Divorce – the Individual & the Community
Divorce is certainly one of the most painful and anguish ridden experiences in a person’s life. The powerful emotions that emerge are a combination of loss, bereavement, grief, worry, confusion and fear. These emotions result in a downhill spiral of hopelessness and despair as we are plunged headfirst into an emotional crisis.
In our community, divorce is no longer a rare occurrence. There are families in our midst experiencing break-up and having to survive the resulting pain and hardship.
Having been through this painful experience myself, I discovered firsthand just how difficult it has been for other people to relate to and deal with. Many kind and generous people wanted to be supportive – but they didn’t want to offend, interfere, say the “wrong” thing, take sides or appear overly curious. Not everyone is a psychologist, counsellor or social worker, and in general, most of these kind and generous people didn’t know what to do or say. So, the majority of people did or said nothing. The phone stopped ringing, the doorbell stopped ringing and even the children stopped coming to play. The result was a feeling of total alienation.
Why did so many people respond in this way?
I am writing this article because I believe that we have a serious issue here. I also believe that as a community we sometimes need to introspect, look at ourselves critically and see what we can do better.
I have watched the community transform and grow, but with that growth and transformation, I believe that we have lost something very special. When our community was first built, it was full of wonderful caring people who devoted their lives to helping one another and making the community special. This very special community attracted more and more wonderful people from all over the world, who in turn, continued to do more chesed.
Now that the community is so large, I cannot help but notice the stark contrast in how the community once was and how it is today. In the era of the “list”, “email aliya” and “nefesh b’nefesh” – the entire aliya process has become easier and more simplified. There is less difficulty, pressure and hardship in making the move and in building a life here. Many families move in and continue with their comfortable lives as they did in Chol with a few minor adjustments. People in general are more wrapped up in their lives and feel less of a need, obligation or desire to reach out to others.
Without an element of a doubt, this is in some ways a positive situation, but in other ways it is frighteningly dangerous.
If someone in the community is not OK, do we really notice anymore??
If someone needs help, are we paying any attention???
The emotional pain of my divorce and that of other women in the same situation was compounded by another issue – the reactions, comments and the behaviour of individuals. Many individuals are very quick to judge and form “opinions” on other people’s marriages. The level of ignorance amongst these intelligent people has been beyond belief. They have very happily listened to the version of events of one side and then formed an “opinion”, but made no effort to listen to both sides. An opinion is only valid if it is based on factual knowledge and information. They have not been a “fly on the wall” in our marriages. They therefore have no knowledge and no information and their “opinions” have neither validity nor value.
One person’s side is not a factual account of a marriage. It is one person’s version of events. It is tainted with the individual’s personal biases, limitations of memory, elements of exaggeration and in some cases – the re-writing of history. People tell you what they want you to hear and don’t tell you what they don’t want you to hear – no matter how “believable” they come across. In every case of divorce and separation, there is much more to the situation than meets the eye.
A wise woman once said to me “after you get divorced, you will very quickly discover who your friends are and who your friends are not”.
Nobody really knows what goes on behind closed doors and nobody has a right to judge someone for the life decision that they make. That difficult decision is based on their traumas, painful experiences, personal tolerance levels and life disappointments. Nobody has a right to judge another person’s pain.
The number of divorcing couples is increasing and the face of the community is changing. It is important to recognise, accept and understand this new reality. The community needs to grow up, shape up and reach out and accept this challenge.
People experiencing divorce and separation need emotional support and help from those around them. We should not feel alienated and we should not feel that people are making inappropriate judgements and forming inappropriate “opinions”. It is important for the community to reach out and be supportive and not back-off and shy away. When someone has a baby, everyone comes forward to help, cooks meals, pays visits and brings gifts. Why is it that when someone is going through the most traumatic event of their life, everyone suddenly backs-off at a time when they are most needed.
I would like to give my heartfelt appreciation to the handful of people in the Sheinfeld community who did come forward and who helped me to cope with this episode in my life. I will be eternally grateful to them. It is my heartfelt wish that this wonderful community will continue to grow and flourish – but most of all, I hope and pray that it does not lose its greatest asset along the way.
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