Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Divorce is Not The End, it is the Beginning of a New Chapter

A few weeks ago, a friend of mine's ex-husband passed away after a long illness. It was incredibly sad. He was in his 40's and his children are still of school-going age.

I'm not sure of the exact details, but my friend dated him at school and they were married for quite some time before they divorced. Both parties eventually re-married and life continued. With children in the mix, there was always a fair amount of organising to ensure both parents got to spend quality time with their children. In order for this to happen, constant communication between the two was necessary. I'm sure in the beginning the conversations were strained, with emotions running high, having to talk to "the ex" but as the years passed, the conversations had grown into friendly, respectful and upbeat encounters, instead of sharp and abrupt messages. Both parents had wisely nurtured this relationship as co-parents to their beautiful children.

This is what good parents do, they put their childrens' needs above their own and build a new relationship with their child's other parent. I'm sure there were debates and disagreements along the way but these children weren't made to feel like pawns in a chess game, which often happens with divorce, they felt loved and had good relationships with both sets of parents.

The reason for this post, is that I watched the social process of this death from the outside and it really disturbed me. When the dad died, Facebook lit up with messages of love and sympathy and support for the family (social media really comes into its own during drastic, life-changing events.) Many messages were generic but some were intensely personal, remembering specific events that friends and family had enjoyed with the deceased, some knowing him for longer than 30 years. The messages were heartbreaking and everyone reached out to his wife and children, often tagging them and offering support. This was really lovely and must have given the family so much strength during their darkest hour.

What disturbed me, was that NOT ONE person mentioned "the ex," the mother of the deceased's children who now has the difficult task of helping her children navigate the turbulent waters of life without their father's guidance. The woman, who once stood at the alter, starry-eyed, imagining loving this man to eternity, the woman who had loved him and had his children, who had shared her hopes and fears and opened her soul to him during their time together, was hurting. She too had suffered a massive loss. I understand that the marriage was over and I'm not saying that she was still IN love with the man, but she definitely still loved him. He would always have a special place in her heart that nobody else could have, not romantically, but in a shared life-experience way, as her children's father. There will never be another call to talk about the kids, to rejoice in their achievements and commiserate in their disappointments. Having someone in your life for 28 years and then having them yanked from it, leaves a hole.

When I sent my friend a message to give her some support as she prepared for the funeral, I addressed this issue with her and she admitted that she was incredibly hurt. She knew her place, she was not the widow, but she was something. Those long-term friends who had posted personal messages and sent condolences to the family, had once been friends of hers too, they had been at her house, eaten at her table. Obviously in a divorce, friends will pick a side, but they knew her and they must have known that she was hurting, if nothing more than for her seeing her children lose their dad, but not a word was uttered typed to console her. Her final words haunted me, enough to write this post to remind people that although it's a tricky situation, keeping the peace with the new wife and not treading on toes, a simple text or phone call to "the ex" to express condolences, would not go amiss.

The words she wrote were as follows:
Reading all the messages has been heartbreaking. Not one acknowledgement to me the ex-wife.Who says my heart is not as sore as any one else? I just want to scream "Hello! I'm here too!" I'm so sad. It's like I was and am now nothing. I will just have to face the ugliness of it all. I am dreading the funeral but will be there to support my children, and my husband will be there to support me, as I say my final goodbye to the man who once was my life.