Comforted in My Distress


Following my divorce, my children and I found solace in simple gospel practices.

I had been married for 18 years when my temple marriage ended in separation and then divorce. How could my family and I survive spiritually and emotionally? During this difficult time, the basic building blocks of a Christ-centered home became our fortress and defense. Here is how using these familiar, basic gospel practices gave us support and comfort, binding us to each other and helping us to know more fully the love of the Savior.

The Loving Miracle of Family Home Evening

As the waves of uncertainty pounded on our door during and after the divorce, our commitment to family home evening became more vital than ever. Regardless of whether or not all of us felt like attending, we pushed through and held an “official” family home evening each week. Sometimes emotional tirades preceded the event, but once the opening hymn began, the Spirit was evident and usually all was calm.

Even those who refused to join the group would leave their bedroom doors open, allowing the sweet sounds of hymns, prayers, and scriptures to do their holy work. By the time we began singing the closing hymn, I would glance around from the piano bench and often see all my children sitting together—a loving miracle and a testimony of the spirit that comes only when we follow the counsel of the prophet.

The Comforting Power of Music

During this difficult time, I developed the habit of sitting down at the piano at the end of each day and, with one hand, plunking out favorite hymns and Primary songs. I would play “Our Savior’s Love,” “When He Comes Again,” “I Feel My Savior’s Love,” “I Am a Child of God,” and many others, always ending with “Abide with Me; ’Tis Eventide.” This nightly ritual became a comfort to my family. No matter what the day had been like, if Mom sat down at that keyboard and played some hymns, it seemed all was right with the world—or at least more bearable.

One day when I felt I had had all I could take, I sent the children into the house and sat in the car to have a good cry. After I had calmed down and prayed, I went inside. As I opened the door, I heard the soft notes of one of my favorite hymns. My son was at the keyboard, playing hymns to soothe and comfort me in my distress, as I regularly did for him and his sisters.

The Vital Anchor of the Scriptures

During this trying time, the scriptures were a vital anchor for our spiritual health and progress. Although we didn’t read them together every day, they were interwoven into our daily life and conversations. We turned to them during controversies or conflicts, for confirmation of our choices, and for direction in our lives. After discussing feelings or concerns, we would often share a verse of scripture or part of a conference talk to fortify, validate, or comfort each other. Our well-worn sets of the standard works became almost an extension of our hands and hearts.

One evening as I crawled into bed, I reached for my scriptures and opened them but found I couldn’t focus my eyes to read. After a full day of school, two jobs, homework—and my usual four hours of sleep—I was quite literally out of energy. Calling to my daughter who was up finishing her homework, I asked her to read my scriptures to me. What a special moment was the sweet ministering of that beloved daughter. I don’t recall what she read, but I will never forget her love and tenderness as she tucked me into bed that night—as I had done so many times for her.

The Unity of Prayer

Kneeling for morning and evening prayer not only brought our family together in one room, but it also brought us together spiritually. Prayer gave us a way to quell upset feelings, express love, share our burdens, and reunite as a group to face the world. Prayer turned our attention to the Lord, focused our energy as a family, and reinforced our strength. No matter what we faced individually that day, we each knew, nothing doubting, that we loved and supported each other and would help one another in any way we could. I cherish the memory of times we did not know what to do, but we silently reached out, held hands, and began to pray. After these sacred prayers we always felt strengthened by His love for whatever we had to face—ostracism from friends, consternation in court, or a quandary with the checkbook. We always kept going; prayer kept us going.

Strength for Each Moment

During times of trial and transition, enduring to the end becomes a matter of enduring day by day, hour by hour, and moment by moment. I do not know what the next trial or transition will be. But I do know that by leaning on the Savior through simple—but profound—gospel practices, we can continue to find strength for each moment, each hour, and each day of our lives.

[photos] Detail from The Christus, by Bertel Thorvaldsen

[photo] Inset: Photograph by Matthew Reier; photography posed by models

[illustration] Detail from Christ’s Image, by Heinrich Hofmann

[photos] Photography by Craig Dimond and John Luke

Colleen M. Pate is a member of the West Valley Second Ward, West Valley Utah Stake.