Today’s reality is that almost everyone knows someone who is going through a divorce. Whether it’s a family member, a friend, or a co-worker, you want to know what to say, what to do, how to help. Perhaps you are divorced yourself; if so, you have a first-hand perspective on what they are experiencing.
The first, and probably most important thing, is to simply be there for them in their time of need. Be present and accounted for, which may mean day or night. Remember, someone suddenly without a partner can find the nights extremely difficult, even frightening. Listen. Your friend needs to know someone cares and hears their pain. But what goes hand-in-hand with listening is the tendency to offer advice. Don’t — you’re not their therapist or a professional in the divorce field. It may seem they are telling all, but chances are you don’t know everything that went on in their marriage.
You don’t have to take sides to be a supportive friend. This is a time where they need optimism, not pessimism. And absolutely keep the confidential details of their relationship and divorce to yourself.
If it becomes routine for them to bash the soon-to-be-ex, being the empathetic friend can take an emotional toll. Don’t let the divorce take over … do things to take their mind off it. If your friendship becomes nothing but divorce talk, it will fizzle. If necessary, set some tough love limits. Don’t promote co-dependency.
Be aware of special dates and holidays. Offer to accompany your friend for difficult court dates or other intimidating meetings or special events. Avoid places that may trigger the pain, and maybe that funny flick about divorce or a romantic comedy isn’t the best choice in movies for a pick-me-up.
Perhaps you can research websites and books that may be helpful to them. Watch and listen for suicide threats, and don’t ignore these warnings — help them find professional help if needed. Find a support group for your friend and offer to accompany them until they feel comfortable enough to go it alone. Sit with them at church; intimidation can come from anywhere, especially if they are used to having a spouse at their side.
Remember, they are grieving the end of their marriage. It takes time to move beyond such a loss, so be patient. They need to set the pace of their recovery, not you. Don’t even think about setting them up with a date; that can come later, when the divorce is final and the healing is done.
You can help in numerous ways. Sit down with them to work out a budget as finances are usually in chaos during a divorce; take them meals they can put in the freezer and have handy for those days they can’t seem to find the energy to cook; surprise them with a gift or flowers or take them to dinner; and nothing beats a hug when someone is feeling alone and unloved.
To love a friend unconditionally is a great gift. You don’t have to agree with everything they think and do, just be an understanding and caring friend.
Remember it’s about them, not you. Don’t feel hurt if they don’t seem grateful for everything you have done for them. It may take time for them to realize you’ve been there for them. They are doing all they can to get through a tremendously difficult time in their life, you may not be a priority on their radar. It’s normal, so don’t take it personally.
You can’t solve your friend’s problems, only they can. But a firm foundation of supportive friends can make the pain more bearable and allow them to heal faster. Happiness may seem impossible when someone is going through a divorce, but a good friend can help them pick up the pieces so one day they can live happily again.