Divorce: The Elephant in My Room

When I was fourteen years old, my parents finalized their divorce. My father moved out of my home and my mother moved into her work, and we all pretended we were fine.

During my younger years, they’d discuss the possibility of splitting up. The screaming matches of two spirited, Caribbean parents harmonized with the torrential downpour of emotions within me. I used to build forts in my room with all of my blankets to block out the sound. It never worked, but it made me feel safe. Ultimately, they’d always decide to stay together because of me. I remember wishing they wouldn’t.

Over the years, my father scarcely came home. I remember turning on the TV to his favorite shows whenever he’d show up, hoping it would make him stick around longer. Eventually, he stopped coming back.

Growing up without a father during my most crucial teenage years was my first heartbreak. Psychologically, girls get their worth from their fathers and their identity from their mothers. I felt my self-worth was destroyed. I felt abandoned, unvalued, and depressed.

We became ostracized by our church family. Not only did they all pretend like nothing had happened and never reached out, my mother was voted off leadership positions by the pastor himself, due to her “imperfect family conditions.” People who once welcomed us stopped speaking to us, and no one ever asked how we were holding up or offered kind words. In addition to all of the pain I was already feeling, the most painful thing was feeling absolutely isolated in the place you’re supposed to feel most loved and supported. I became disillusioned with love, with the church, and with families.

Although I felt the utmost abandonment from my earthly father, my Heavenly one was not done working in my life. Throughout my pain, He has shown me a greater love than I could ever have asked for. On some days, I’ll still feel a little broken, a little empty, and at times, a little hopeless. “Jesus, please embrace me today” is my daily prayer. And He does. Every single day. He’s provided strong fatherly figures and amazing friends and loved ones who have added golden contributions to my life.

He’s captivated me with a sense of purpose. I will only wear my pain so that others know they aren’t alone, that there are people who’ve gone through the same, and that there is always someone to reach out to.

Although our church at times can’t help but fit the societal structure of “pretending to have it all together,” and having yet to figure out how to not be awkward about certain very sensitive issues, I’ve learned that we are all a bunch of imperfect humans just trying to make it work. But our Leader, our High Priest, and the ultimate Pastor of our church is a kind man. He embodies all lovely things and will always embrace me during my darkest, most vulnerable moments.

Natalia Perez is a senior at Southern Adventist University and the editor-in-chief of their university newspaper, the Southern Accent.

Image Credit: Photo by James Hammond on Unsplash

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/8347

Natalia, My heart aches for you. while my parents (one dead and one livi ng) were together, I lost my son 15 years ago, and his daughter (my granddaughter now 17) has suffered similar feelings. I will pray for you as I pray daily for her.


Dan, thank you so much for your heartfelt reply. Growing up without a father figure is difficult, but your granddaughter is blessed to have your love and support. I will keep her in my prayers as well. Thank you so much.


Thanks for this heartfelt reminder that we each need to be aware of the emotional trials in our church family and to make sure they know that they are loved and not alone. May God continue to bless you!


Praise God! Thank you so much. Blessings to you!


Natalia, it can be difficult to write about your personal experiences…especially when it involves such sensitive topics. But you are hardly alone in your experiences and just sharing can free others that share similar things to feel less alone. You allowed God to become your “parent” and this helped you to grow spiritually and mature as a person. Thank-you for your beautiful sharing as it goes a long way in helping others.


what are our churches turning into, that something like this can even be imagined, let alone actually happen - and from the pastor no less…this really sounds like amish shunning…it’s so horribly misguided…

i suspect the pastor may have been relying on a literalistic reading of paul’s counsel that a prerequisite to church leadership is good home management…but natalia’s mom would have been appointed while she was married…and what would have changed after her divorce, but even stronger home management as a single mom…

another possibility is that the pastor was secretly into male headship, and was simply looking for a way to remove natalia’s mom…either way, this pastor’s course is awful…someone should report him to the conference…and the shunning from the church at large is practically unforgivable in my view…


This is a little strange. First of all, the pastor does not have the authority to vote anyone off leadership positions. Granted some pastors manipulate the board and business meetings and some boards and congregations simply rubber-stamp the pastors’ wishes, but our congregations are not set up as dictatorships.

Divorce/separation/death and other personal crises take a toll on oneself. Many years ago when my wife and I went through a difficult time, including separation and talk of divorce, I resigned all leadership positions for a season in order to take inventory of all aspects of my life - personal, professional, spiritual. That was my experience. Others may find continuing involvement in church office therapeutic


Kim, thank you so much for your words. I know others silently go through this, and I wanted to bring my story to light. Thank you for affirming my story! :slight_smile:


My parents fought excessively when I was young, and it distressed me mightily when they divorced after all the kids had left the home. In seeing others struggle with divorce, I sincerely believed those people were simply flawed, just like my parents; something was wrong with them. And then one day my first wife took my breath away when she announced she wanted a divorce. The next few years were especially difficult as I sought counseling to better understand her decision, minimize the impact on our children, and figure out the extent to which I was flawed–like all those others. In the end, I grew closer to Jesus and became a better–but still very flawed–person.

Life is difficult for us all. But it’s a double-whammy to grow up a woman without an involved father. My heart goes out to you. As editor-in-chief of Southern’s paper, Natalia, you clearly possess resilience, motivation, and a wonderful ability to communicate. With God’s grace, you will work hard to turn any flaws you have into genuine strengths. You will be a better person for your experiences, and you will be a blessing to countless others.


It is not the divorce per se that ruins children. It is the quality of divorce that does. Not all marriages are made in heaven

If there were any deficiency in the training of pastors, it is their need to recognize to stay within their field of expertise. Simply because they are inspired spiritually does not mean anything that comes out of their mouth is inspired. Frequently they stray from their field of expertise and ruin lives in the process. I’ve seen this many times, and when the damage is done, these pastors are nowhere to be found.

I was awakened one early morning by an internal medicine colleague for a psychiatric consultation. A fellow SDA member of my friend had gone to a local SDA camp meeting where his fellow church members and pastors convinced him to heed our health message and to discontinue all his medications including his psych meds and “trust in the Lord.” He returned home and did not take long for his hypertensive and diabetes mellitus symptoms to return, including his psychiatric symptoms. But when he began to behave and talk like God, instead of rejoicing that the lord had returned after waiting all these years, these church members and pastors were nowhere to be found, So they called me, the psychiatrist.