Touched by loss. Empowered through community.

How Would You React?

Tuesday, March 25, 2014
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I was at a high school basketball game last week and ran into an old friend that I grew up with.  I haven’t seen this person for at least 30 years but have “re-connected” a bit through Social Media over the last year or so.

We began talking and within 15 seconds he was telling me how he was going through a nasty divorce.  The ex-wife was this, that and the other and things were so difficult.  This went on for a good 3 minutes and then he did the unexplainable:  He said, and I quote, “You know, I know what you went through but I’m sure what I’m going through now is much worse!”

So I ask all of you – How would you have reacted?  What would you have said?  Here’s what I did.  After almost choking on the last kernel of popcorn I had just eaten, and wanting very badly to embarrass the heck out of him, I said, “I’m sorry for your troubles – see you around.” 

I walked away and yes, I was burning inside, ready to explode.  I thought to myself, “How in the heck could he have just said that?  How insensitive can someone possibly be?  How could anything be worse than what my boys and me experienced?  What a complete jackass!”

I went back to my seat and tried to enjoy the game but THOSE words kept running through my head; “What I’m going through now is much worse.”  By halftime I finally calmed down a bit and I actually found myself sympathizing with him.  Could it be?  Was his situation actually worse than mine?  Could his pain and grief be deeper than mine?

I tried to rationalize but it didn’t help.  Who am I to judge someone else’s misfortune and pain?  Maybe just maybe he is feeling a greater sense of loss than I am?  Is it possible, even remotely?  The real answer I guess is that it IS possible, regardless of how incredibly wounded I feel.  Though I truly disagree with him, perhaps it could be.

This brings me to the point of this story – TOLERANCE.  There is such a lack of it today.  I told this story to my boys and they couldn’t believe that I really just walked away.  They couldn’t believe that I didn’t stand up for myself and tell this guy to go take a flying leap off a bridge.  They couldn’t believe that someone could be so self-centered, insensitive and rude.  So I explained to them that this won’t be the last time that someone compares their situation to yours.  It won’t be the last time that someone shows a complete lack of common sense and insensitivity.  It won’t be the last time that you feel crushed, irate and feel like crying all at once. 

But, I explained, maybe a situation like this will keep one of us, myself included, from ever comparing our situation to someone else’s.  Maybe this will keep one of us, myself included, from “speaking without thinking.”  Maybe I encountered this situation so my boys would learn from something like this.  Maybe, just maybe, we can ALL learn what is missing in today’s society – TOLERANCE.



Scott, I admire your action and then your reflection on this small moment that had a big impact on you. Your action has already had a ripple effect on your kids, which will equip them to deal with insensitive comments that people will make to them in the future. It will continue to happen that people will speak before they can think their comments through. That old acquaintance really must be in a painful place in his life. I'm glad you took the high road on this. We can all learn from each other's stories, can't we?

I think you handled yourself with dignity and grace. This guy sounds like a complete D bag. Wouldn't have wasted my breath on him either.

Ilove that you shared the experience with your kids. I had an experience where I was talking about the pain that my partener went through before his death from brain cancer (which I don't share with many people) and she said to be to stop being a victim and move on with my life...ouch....

Scott, I am so sorry you had to endure standing and listening to such a self-absorbed person. It never ceases to amaze me at the depth of insensitivity that people show in all parts of society. I find myself eavesdropping on conversations in stores to make sure that customers aren't verbally abusing clerks, so that if nothing else, I can point out their bad behavior and support the clerks. In this situation, I'm sure you had a suspicion that this guy was totally consumed by his own problems and probably wouldn't muster up a "how are you and your kids doing?" ANYTIME I hear someone bad mouthing the other parent during a divorce, I am stunned, but sadly, not surprised. My words to a former friend were "you know, at least the father of your children is alive and present in your children's lives." Loss is loss, no matter what the circumstances. But when we lose someone forever, as I did, and have to face each day knowing we will never see them again, it just brings me to my knees as it has done these past few days. I'd give anything to have Dave back, irregardless of how we struggled in our marriage. Our loved ones left life too soon and no one can understand how that feels until they have gone through it. Keep talking to your boys and letting them know what a great dad they have!

I'm glad you responded the way you did - for your sake and the sake of your kids. The truth is that there is no such thing as "worse pain" or "less pain." In the end it is just pain and we all do the best we can. I will say that having heard some pretty awful divorce stories, I'm glad I never went through that particular hell.

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