A friend e-mailed me last week. Her angst springing forth from my computer. She feels judged by her family and friends. I often talk about judging from my perspective, only this time I speak to those who judge us.

Many year’s ago, I was about to get upset with one of my children only I had the grace to listen.

As I sat with him and heard his words, I realized he was incredibly hard on himself. I never parented him the same afterwards.

Once I realized that his personality was such that no one was going to be harder on him than himself, I knew that I had to be easier on him. If not it would have been a double whammy. He was self-responsible enough to be accountable for his own actions.

So here is my open letter to the friends and family of those divorcing:

We know we compromised our dignity and our self-respect.
We know we stayed too long, put up with too much.
We are worried about ourselves too.
We are worried about our children.
We are frustrated that we can’t seem to move on faster.
We don’t recognize ourselves either.
We struggle with letting go of love, of what we knew as our family.

Believe us when we say that even we didn’t know the lengths of self-destruction we would go to for one we loved. And even we are sad that somewhere along the line, we lost so much of ourselves that we are strangers not just to you, but to us.

We stay up at night. We toss and turn. We can’t sleep. We ask ourselves – no we beat ourselves with questions.

Why did my marriage fail?
Why do my kids have to experience this?
Why did I make these bad choices?

Then we whisper horrible secrets to ourselves.

I feel so alone.
I am so scared.
I never knew my heart could ache like this.
It feels like the world walked out on me.
Can I really do this?
Can I make enough money to support us?

Then we wake up and we try to have a plan.

Only we are so stressed we don’t feel well.
So distracted that we can’t think straight.
So hungry for someone to listen to our pain that we over talk.
Or so quiet that we hold it in.
So embarrassed that we are no longer comfortable in our own skin.
So sleep deprived that we can’t seem to accomplish much.
So emotionally weak that we aren’t strong enough to start over.

Then we leave the house.

We see those who love us and empathize and are kind.
We also see those who look at us differently.
We see those who don’t want a changed version of us.
We see those who don’t recognize us now that we are not a couple.
We see those who judge us.

So we go home.

We add in all those opinions because we are not strong.
We are vulnerable.
We are alone.
We are scared.
We are weak.

So we try to talk to a few who are making us feel judged.

Only they tell us how to feel.
They tell us we are wrong.
They tell us their expectations of us.
They tell us how other people have done divorce better.

Then when we are done begging to be heard.

We feel even more vulnerable.
Even more alone.
Even more scared.
Even more weak.

They say that divorce is like grief for a reason.

Only in divorce these people that left us are still here – some of them walking around with new parters they’ve replaced us with, some of them punishing us financially or emotionally for leaving them, some of them still controlling us while we try and free ourselves, some of them mistreating our children, some of them walking out into the world with people we know believing the mask that they are wearing and worse still hanging out with them.

We have to painfully watch this. We keep trying to move forward and heal only the grief is interrupted by them walking around us.

This is our world.

We know you love us. Only it doesn’t feel like love. Judging feels like abandonment. Like one more person is leaving us when we already aren’t strong enough to lose the one that started this chain of events.

We know you are worried for us. Only tell us how worried you are rather than telling us how you think we should behave. Ask us how you are making us feel. Are you one of the ones that make us feel loved and supported or dare you fall into the group of strong opinions and make us feel alone?

Be brave enough to ask us that. Care enough to hear the answer.

We know that it’s painful to watch us in pain. Only come and sit with us, spend time with us and our children. They feel lonely too. Time spent is worth so much more than words because we are lonely and over talking way too much as we beat up ourselves.

Ask us what we need from you. Don’t tell us what we need.

Ask yourself if you say things that we want to hear:

No one should have to experience this.
You must feel so alone.
You are gutsy and strong.
This must be so hard.
I am so loyal to you.
I will always be here for you.
I still recognize you – the pain someone caused you doesn’t cover that.

Ask yourself if you say things that we don’t want to hear:

You should be doing this or that.
Why are you doing this or that?
People think you should act differently or be happier.
People think you have changed – they want the old you.
You should be okay with us inviting your ex or hanging with them.
Other people divorce and handle things better.
How are you going to do this?

Just like in grief it is difficult to compare pain and situations and it should be done to provide empathy not judgement.

Comparing divorces and friendships to prove to someone how they should act in their divorce doesn’t help. It only helps when the comparison provides empathy or support.

We crave those who will walk closer to us, not farther away. Those who miraculously love us despite our temporary ugliness. Those who keep lovingly polishing away at our pain because they never lost sight of the light within us – even when it dimmed.

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E-mail: Colleen.Sheehy.Orme@gmail.com

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