of Mormon throughout my life, since the divorce I have been reading it daily. The scriptures have taken on new meaning for me. They comfort and guide me. They bring me closer to Heavenly Father. They give me answers.

One night, after attending a fireside on relationships, I came home feeling very awkward. I hated thinking of myself as a divorced woman. After saying my prayers, I picked up the Book of Mormon, and the first scripture I read said: “And now … , seeing that our merciful God has given us so great knowledge concerning these things, let us remember him … and not hang down our heads, for we are not cast off” (2 Ne. 10:20). As I read on, the Holy Ghost was able to give me some personal instruction. I felt the message to me was that things were different now but that I would be led and that the Lord remembered me.

I felt again God’s awareness of me and my situation, and I felt of His love. I do not need to hang my head down in shame because I am divorced. Yes, some things have changed in my life, but eternal principles are the same. If I stay close to Heavenly Father, all promised blessings can still be mine. I am thankful I opened my scriptures that evening.

Keeping the commandments. Our family’s income dropped considerably during the divorce process, and we struggled financially. I faced the dilemma of whether to pay tithing when there clearly was not enough money to feed and care for my large family and to make the essential house repairs. I sought counsel from my priesthood leaders and knew my answer. I decided I would pay a full tithing. I believe this single act of faith opened the windows of heaven, for many blessings were showered on our family. While I was deeply grateful for help from others, I also found myself struggling to develop humility and graciousness, as my family had never before required help. My first trip to the bishops’ storehouse resulted in tears, but I sought from the Lord what He would have me learn from the experience. Besides struggling with pride, I learned much about love and the purpose for the welfare program. Although we no longer need welfare assistance, I am grateful for that experience.

Accepting a calling. Just before legal papers were filed for divorce, our Relief Society presidency was reorganized, and I was called to be secretary. Our new president later told me that my name came to her while she was meditating in the temple. Looking back, I see that Heavenly Father put me in a position to receive loving help, kindness, and concern from my sisters in the presidency during those stressful days during and after the divorce.

My Relief Society job required me to prepare weekly bulletins and a number of monthly reports. I began acquiring computer skills. As I carried out my other duties, I occasionally conducted meetings and found my leadership skills improving also. My self-confidence grew. When I had to go back to work again as a nurse after many years absent from the profession, I discovered the job required computer skills, and I was grateful for all I had learned through my calling. My improved skills helped me step more confidently back into the workforce.

Drawing upon My Ward Family

Counseling with my bishop. I came to appreciate my bishop’s guidance in helping me make a number of sound decisions. He checked on our family often and made sure I was all right and my family was well cared for. He was my support both temporally and spiritually.

One day the bishop called me into his office and discussed with me each of my children, one by one, to see how they were doing. We came up with a plan to make sure each of my boys received priesthood support through their quorum and auxiliary leaders. He also discussed my financial situation and made sure we had food in the house, and when Christmas came he checked again to be sure we had something to go under our tree.

Besides helping my children, he gave me priesthood blessings and helped me explore my new role as a single sister. What a comfort it was to know I had his backing.

Relying on home teachers. When Brother Mark and his sons were called to home teach our family, he expressed his desire to serve my family. Over time I came to understand the depth of his commitment. He checked on us often and asked about our week. He made friends with each of the children and remembered their birthdays. He has given them priesthood blessings before each school year begins. He counsels with me about the lessons he brings each month, then invites us to kneel in prayer with him and his sons before they leave. I have been grateful for these faithful home teachers who have provided priesthood support for my family.

At times I would begin to panic and think I had to move out of our home that seemed so costly to keep up even though my children and I, with priesthood counsel, had determined it would be in our best interest to stay in our home and continue to live among friends and our ward family. At such times, my home teacher would remind me of the reasons we chose to stay; then at least once a year he would arrange for some of the brethren to come by the house to make needed repairs, clean the yard, fix sprinklers, paint, and help us care for our home.

Appreciating my ward sisters. 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.

Other blessings came. My friends in the presidency, worried about my first Valentine’s Day without my husband, sent a beautifully wrapped gift, which was waiting for me when I arrived home from work. Another time they made me “queen for a day.” I was asked to attend an early-morning meeting. When I arrived, a sister was waiting to do my nails. A couple of friends came to do my hair. Then I was told we were going to lunch and out shopping. They purchased a new outfit for me, the first I’d had since the divorce. My heart overflowed, and I felt the Savior’s love through the actions of these sisters.

Finding the Joy

Surrounding myself with beauty. The 13th article of faith suggests we seek after that which is good. Music has been a powerful influence in our home, especially since the divorce. I have felt closer to Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ just by listening to sacred music. I have read good books and attended good plays. Sometimes I go to a movie or play by myself, and I found I can have a good time even when I am alone. Other times I find a friend or family member to accompany me.

Developing new friendships. As a newly single sister, I became aware of two widowed sisters in my ward and three others recently divorced, and we became fast friends. We get together often, usually on Friday nights. Our times together have helped us grow close. We support and encourage each other. We have fun together. One sister in the ward, who is a therapist, occasionally meets with us and helps us understand our feelings and deal with our challenges. We look for the positive side of each sister’s trying circumstances. And each of us, at one time or another, has expressed the thought that our difficulties have brought us to a new level of spiritual closeness to our Heavenly Father. Although we would not choose our trying circumstances, we acknowledge the blessings that have flowed into our lives as a result.

Attending the temple. The temple is a place of goodness and beauty, and I know I am welcome there. Although temple attendance can bring painful reminders of broken covenants, I am comforted knowing that all promised blessings of the temple will eventually be mine again if I do my part to remain true and faithful. I realize that I and my children, who were born in the covenant, are still heirs to all the blessings of a covenant people. Because of these sweet assurances, I have learned to feel peace and joy while in the temple.

Experiencing the joy. Matt, my youngest son, and I share a birthday. He was to turn 8, and I was to turn 50. Matt wanted to be baptized by his brother on our birthday, so our home teacher took time to instruct my sons how to perform the ordinance and later attended the service. After the baptism, Matt was confirmed by the oldest in our family, a married brother.

During the program all 10 of my children, along with two spouses and two grandchildren, stood and sang “Families Can Be Together Forever.” It was a moment I will always remember. My feelings of gratitude for the gospel and the richness of the spiritual blessings that had come to me to help me, sustain me, and tutor me filled my heart. As I looked at my beautiful family and listened to the words they sang, I knew without a doubt that we were still a “forever” family.

[illustrations] Illustrated by Cary Henrie

Jackie Witzel is a member of the Little Cottonwood Ward, Salt Lake Granite View Stake.