QUESTION: My mom left my dad for another man six months ago. My brother and I chose to stay with our dad. I’m 14 and my little brother is 11. We see our dad being sad, although he is taking good care of us. Just as before mom left, we all help with the housework and cooking and once a week we do a family activity together. We have two questions. How can we help our dad not be sad anymore and, even though mom and dad have joint custody, we really don’t want to have anything to do with mom. We don’t know what to do.
~Sad Brother and Sister
Dear Sad Brother and Sister,
I am struck by the sadness, not only of your dad but so much more so of yourself and your brother. It feels like you, Sister, have taken on the sadness and also stepped up by filling in for your mother in more ways than one. Your dad and your brother are lucky to have you in their lives.
You say your dad is taking good care of you. I am so glad that he is. He has been deeply hurt and is sad, however, he is also your parent and needs to continue to fulfill his role as a parent to you. That means that although you care about him and love him very much, you, as the child, cannot be the source of his not being sad anymore. There are problems he is facing and feelings he is having that he must take charge of, and that you must not take charge of.
About the problem of not wanting to see your mom – has she attempted to talk to you to reestablish connection with you? Have you talked to your dad or some other adults that you trust about your feelings toward your mom? This other adult could be a therapist, teacher, chaplin, or pastor that you know and can feel comfortable with. One thing you mustn’t do is feel that if you still love and are connected to your mom that you are betraying your dad. Your relationship with your mother must not be overshadowed by the relationship of your parents to each other, even though as a human being and a daughter, you will have feelings about their situation.
It is right that you help with chores around the house and kitchen. Continue to love your dad as you do and balance will once again come to your home. Your dad will face his problems, his relationship with your mother and his return to a happier life, in time.
May you be blessed with the patience and strength to see this healing of your family through. I wish you better days and happy moments, Sister and Brother.
Rabbi Janet Bieber
Dear Sad Sister and Brother,
I want to thank you for being brave enough to seek counsel for this challenging time in your lives. First, let me say the feelings you are having are natural. Sharing your feelings helps you during this time. Your desire to not see him sad should be temporary. Your continued support and love for your dad will help. The more time that passes will bring happier times to you and your brother.
Second, I know you want to help your dad to not feel sad but that unfortunately is not your responsibility. You will however be able to help him in a very big way by continuing to be loving, caring, thoughtful and respectful children. The joy and happiness that this will bring your dad is not meant to take away his hurt feelings. His hurt feelings will become better as time heals them. When you and your brother focus on being happy for yourselves this will definitely make your dad happier inside, just don’t expect that happiness to change his sad feelings.
Third, your feelings to not want anything to do with your mom are natural given the circumstances. I would ask you to try to look at your time with her in a different way. One day when you are older and decide to have a family and have children of your own, you will want your children to know their grandmother. You may not think your feelings will change by then but chances are they will and you want to have had a relationship with your mom that makes it easier for your children. Now this may sound like this is so far away in time, but before you know it you will be out of junior high and high school on your way to living your lives. You will probably want your mom to be a part then. And my guess would be that even though she might not look or act like it, I bet your mom is hurting deep down inside through these times too. It may be better to give her the benefit of the doubt. I believe that, even though you may not sense or know it, your mom loves you more than you know and she probably needs you more right now than you need her. Being nice to people we have challenges with will help you way more than you may ever know.
Look for the bright spots in both your mom and dad and live in the happiness of those thoughts.
QUESTION: I’m having a difficult time trying to understand the natural disasters that have claimed many lives over the past several years. I’m in my mid-70s and grew up in the Pacific Northwest. I don’t remember so many devastating earthquakes, tsunamis, or tornados happening until the late 1980s. I’m certain there were a few, however, now they seem to be coming one right after the other.
Is God punishing us?
~ God Loving Woman
Dear God Loving Woman,
My spiritual education has helped me believe and understand that God is not a punishing God. Another of life’s greatest teachings show that fear, anger and punishment cannot be used in any situation to bring about goodness, kindness and love. I know that being “punished” is not why we have seen so many natural disasters since the 1980s. Climate changes have been a factor in many of these natural disasters. Also, the population of our world has greatly increased in the last 50 years. Therefore, those who are affected by the natural disasters are more numerous.
Another factor that compounds our attention to these disasters is the media. News is now immediately available for our viewing and following these events while they are happening. In the past, we only heard of devastation; now we witness it! We watch videos of disasters happening before our very eyes, and become an experience we then can personalize. These types of acts are natural, created by Mother Nature to balance herself, not to be taken personally! But yes, devastating, and yes, shaking our senses.
And at the same time, also bringing out the best of our human nature, as we rally to assist even those we do not know. We also see heroes come forth in even the weakest, youngest and uncertain of us during these times. Natural disasters are not directed at us, even though we may be affected by them … especially in our hearts. These events do provide us the opportunity to rise up and allow us opportunities to learn from and have allowed us new advancements in our understanding … especially of our spiritual selves in this human experience.
Que Linda Boutique
Dear God Loving Woman,
These recent natural disasters have deeply saddened and concerned us all. Your question is one that philosophers and theologians have discussed for thousands of years and there have been many books written seeking to answer this question. The solutions proposed have often been very complex and beyond what I have time to discuss. However, I think the question that God would want us to answer is, “How should we respond?” And the clear answer of the Bible is “with love and compassion.”
While I cannot tell you what God’s purpose is in this, I can tell you that in the days ahead, tens of thousands of churches will take up special offerings to help the tornado victims; Christian relief organizations are already mobilizing hundreds of volunteers to help clear the debris, comfort the victims, and help rebuild homes and lives; and hundreds of thousands of Christians will give generously and pray deeply for the emotional, physical and financial well-being of those impacted by this disaster. How do I know? Because this is how the Christian church has overwhelmingly responded to each of the disasters in recent years and this is how the church has been responding for 2000 years.