Friday, March 09, 2007

response from a fellow divorcee

This was emailed by a friend of mine in response to my new orleans post, and I thought it was illuminating, and maybe it will help others helping friends going through divorce... Here it is:

I read your New Orleans post and was just reminded at how really dim people are about divorce. It seems like people seem prepared to deal with death and bereavement, but so terribly ill-equipped to handle the idea of divorce. Amazing. It's really like no one understands the profound loss and pain except someone else that went through it.

I had relatives that just totally left me alone, figuring that our divorce was messy and sad. So if a divorce is messy and sad, then ... wouldn't you think someone would want moral support? They were all too happy to chatter away when they knew it was a friendly separation, and go on and on and on. You want to smack them on their heads.

My father has never uttered the word "divorce" to me, nor ever asked if I was Okay or how I was doing, actually. By not speaking about it, these people around me really implied, in my mind, that it was a failure, something to really be ashamed of. Can we just ignore it and pretend that this didn’t happen? No one's asked about my ex, either, but he's doing pretty well. And I'm happy for him. Ours was an exceptionally amiable parting, which really was helpful. In my case, too, the person, oddly, who was able to offer the most support (in the unemotional way he is able to), was my ex.

In the darkest and saddest moments, trying to get to sleep, or steeling myself for a long day ahead in the shower, you feel the weakest. I never once was able to call someone to come over, to just put my head on someone else's shoulder and cry, or get a hug. I was consoling a friend during this time, going through tough times as well, and when I'd call, she'd always assume it was to check on her, but really many times it was to check on me. I'd ask her to come do things, and I feel like she finally got exasperated and said she was doing, fine, thanks, and that she had plenty of distraction and people near to her to help keep her spirits up (in not so many words, but she’s made a point of the empowerment in saying "no"). I'm not sure she considered that I asked her to come along, because I was tired of doing things by myself, and was asking for company for ME. She marvels at how strong and plucky I was, doing things alone. I feel like the world left me little other choice than to do so. She said "No" so many times, I just really got tired of asking.

I know it's about expectations .... I'm so sensitive and compassionate, and tend to expect or hope for the same in others, but I pretty much refuse, anymore, to have high expectations with respect to the empathy people have. It's just amazing, the number of people who have to go through life's difficult daily challenges, without others offering them hugs or support. Another blog I read commented on how sad it is to know of far-away friends that had to go in for biopsies – breast, uterine - and had to go alone. Alone? Think about that. Your post, and these others, just made me shake my head. What's wrong with people? Ugh. People could certainly be more open to ask for help, that's true. But, people could also certainly be far more generous in just offering a small gesture of compassion when they know others are hurting, without waiting to be asked.

But you know you can get electronic hugs from me anytime, Holtcamp.


Miranda said...

Wow. My mom has never recovered from the divorce of her parents when she was about six. It informed everything about her life. I think there is a lot of support available if you go to support groups and therapists, but friends and family should "be there" too.

When I split with my semi fiance years ago, the only thing that saved my sanity was how supportive my friends and family were -- and I think part of the resason for that is, you have to ask. I was so upset that I basically just came out to everyone and said bluntly, "I am falling into a pit; I need to be with people, I need to talk to someone, can you spare some time with me?" And they did. So sometimes maybe the way to wake people up is to out and out ask for help...otherwise, people might not be sure what it is you need. I'm not saying this critically, but in hindsight.

Sus said...

AMEN SISTER!! The ironic thing, so-to-speak, is how in many ways a divorce is a death and that many people do react the same way. I know my mother had a lot of people pull away from her after my father's death just as I lost a lot of friends after my divorce.

Anonymous said...

reading through your blog when I came across this section. I wish I had someone to talk to about things like this DIVORCE BITES the only happiness I have anymore is the weeks I get my daughter, everything else I feel like a robot going through the motions.

Unknown said...

To anonymous... hope you read this. I run a divorced living listserv for women and it's a small but very supportive group and I'd welcome and encourage you to join if you're interested in having someone to share/talk with about anything and everything. Yes divorce bites! I love that phrase! To subscribe send an email to me bohemian AT