If you are going through a divorce, chances are you undoubtedly grieving. But remember that movie, “Crazy Stupid Love?” (2011) with Steve Carell and Ryan Gosling? There is a scene where one of the main characters co-workers asks him what’s wrong and he tells the guy “I’m going through a divorce.” The co-worker gasps and says, “Thank God. We all thought you had cancer!” In other words, the co-worker didn’t think that the main character should have been that upset about his divorce, because there are worse things in life.
This is a guest post by one of my faves, Rabbi Baruch HaLevi, who talks about how those going through a divorce should own the suffering, and how you have a right to grieve and think the world is ending, despite the fact that everyone else has problems too, and that their are world crises that some might think are way worse than divorce. Read this. You’ll love it!
The Suffering Olympics by Rabbi Baruch HaLevi
The Summer Olympics are coming to an end, which got me thinking. Though watching the athletes compete is thrilling and unites us, there is another type of competition which divides us and causes great harm. This competition is what I call the Suffering Olympics. Unlike the Summer Olympics, the Suffering Olympics take place every day of every year. One of the most recent Suffering Olympic events that I’ve witnessed is around divorce. Here’s an example.
A woman called me to inquire about counseling. By the tone in her voice she was clearly nervous to tell me she was seeking divorce counseling. After doing so, she then proceeded to apologize in about ten different ways why her suffering wasn’t justified:
“My mom told me to get over it and move on.”
“A co-worker reminded me that at least I have my health.”
“I’m so sorry for crying,” she continued. “I know I shouldn’t be suffering like I am. It’s not a death, it’s just a divorce.”
In a myriad of ways the world around this woman was telling her that her suffering wasn’t justified or wasn’t in proportion to what had happened. That made her believe that even if her divorce was difficult, it wasn’t like anyone died and certainly wasn’t going to win her any medals in the Suffering Olympics.
At these Olympics, participants are judged by others based on how many painful flips they’ve gone through, how many tragic twists they’ve undergone, or how small of a splash they’ve made when diving into the suffering pool. When it comes to divorce, let’s just say that compared to the other events it hardly tends to get primetime coverage.
However, unlike the Summer Olympics, life and the challenges we face are not a competition. They can’t be evenly matched or compared. Each is so vastly unique that it is simply incomparable to any other challenge. Likewise, no one participant can be compared to another. No event is the same. No medals are awarded.
We hear about heart-wrenching tragedies every day from friends and loved ones, or simply listening to the news. We learn that a friend’s mother is dealing with a terminal illness, or that a neighbor has lost her husband, and all the while there are starving children in Africa. These challenges are each sad and tragic in their own right. Yet, none of these challenges has a bearing on what you are enduring. They have no impact on the circumstances you are surviving. They simply have nothing to do with your particular race. Both theirs and yours are deserving of proper attention, not of comparison.
I shared the same message with the woman who called me that I share with all my clients who are contemplating, amidst, or enduring divorce:
Your suffering is real.
Your suffering is legitimate.
Your suffering is yours and yours alone.
Do not qualify your suffering.
Do not minimize your suffering.
Do not apologize for your tears or your suffering.
Rather than judge one another, let’s strive to support one another. Rather than compete let’s help each other complete our own, individual, unique and worthy race.
Dr. Baruch HaLevi, (aka. Rabbi B) is an ordained rabbi with a doctoral degree and nearly two decades of experience in guiding people through all types of transitions, challenges and losses. Baruch now devotes himself full time to coaching and counseling clients by phone/Skype. You can learn more about Baruch, contact him to work with him or read his newest book, “Spark Seekers: Mourning with Meaning, Living with Light,” at www.RabbiB.com.