Is it more painful to lose a spouse to death or divorce?
When I entered the field of divorce mediation, one of the common statements I heard was that in the rating game of potential life traumas, divorce ranks second only to the death of a very close loved one in terms of the impact on the divorcing spouses and their family, friends, and workmates. Having since discussed this with my own friends and clients, I thought I would look through the big, beautiful lens of the internet to see what else has been said about this.
I never am surprised to find people fighting with each other over nonsensical matters when they could be supporting each other instead. Come on. I am a divorce mediator and coach. This is the daily standard, friends.
It does make me sad, though. My driving motivation is not to see people get divorced, it is to mediate between them or coach one of them through so that they can move forward with their souls and bank accounts as intact as possible.
I found a number of articles and studies stating that divorce ranks close or equal death as a traumatic experience. The comments spoke of grief involved in the loss of their dreams, love, daily contact with their children, and sometimes their financial security. On the flip side, I found blogs smacking back at the selfish divorcees and researchers for comparing the choice to end a legal contract to the complete, involuntary cessation of any contact forevermore with someone whom they loved deeply and always will.
All I can think is, what a painful piece for anyone to write, from either perspective. We can never know anyone else’s pain. Even if we could, why would we want our own to be greater or worse? Do I sound too much like an early 90s cliché if I wonder why we can’t simply wish each other comfort and healing?
I would never wish either the death of a loved one or a divorce upon another person. The truth still remains that neither can be avoided if the time has come.
Speaking from my own experience, divorce felt like a brand new death every few days, then every few weeks, then every few months. The death of a hope. The death of a home. The death of a belief in another, and in several others surrounding them. The death of an identity. The death of friendships which turned out to be based on who we were as a couple, not, as I had thought, on who we were as individuals as well.
It was not until the divorce was final that I could begin to form any sense of what hopes, loves, dreams and friends could come next. I have yet to see anyone truly rebuild their lives before they have accepted that the end has come and negotiated sustainable agreements. You cannot know where to start from until you admit that you have reached an ending place.
People encourage their friends who have decided to divorce to “Think again!” “Try harder!” “Fight for more!” Has that route ever helped a woman who just received news her husband has died? I can only imagine the pain inflict on a man who, upon telling his best friend that his wife has passed and he must begin arranging the funeral, hears in response, “You can’t let this happen! Isn’t there something else you can do? Have tried everything? Think of the children!”
The comparison may seem absurd, but it does not make those questions any less painful to someone who has tried date nights, couples counseling, absolutely everything you have read about in the Sunday news and more, but still has to face the undeniable truth that this marriage cannot be saved.
No one should experience a loved one’s death or a divorce. But people do every day. All we can do is honor the feelings as they come and go, allow the healing process to take its course, and offer an ear or a shoulder to a friend who needs it.
This article originally appeared on LiveThroughTheHeart.com
Photo credit: Flickr/dvE7tQ