A few years before my own divorce but while I was acutely aware that my marriage was in shambles, I taught Sunday school to elementary age children. Two of my students where smart, sweet siblings, who were a joy to teach.
Tragically after their mother filed for divorce, her estranged husband, shot and killed both children as they slept before turning the gun on himself. This was my first real life encounter with divorce related suicide and murder. I remember vividly hearing the news, and a mixture of devastation and disbelief at how could a parent ever, under any circumstances harm, non less murder their sleeping children. It still today is both horrifying and tragically sad. You can't read the news with out seeing regular stories of murder and suicide caused by marriage issues or divorce filings.
As I exited my marriage and started DreamsRecycled I began to educate myself on divorce from the legal aspects, to emotional factors, the causes, the relationship dynamics, the emotional abuse, the drama, the unfairness of the family court system, alimony reform, you name it I researched it. I also have been fortunate to hear, firsthand thousands of people divorce stories. The most unbelievable thing by far I have found in thousands of hours of educated myself, is the statistic that divorce maybe the single most contributing factor, to more murders and suicides than anything else in the USA. Think about that, we allow things not working out with 1 of 7 billion people to drive us to the depth of hopelessness, that compels people to take their own lives, or worse the lives of others around them including innocent children.
I maybe naively believe this statistic can be drastically reduced by among other things, removing the stigma and shame that go along with divorce. What if we as a nation just stopped looking as divorce as a failure? What if we just began to view it as two people who tried hard and couldn't be happy together, deciding to be happy apart? Would we still try and shame people for choosing to be happy? I was walking out of my local pharmacy at the beginning of my divorce with my three small children in tow, when a neighbor spotted me ran right over and in a very loud voice in front of my children said, "OMG I hear you're getting divorced, did he cheat on you?" I replied no and she continued "he must have they all do, did you cheat on him?" again I replied no, and she continued, digging deeper and deeper, trying to shame me for my failed marriage, trying to place blame, imply it was my fault or my ex fault that we were somehow lesser beings than she was as she's still married. My divorce was extremely dismal and dark, and the last thing I needed was to be hounded with blame, shame or accusations. That also went for the whispering playground moms and the friends who vanished, because they felt somehow divorce maybe contagious.
I am going to take this one step further, life is full of adversity, obstacles, challenges and changes, people get fired, people have accidents, they get diseases, they lose their jobs, they get cancer. No one would dream of interrogating a sick person on how what and why they got sick, did they bring it on themselves etc. However in divorce it's an acceptable thought, an acceptable projection onto divorcees that we must be to blame somehow for our failed love lives, so therefore we aren't shown the care and concern most people show to others during other adversity.
I speak to a lot of soon to be divorcees and I think the vast majority agree with me that the added shaming amplifies the already deep depression you often are in during divorce. I remember the thought of telling my friends or family had me in massive emotional turmoil, I couldn't eat, sleep, think, I didn't want to admit to anyone I or we had failed, that we had given up, seemed like such a disappointment for all who knew us.
What if we had family and friends greet the news of the divorce with sympathy and validation, as I greet divorcees on my website. What if we just accepted that for more than half of us, our marriages will end, it's a fact, not a rarity, it's the norm. What if every word divorcees heard was skewed more in the positive? "Wow Sally I am sorry to hear that, but it's also quite exciting getting to start over, to find yourself again, date again, find love again, be happy again." What if divorce parties really were full scale celebrations, of being given a new chance at finding a happy life? What if we applauded people for leaving unhealthy, unhappy marriages? Some of you reading this may think I am a divorce monger advocating it, but I am far from that, we direct everyone to seek counseling to save marriages, to make it work, give it a go etc. but let's say you have done all of that, and still are miserable. You are modeling miserable relationship and unhappiness to your children. Why do we put this on people that somehow because they said a vow, they should stay and live a life of unhappiness? I think people don't give enough credit to people who are brave enough to leave, and do so in a healthy amicable fashion. How many life's would be saved by just a shift in attitude, a shift, that instead of shames, validates, holds people's hands, encourages them to have hope and assures them, that there will and can be a better after divorce life.
I constantly tell people no ONE human on this planet is worth feeling hopeless about, people change evolve and fall in and out of love, this in no way makes you a bad person. It makes you human. That's it. It isn't that this isn't painful. It is just that you can much more healthily channel that pain into positive goals, dreams and future plans than letting it suck you into the abyss and drown you.
So if you are faced with a divorce, hold on to hope, hold on to the fact that what you are going through is the norm of over half the married people. Know that this too shall pass, and with effort work and a positive attitude you will have a happier ever after. Maybe next time too someone tells you they are getting divorced you should show sympathy, but also watch your words, use positive comments, and make them feel hopeful too.
Divorce is unanimously not considered a positive life event, however like with all other thing in life it can, should and must be handled positively to help in part lower the horrible suicide and murder statistics associate with it.
Need help? In the U.S., call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.