Tuesday 17 January 2012

Divorce: Why I'm Better Off Dead

The trouble with trying to be funny is that no matter what you do, somebody somewhere is going to be offended. I'm going to wear a shirt from which I can wash out the tomato stains and put on a hard hat, well, for obvious reasons. Some of those beer cans tossed at the podium could very well be full.

Last June (2010), BigLittleWolf asked the question "Which is Worse – Death or Divorce?" on her blog and generated some interesting responses. She republished her article on Huffington Post as "Death Or Divorce: Which Is Worse?" on January 16, 2012 and once again, the article has produced some interesting personal stories. (Whoa! 127 comments as of this writing.)

While some commentators took exception to Ms. Wolf's comparison (Heck, some even took umbrage!), most understood the question in terms of divorce being the death of the marriage. If one is going to lose a spouse, is losing the spouse to death different or even easier to deal with than losing one's spouse to divorce? (Ah divorce: the gift that just keeps on giving!) To some readers who had lost their spouse to, let's say, cancer, this seemed sacrilege if not callous but the author did emphasize that her intention was never to slight anyone's loss of a spouse but to put forward the idea of comparing the grieving process in these two circumstances.

This may seem like an unproductive philosophical question with can lead to no definitive answer; something akin to mental masturbation. (Sorry, I just had to fit in some sort of sexual reference.) However, this scenario has come to my mind on more than one occasion. At the risk of sounding morbid but wanting to be more tongue-in-cheek, I have pictured how many problems would be successfully remedied with complete finality by my own death. Here are a few issues I came up with from the perspective of a divorcée who had instead ended up with a dead husband.

Financial: no splitting of the estate
"Okay financially" divided by two usually equals one not so okay financially over there and another not so okay financially over here. Yes, depending on the circumstances, the law and the ability to get the best G.D. Rottweiler lawyer under the sun, the split may not be fifty-fifty but there's no denying that one hundred per cent is, well, one hundred percent of everything.

Emotional: not your fault
There's nothing to work out with your therapist. Culpability lies one hundred percent with Greyhound and the bus with his name on it. Refer to appendix B under the entry "Betrayal" which comes right before "Bastard".

Social: transitional
Death doesn't leave you torn between "divorced", "separated", and "it's complicated" when updating your Facebook relationship status.

Family: nobody has to take sides
After a divorce, people usually choose either the husband or the wife. With death, nobody has to choose at all and there is a certain continuity between both sides of the marital divide. Besides, who really wanted to side with that rat bastard?

Wills and Pensions
Nothing to do; you get it all. See section "Financial Issues" above. That insurance policy does have a double indemnity clause for Greyhound buses, right?

Pour moi
What's in it for me? Heck, I don't have to pick up the pieces and move on. I'm dead. Hey (light comes on), I don't have to pay alimony! Hmmm, when I get to thinking about it, it really does sound like a win-win all around.

Final Word
What? Final word? I'm the one who's going to have the final word? Yes, it may be my column but I'm certain this topic is going to be discussed, dissected or tossed around long after I turn out the lights and go home. On a serious note, whether it's death or divorce, anybody is going through a painful upheaval in their lives and I only wish you the best.

While I trust you will indulge my irreverence, I would defensively respond to anyone looking at me askance by saying, "Hey! I don't deny you your coping mechanisms!" You may take exception, even umbrage (gasp), but sometimes a little humour lightens the load. I will save my sobbing uncontrollably for my therapist.

This whole mess is regrettable. I hope that everybody involved will be able to get on with the rest of their lives without suffering any lasting trauma. Believe it or not, I would like to see everyone happy, successful and at peace with themselves and the rest of the world.


Daily Plate of Crazy - Jun 29/2011
Which is Worse – Death or Divorce? by BigLittleWolf
I have never been a widow. I can only imagine it is terrible, and that depending upon the circumstances – time to prepare, or sudden loss – it is more or less “manageable” to survive the slow process of rebuilding a life. I have never suffered viewing the remains of a loved one, though I have lost both parents, and was involved (to varying degrees) in the necessary steps that followed. But I have been through divorce – a bad one – with tentacles that have tightened around every area of my adult life since the time the marriage split apart. With active tentacles that continue to do damage, a decade later.

Huffington Post - Jan 16/2012
Death Or Divorce: Which Is Worse? by BigLittleWolf
[based on the above blog posting - 127 comments as of this writing]

No Parents, No Problem - August 2010
Better Off Dead? Or Better Off Divorced? by Andrea C. Santiago
[10 year old Andrea loses her father. 11 year old Andrea tries to understand Mom's logic.]

"Just think -- It could be much worse..." she said. "Look at the bright side."

"Really?" I asked, intrigued. I wondered how it could be worse, and wondered what the "bright side" of a dead parent looks like.

"Your dad and I could be divorced!" Mom emphatically proclaimed, "Imagine how much worse that would be. That would really be awful!"

[Andrea ends with this telling remark]

The doorbell rang. My ride was here, time to go!  "I'm going over to Laura's house to spend the night," I said. I walked out the door and hopped in the car with Laura, and her living, breathing, divorced dad.

RomanticPoetess: Open Salon - Jan 17/2012
This blogger commented on a reprint of this article. I found what she said so compelling, I decided to publish it here (my bold):

I have also been through both. They are completely different experiences. One takes your breath away but you always know you were loved, the other shakes your confidence in your own lovability. If I did not learn how to love and be love by the first one the second one would have been more damaging. Neither is recommended to try without the assistance of a strong support network.


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BigLittleWolf said...

Frankly, I find your humor delicious. But then again, I also resort to humor (when possible) in stumbling my way through tough philosophical or pragmatic situations.

While neither death nor divorce ought to be summed up as a "situation" (and nor do I intend to do so), I understand why my posing the questions I do offend some, and yet my desire was to (as delicately as possible) raise issues of personal, familial, and societal supports and their inequities.

I, too, find it an interesting (and illuminating) discussion. I'm sad that I offended some, hope that I can genuinely offer some comfort to others. (Some may debate my "capacity" to do so - as one who has suffered loss of mate, loss of parents, loss of home, loss of his family, loss of my family, loss of a life's worth of earned savings, loss of faith in my judgment, and significant compromise to my health and ability to make a living - I do believe I understand notions of loss, particularly when it is the gift that keeps on giving - divorce.)

One of the hardest things to reconcile is the loss of a belief system. Belief in the goodness of others, in your institutions, in friendship, in family, in marriage itself.

As I said in the column, "this is not the emotional terrain of every divorce" - it has been mine. And worse, the physical, logistical, and financial legacy for me to bear, as well as my children. I will have spared them much (not all), but the legacy is mine - for life. That doesn't preclude going on with life - and finding meaning and joy in doing so.

But it's a life shadowed, much, I assume, as following any series of deaths.
That said, I have not experienced the death of a spouse, and nor would I ever wish for my children to know the death of a parent before his or her time.

Still... you have a very compelling list... :)

E Wolpe said...

Agreed: delicious humor, compelling list. Thank you both for your thoughtful writing on this subject.