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Your Child Got Divorced?!
Mom with a View

Your Child Got Divorced?!

I am astounded by people’s utter lack of sensitivity.


I am still reeling from an article I read recently in Ami Magazine. A father describes the experience of his daughter’s divorce, the challenges, the pain and the growth. It was an impressive, honest and heart-wrenching piece. But what left me with my mouth agape was his list of some of the comments that were actually made to him in the wake of that traumatic event:

“How embarrassing!”
“It will take her years to get remarried.”
“She will marry someone who also has a problem.”
“Just think how much money you spent.”
“I can only imagine how much debt you are in.”
“Was she abused?”
“They couldn’t have thought about that before they got married?”

I am actually reeling just from writing this. It’s not that the comments are wrong. They may be an accurate description. Some people (although I don’t think this father) may feel embarrassed. It may be a long while before she remarries – for many reasons (it may be a long while before she has any desire to remarry!). She will, more likely than not, marry someone who is also divorced (Is that considered also having a problem?). I’m sure a lot of money was spent. And so on…

But all this is beside the point. It’s not the truth behind the questions that’s in doubt. It’s not even the sincerity of the questioner or their genuine concern that’s in doubt. It’s their complete lack of sensitivity. How could anyone speak like this?

We’ve all had experiences where people have spoken to us without thinking. And I’m sure all of us have spoken without thinking a time or two as well. But hopefully not quite so blatantly or directly. Hopefully not quite so hurtfully. Hopefully not with such lack of compassion for the subject of our questions.

I was once at a shiva where an older husband had left a young widow. “Well you knew when you married him that he would probably die long before you,” remarked one visitor. She probably did but was it necessary to remind her of that? For what purpose?

I’m embarrassed for this stranger – not because his daughter got divorced but because he had to listen to all these thoughtless comments. I’m embarrassed for myself that people speak this way. And I’m taking it as yet another reminder of our need to be oh-so-careful when talking with others.

I imagine that I wouldn’t have a serious conversation with someone about their child’s divorce unless we were close friends. And I also imagine that if we were close friends, I wouldn’t speak that way to someone I loved. But we all make mistakes.

The author of the piece suggests that these hurtful remarks were the result of people not knowing what to say, of their discomfort. I think he gives them too much credit and, in my opinion, is working too hard to judge them favorably!

Yes they may have felt awkward. So don’t address it all. There are many other topics to speak of. Just like we try to avoid lashon hara (derogative speech) by discussing the weightier issues of the times or some Torah thoughts, the same would apply here. Certainly world news provides us with many opportunities for conversation!

We have an obligation to care about all of other fellow Jews, in fact about all of humanity – but not to befriend them all. If I were that father I would make some decisions about who my true friends are and who I want to spend time with.

And I would try to make some personal choices as well. I would try to put in place some safeguards so that I stop before I speak to ensure that my words will not be a source of pain or discomfort to anyone around me. We may not be able to do this perfectly but we can at least try.

Then perhaps this particular aspect of this father’s pain will not have gone to waste.

November 11, 2017

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Visitor Comments: 5

(4) Anonymous, November 20, 2017 12:27 AM

Is stigma of divorce or insensitivity the greater problem?

Seems to me that the weight placed on divorce and a tendency to rush to judgment are issues at least as big as insensitivity. Remember when no-fault divorce laws were a subject of enormous debate, at least in the U.S.? Who has the right, especially without knowing all the circumstances, to conclude that a woman was more at fault or will suffer when a divorce occurs? And who can say that a divorced man or woman might not make a better marriage partner for someone who has never married previously? What about the consequences of a decision to remain in an unhappy or abusive or downright dangerous marriage? More than a few ex-spouses, regardless of gender, deserve congratulations for calling it quits -- but taking that step, too, requires a fairly full knowledge and understanding of the situation. When feeling pressed to respond to a recent divorce, I've tried to csay something like, "That can be rough -- I hope s/he is (or you are) getting along well."

(3) L.S., November 18, 2017 9:47 AM

sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me--NOT!

I am shocked by how often I encounter frum people who lack empathy. I am marrying at just shy of 32 and confided in a much older friend about my anxiety over having children. She said she could totally relate. This woman married at 19 and had a child by 21, and four kids by 27. She also mentioned how she wishes she could have had more children. This is really insensitive. My husband is not Jewish. She told me my marriage is worthless. Wow. Words hurt.

(2) Moshe Horowitz, November 16, 2017 2:30 PM

Judge favorably!

This article highlights the dangers of modern day phycology.Here a broken father rises above his own bitterness and judges people favorably a difficult mitzvah under any circumstance.and what do we get from the psychologist?"I think he is working to hard to give them the benefit of the doubt" Kudos to the father for acting according to Tora! keep it up no matter what people say!

Dani, November 26, 2017 6:52 AM

same exact thought!

I thought this quote "I think he is working too hard to give them the benefit of the doubt" couldn't be further away from a Torah perspective. Surprised its even published on a Jewish site..

(1) Nancy, November 13, 2017 12:47 PM

Thinking before we speak and write

I am far from perfect in this regard. However, the comments in this article will continue to help me THINK before speaking or hitting send. Todah rabah!

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