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Post-Mormon Mette: It Won’t Always Hurt Like This

If you’re in the midst of a faith transition, this is my message of hope to you: it won’t always hurt like this.

I know it hurts right now. I know it feels like you’ve been lied to by those who were supposed to love you the most, by those you once looked up to as those who spoke for God. I know that it feels like the rug was pulled out from under you and that you just keep falling. I know that you have no idea which way is up or down. I know that you aren’t sure how to keep going without the hope of eternity and with the promises of eternal family. I know that you’re also wondering how you’re going to be able to manage future relationships with the people in your life who are still deeply Mormon when you can’t listen to them talk about how wonderful it all is without some push back.

Give yourself some time. Ask those around you for some time. It may take a year or two. For some people, it takes longer, but my experience has been that it takes longer for those who are unable to decouple themselves from Mormonism fully. This is not a suggestion that you should get divorced (I haven’t), only an observation watching people around me. Those who are married and leave together seem to move through the transition more quickly. So do teens who leave early on and may never really think of themselves as Mormon again and may not really feel pain from their upbringing the way that you do. The longer you’ve been attached to the religion, the longer it may take.

Make jokes about it. It can be healing, even if you know that these jokes would be offensive to family members still in. You don’t need to share it with them. You may need to spend a lot less time with people who are still in, just for the sake of your own sanity.

Yes, I know what it’s like. When you’ve spent several years trying so hard to stay, but ultimately couldn’t manage it, little hints that people who leave just “want to sin” can be horribly damaging to your fragile psyche. So can stories about miracles if one didn’t come to you. I’ve heard many post-Mormons talk about how hard it can be at funerals to deal with family members who say “they’re in a better place,” or even talk about specific experiences they’ve had with the spirit of the dead person, when you believe that there is nothing after death.

Other hard things for you may be watching family members make choices that you think are damaging. From choosing to pay tithing instead of investing in retirement or funding college funds for children, you may want to shout at them to stop paying money to a cult that just uses the money to store up funds for a rainy day that may never come. You may feel obliged to go to special religious days to celebrate with family, like baptisms or mission farewells or marriages in the temple that you can no longer attend. I can’t tell you that you should never go, though I’d say that you can make some excuses for a while. You’re “sick” a lot now. Yes, your family may interpret that as proof of how wrong your choices are. Trust me when I say that nothing you can do will prove to them that you are happy in your wickedness. So give up the attempt. You’re not living your life for other people anymore.

You may be tempted to deconvert those around you or to apologize to people you converted if you went on a proselytizing mission. I urge you not to do this, either. Just wait out the pain. It will recede in time. You’re going through grief. You’ve lost a lot. For many of us, losing a limb seems like it would be easier than losing all that you once believed in.

Those relationships aren’t lost forever, at least not all of them. Some of them you will let go because you realize that you can’t sustain them now. Don’t fall prey to the temptation to say that they were never real or the temptation to tell yourself that everything you did back then was wrong. You are still you, under all of this. And you will find your way back to the people who matter most to you. They’ll wait if they’re really your friends.

Maybe you’re not ready to hear this yet (I’m just starting to think it might be possible), but every death makes a new life possible. There will be good things still coming to you, some of them things that could not have happened without all this pain. I won’t promise you that you will be a lot happier away from Mormonism. I think that’s as much a lie as the promise that you’ll be happy if you follow all the rules of Mormonism. What I do think is that you will find your life is more authentic and more real. Part of that may be feeling more pain and being willing to acknowledge it. If you’re like me, that might be something that you wish away sometimes. It’s fine to see yourself doing that. You’ll do a lot of things that you used to do as a Mormon because they’re habits.

Be kind to yourself through this transition. If you want to say something to a Mormon friend, try writing it first and then waiting a few weeks (or years) before sending it to them. Try not to burn bridges. Take a breath. Run around your house naked. Burn your garments and your church books. Drink plenty of coffee. Sleep and eat well.

This will pass. You will find new foundations to build on. You will believe in something again. You will feel yourself again.

Written by

Author of The Bishop’s Wife mystery series, The Mormon Sabbatical Podcast, Princeton PhD, fiction editor at Exponent II, autist, she/her

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