I distinctly remember the feeling of walking into church that first Sunday after having filed for divorce. Holding tightly to my two-year-old’s hand, I headed into sacrament meeting to a row near the overflow section and prayed that no one would talk to me. Nothing had changed, and yet everything had. My husband and I had been separated for months, but I had never opened up to friends or ward members about my marital struggles.
That Sunday, now that things had been decided, I suddenly felt like I was wearing a huge neon sign blaring the news of all my failures and shortcomings. The absence of my wedding ring on my left hand felt shameful and embarrassing. I knew it was only a matter of time before someone would ask, and I could either continue to skirt the truth with excuses or face the horror of saying out loud that my dreams of eternity had come to an end.
I felt vulnerable and exposed; I felt like I was wearing a huge bull’s-eye, and I waited for the shots of judgment to hit me.
I’ve spent a lot of time, since that first awful day, thinking about belonging. It’s easy to look out across the congregation at church during a talk about the importance of eternal families, to identify how many beautiful, happy, two-parent families are sitting together on pews, and to feel like the sorely out-of-place single mom on the back row. I feel intensely aware of curious eyes, and often I feel defensive over questions or comments that I’m sure aren’t meant to offend me. “Do I really belong here?” I’ve asked myself.