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Divorce Is So Ordinary We Sometimes Forget the Extraordinary Pain It Causes

Yesterday on my flight, a 13-year-old boy who was traveling alone sat next to me. Before we took off he lowered the tray table in front of him, put his head in his arms and started sobbing. Big tears covered the tray as he wept in his seat.

I asked him, “Are you alright buddy?” He told me he had spent three months with his mother for the summer and was flying back to another state to live with his dad.

Sometimes the frequency of divorce makes us forget the heartache of it. It’s such an ordinary thing these days that we tend to rush right by the extraordinary pain it causes.

If you grew up with divorced parents, are going through a divorce or are divorced, I’m sorry for all the times that I didn’t understand how hard that experience can be. It might be common, but it’s never easy.

I wrote those four paragraphs on my Facebook page a few days ago.

Four hours after I did, the mother of that little boy messaged me. A friend who follows me sent her the post. After confirming the details of the flight and his name to make sure it was actually her son, she thanked me.

It had been a hard day for both of them. The division of family, whether for the school year after a summer with mom, or the weekend after a few days with dad, is never easy. I started to cry in the airport while I read her message and had to pretend the tears were falling because I was eating a really transcendent airport food court burrito. You know the kind, no rip down the middle, great structural integrity, bite after bite? Burritos, is there anything they can’t do?

But then a strange thing happened, people started commenting on the post. They started sharing their stories. About dads who did their best and moms who carried homes through storms and hurt that hasn’t disappeared but has healed. The Internet reminded me for the thousandth time that we’re not in this alone as people started to share their stories. (You can read the comments on Facebook right here.)

If you see someone on an airplane crying, ask if he’s OK. If he’s not, talk to him about his favorite football team so he’ll forget he’s sad for a minute. You might think you’re flying to Dallas because you’re supposed to talk to 10,000 people at an event, but there might be just be one person who needs a few words of encouragement even more.  

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jonacuff@churchleaders.com'
Jon Acuff has built an online following of millions through his stuffchristianslike.net blog and the resulting book, Stuff Christians Like. He’s a contributor to CNN.com, speaks nationally on the subject of social media and joined the Dave Ramsey team fulltime in 2010. He lives with his wife and two daughters in Nashville, Tennessee.