Loss By Death Versus Loss Through Divorce

Here we go again. My radar pricked up tonight when a friend of mine reminded me forcibly that the reason an individual in our discussion group dropped out was because she was a tender widow. Meaning, she had lost her husband.


Yeah, I feel sorry for her, as I do for all people who have lost their mates. But I had lost my husband too, and I had been married as long as the widow, yet when I bring my feelings of loss up among this group (and this is not often, believe me) I see their eyes glaze. Here's the difference between society's attitude towards a widow and divorcee: Society has accorded the widow all the dignity of her position - a solemn funeral and the rituals that accompany death, all of her husband's asset's, and all the sympathy and empathy she could ever wish for.

A divorcee's loss is generally devalued by society, the legal system, comedians, and yes, even friends and family. The reality is that while the widow is given every benefit of the doubt both legally, financially, and by society, the divorcee is generally viewed as a "loser" in marriage. The loss of a divorced mate, which is felt just as keenly as the loss of a dead mate, is swept aside as having less value on the "loss meter" scale than a widow's. As one friend told me, "Bob is still alive." Cold comfort, as he is completely out of my life in every sense of the word.

This same friend felt free to tell me a few weeks ago, "Bob was strange." Would she have made such a statement to a widow? I doubt it. At the time the widow dropped out of our discussion group a few years back, my wounds from losing my husband were just as raw as hers and I was struggling mightily to hold myself together for the sake of this group. Had I quit as she did, would I have received the same tender consideration? Looking back I think not.

I am tired of this disparity in treatment. Divorce is not a joke. It is as traumatic as the death of a loved one and loss of a child. It is that simple. Thank you for listening.

For my other post on the same topic, Death vs. Divorce, click here.


Anonymous said...

My husband died of cancer. We had been married 31 yrs.
I really do see your point. And I agree, any women who has lost a husband suffers a loss.

FI0NA said...

to somehow hold a partner responsible for the divorce, and therefore less worthy of sympathy is like holding a woman responsible for her husband's heart attack because she fed him/allowed him to eat too much fatty food. But you are right people DO see them differently, and I as a divorced person feel a distinct chilling in many of my previous friendships.

Daniella said...

Hi all,

I'm writing because I'm researching a film project for PBS/Frontline filmmaker Ofra Bikel -- one of the most respected and awarded documentary filmmakers working today. She hopes to make a film about a divorcing (or recently divorced) couple that has been married 20 years or more, probably in their late 50s or older, preferably with adult children.

Ofra is interested in questions like: what happens to a couple who lived together and shared their lives for 25 or 30 years (or more) before deciding
to separate? What is separation like at their age? How did it happen?

What were their lives like and how/why did things change along the way? What does the present look like for them? How do they see the future? Ofra imagines profiling a few couples (or former couples) experiences in order to explore an important aspect of the changing American family.

Do you have any thoughts on people who might fit this description and/or how to go about finding them? I should mention that Ofra is a very
sensitive filmmaker and I can assure you that she would handle anyone she talks to with great care and respect. A letter from Frontline Executive Producer David Fanning introducing Ofra follows this email.

Thanks, and please feel free to contact me and/or to forward this letter as you see fit.

Daniella Brower

Letter about Ofra:

December 5, 2007

To Whom It May Concern:

This is a letter to introduce Ms. Ofra Bikel, one of the most highly praised and experienced producers with whom FRONTLINE has contracted over the years. Her documentaries have received broadcast journalism’s most prestigious honors, including the Dupont-Columbia University Journalism Award and the Robert F. Kennedy Award. On November 13 of this year she received the John Chancellor Award from Columbia University, given to a journalist “whose reporting over time shows courage, integrity, curiosity and intelligence.”
Ms. Bikel’s FRONTLINE credits include: “Clarence Thomas and Anita Hill: Public Hearing, Private Pain,” an exploration of the impact of Thomas’s Supreme Court confirmation hearings on black Americans; “Divided Memories,” an examination of people’s recovered memories; and the acclaimed “Innocence Lost” trilogy of programs. She also produced and directed “Snitch,” which explored mandatory minimum sentences; “An Ordinary Crime”; “The Plea”; and “The O.J. Verdict,” which was broadcast in October of 2005, the verdict’s tenth anniversary. Ms. Bikel’s latest film, “When Kids Get Life,” looks at the crime and punishment of five young men serving life without parole.
In addition, Ms. Bikel has produced several foreign affairs reports that are distinguished by their sensitivity, depth and thoughtfulness. They have ranged from the experience of Americans working in Japan, to a report on Poland’s attempt to change from communism to capitalism, to a profile of Ehud Olmert.
FRONTLINE is an hour-long documentary series broadcast each week by over 330 PBS stations, and its audience is one of the strongest in the country for current affairs broadcasting. FRONTLINE is widely watched by policy makers, journalists and those interested in intelligent, literate reporting on the important issues of our times. FRONTLINE consistently receives prominent press reviews in papers such as The Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Chicago Tribune, The Miami Herald, The Boston Globe and dozens of others across the country.
FRONTLINE’s reputation and body of work sets it apart from commercial television. We seek out producers and journalists like Ms. Bikel, who can bring depth and understanding to current events, and on FRONTLINE, we give them the time and space to pursue their serious journalistic work.
We will be grateful for any assistance you can offer to Ms. Bikel.

David Fanning
Executive Producer, FRONTLINE

For your reference, below are links to the websites of some of Ofra Bikel’s FRONTLINE films:
When Kids Get Life

The Plea

The Burden of Innocence

An Ordinary Crime

The Case for Innocence

Ofra Bikel’s producer webpage

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