Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Divorce, in Hindsight


When you grow up in an LDS home and your parents were married in the temple, you tend to think nothing could ever happen to break your family apart. When it does, you’re left disillusioned, hurt, and wondering where to turn. Such was the case when my parents divorced in my early teens.

I had an idyllic childhood. We didn’t have much money, but I used my imagination and created endless art projects out of scrap paper and entertained myself by writing stories. I was happy. I was na├»ve. I was living in a little bubble of my own and when my parents announced they were separating, I couldn’t believe it. My sisters, meanwhile, had seen all the warning signs and weren’t surprised.

As the youngest, I was the only one still at home. My mom and dad agreed that I would live with my mother, but I would have a daddy/daughter date once a week, on Monday nights. I looked forward to Mondays all week long. Sometimes we’d do something exciting, like go to a movie or once, even to the opera. Other times we’d just grab a bag of Cheetos, sit in the car and eat them. It didn’t matter what we did—I just loved spending time with my dad.

I wish I could say the transition was painless. It was excruciating. Even though abuse and adultery hadn’t led to the divorce, it was still messy, with emotions being tossed around like ping-pong balls. My mother started dating again, a disaster from start to finish. I raged. I became bitter. I grew up overnight and became the adult in the home, shouldering responsibilities beyond my ability, and yet I had to meet them. I can’t tell you how many nights I cried myself to sleep, how many times I knew I wouldn’t be able to take it another single minute. I also can’t tell you how many times my Heavenly Father stepped in and wrapped His loving arms around me, sheltering me from the brunt of the pain my parents’ actions were causing me.

It was during that time that I came to know my Heavenly Father, not just to believe in Him, but to know He exists. I poured my heart out to Him night after night, and every single time, I could feel Him listening to me. He knew I was in pain. He knew I was in agony. He sent His comforting Spirit to be with me, to walk next to me as I navigated my days, and soothe me as I cried at night.

We all go into marriage believing we’ll be together forever, and sometimes that just doesn’t work out. Our hearts are broken, we feel betrayed, and we’re sure we’ll never be able to trust again. Our children feel their very foundations begin to crumble, and they aren’t sure where to turn for the support they need. This is made worse when the parents bicker in front of them or use them as tools against each other. All of this happened to me, and even though I was not a young child, I was young enough to feel very vulnerable, and very afraid.

Despite all of that, and despite the fact that I went through a brief period of inactivity in the Church because of my intense desire never to hear the phrase “families can be together forever” again, I have to say I would not trade the experience. I grew closer to Heavenly Father and His son, Jesus Christ, through this time than I have at any other. Although for a time I was not physically present at church, I was being taught through the Holy Ghost at home, and that relationship has seen me through other trials that would come my way later. I learned that while my parents had their faults and would not always be perfect, my Father in Heaven was perfect, and I could rely on Him. I learned that while my parents were going through their own pain and could not help me with mine, God was there and would see me through it all, with infinite, eternal love.

I am who I am today because of that experience. I wouldn’t want to relive it, but I definitely wouldn’t trade it. Because of it, I know my Redeemer lives. And that is priceless to me.

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17 comments:

Josi said...

This is a great article, Tristi. My husband's parents divorced and through loving him and watching as he approaches some situations is a constant reminder of how different, and precarious his situation was. I don't know that either of us are to the point of being glad it happened to him--there are so many things that his parents divorce created for him--but because of it he was determined at a young age to make all the right choices--a mission, a temple marriage, be the father he didn't have. None of those things, of course, are guarantees, but for a child that knew none of them, it was pretty sensational. I do think he's a better husband and father because he understands the price of NOT being those things.

Great post and great reminder that some of the catch phrases cause heartburn for some.

Nancy Campbell Allen said...

Big, big hugs. Thanks for sharing- what a bittersweet post.

CTW said...

Great post Tristi. You handled the curve balls in your life with such grace.

Jen said...

Thank you Tristi for sharing this part of yourself, I can tell its very personal and important to you, and I loved reading your viewpoints, even though it was a poignant read.

Karlene said...

That was beautiful. My children say my divorce was the best thing that happened to all of us. It was hard for them and they all have little quirks and sensitivities and fears because of it, but they also see the difference and acknowledge that we are both better parents apart than we were together.

Divorce was hard on me too. It was one of those life challenges you hope you'll never have to face. But like you, it brought me closer to the Lord and I wouldn't trade that closeness for anything.

Marsha Ward said...

Tristi, I cannot imagine how hard it was to share that time with us when you were so vulnerable and fragile, but brava for doing so.

readerMom said...

Thanks for the beautiful post. I appreciate your sharing such tender feelings.

LexiconLuvr said...

What a surge of emotion I felt while reading this. How incredible that in a moment as difficult as that, you turned to your Heavenly Father night after night. Yours is an amazing soul. I'm a humbled and awed.

Jenny said...

Tristi, thanks for sharing your experience on divorce.

Janette Rallison said...

It was good to see an article on divorce from the child's side. I think far too often, that part is overlooked and brushed off as a sort of: kids are resiliant sort of thing. Thanks for sharing your experience

Shirley Bahlmann said...

Aw, Tristi, no wonder I love you so much. You're a real person! (Heart to heart right from the start!) Love, Shirley Whirley Girl

Sandra said...

Thanks, Tristi

An Ordinary Mom said...

I have some close and dear friends in the middle of divorces right now. Thanks for sharing your insights and wisdom!

Taffy said...

Thanks Tristi!

Ronda Hinrichsen said...

Very well done, Tristi. Great insights. I learned something that can help me with my own trials, too. Thank you for sharing such a painful memory.

C.S. Bezas said...

Tristi, you are such a beautiful person. It is a privilege to know you. Thank you for sharing such a heartfelt experience with the rest of us. Your words have strengthened and encouraged and have helped each of us lengthen our stride. May we all reach out and embrace those going through this turbulent experience!

Jenna Consolo said...

Well done, Tristi. I didn't know this about you, but I applaud your honesty in sharing it. Having been through it myself (and in my parents' marriage) I can identify tenderly with what you've expressed. Thanks for giving me hope for my children, despite their suffering.

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