And I've heard the parents' point of view: "I don't know why he left my son (or daughter.) My child is so devastated, and won't talk to me about it. I don't know what to do."
And there's the children's point of view. One friend told me "My children don't even want to talk to or see their father since he left me. He really left US."
And when two people separate or divorce, so many friends take sides that there's a break in the fabric of a whole close network of relationships.
If you're divorced or separated, you know all this. You know that whenever a marriage breaks up, it's like a fall - or a jump - from the side of a cliff - for everybody involved.
The most important things friends and relatives can do are 1) Don't judge in a spirit of arrogance, as if you're perfect.. 2) Listen with compassion. 3) If you're a good friend of both, if possible, don't "Take Sides." Be there for both. (Except, obviously, in the case of spousal or child abuse, where a friend or relative might need to give witness to the abuse to the authorities.) 4) Be there for the children too.
God doesn't take sides. God is there for both parties - and the children - to guide them, comfort them, support them through this whether or not it was the best decision and regardless of what faults and mistakes are involved. The decision's been made. God will work with it, around it, inside it. So should friends and relatives. They can be the healing, loving hands and voices of God for people who feel like a mass of exposed nerves.
I remember one Christmas when we got together to celebrate with a couple we'd been friends with for a long time. We'd brought separate Christmas presents for both, instead of buying one large one, even though we knew that the marriage was currently very rocky and possibly headed to divorce. We knew the wife better than the husband, and had heard "her side" of the story and not his. But we didn't want to judge. What goes on in a marriage, what goes on inside the heads of both people, is known only to God. We loved them both.
When we handed the husband his present, he cried. I'm sure he'd thought that we would take sides. They were healing tears.
The couple did end up going to counseling and doing a lot of praying, and the marriage endures to this day.
When a marriage dies - unless it's a "friendly divorce" - and maybe even then - both people often go through a tornado of feelings. Agonizing hurt. Acute rejection. Hopeless guilt. Failure. Feelings that he or she is broken beyond repair. The pain is so deep and paralyzing that for awhile it's almost impossible for them to talk to anyone about it. Parents, relatives, and friends have to be creative to find ways to help. Send cards, emails, texts, Facebook messages. Let them know you're praying for them. Just show you're there until they or he or she is finally able to speak with you.
Psychology and Spirituality can be a big help at this time too. Sometimes the person who wants a divorce - or the person he or she wants a divorce from - is going through deep depression and not thinking clearly. Sometimes there is even clinical depression. This person needs help, not judgement. Often the right counselor, the right medication, can make a miraculous difference. A talk with a clergy person, or the Sacrament of Reconciliation can be reassurance that God is still there for him or her. Speak up gently, lovingly, clearly, if you think this might be the case.
My friend whose husband had asked for a divorce and who had just received word that the divorce had gone through, said to me "My favorite prayer is 'Jesus I trust in You.'" Thank God she prays in trust. Only trust in God upholds all of us so that we know that, falling off any cliff, no matter how high, we're not going to shatter when we hit the ground. We have to trust that God will bring good out of any and every situation. If our ears and eyes and hearts are open, we'll find our way, even grow in self-understanding and maturity, even when the darkness seems absolute.
"The Lord God will wipe away the tears from all faces!" (Isaiah 25:8).
Faith is believing that God is there with us, even if we can't sense God's Presence. Faith is believing that God will make a way for us, even when we can't see a way. Faith is believing with all our hearts that God loves all of us, that God believes that we're all valuable, not disposable. God doesn't condemn us. God is always here to transform us, lead us to a new life! May God save us from the tragedy of condemning ourselves or anyone else.
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