Being a friend to someone going through Divorce or any sort of heartbreak can be tough.
What do you say?
How do you help?
It can be tricky. Someone going through a divorce or heartbreak really doesn’t know what they need themselves. They may spend a lot of time complaining about the other person. It is hard to deal with that and as a friend you might get sick of hearing about it.
I will give the top 3 things a person going through divorce DOESN’T need and then the top 3 they do.
What they Don’t need:
- Judgement and Criticism: If they are at the point where they have decided to end it no amount of trying to convince them is going to work. They probably have counselors, pastors, and other people involved in the counseling and mediation at this point and what they need from you is to be their friend. I once had a “friend” write me a hand written letter on how I should repent and change my ways. She had no idea what I was living with at the time with my alcoholic ex. It wasn’t helpful. Remember it is really hard to fully understanding the breakdown of a relationship you are not in. Keep in mind you are only hearing one side. There are ALWAYS two sides to every story.
2. Expectations: For someone navigating divorce everything can be overwhelming. Just going to work, navigating their emotions, taking care of children and the cost keeping the lights on can feel like a difficult uphill battle. They will be a shell of themselves, and probably not very great company. Trust they will return the favor for you when they are through this difficult time and give them grace and understanding if they can’t fully show up for you, or do anything really.
3. Negative Talk: I read a quote that said this ” If your friend bad mouths the guy you have been married to for 15 years, she won’t feel supported she will feel betrayed . If you hated him so much, what have you been thinking about her all those years.” Obviously they will be talking about the other person themselves at times. Do your best to be supportive and listen with out engaging too much. Also refrain from discussing the situation with other mutual friends. If you are saying anything you wouldn’t say right in front of the person it is gossip not supportive talk. This includes reporting back to the person things their ex are doing or saying about them. This just does NOT help.
What they do need:
- Good Friends: The loneliness can be crushing at times. It is so extremely painful. Invite them places. Especially during the holidays. I am grateful for friends who really opened their homes up to me whenever I needed it through my first divorce. They need extra love and to know they are still part of something. Good friendships will keep the person being able to heal and not rush to dating or another relationship for comfort. Help them do that.
2. Practical Help: Like I mentioned above the little things can be so overwhelming. I have had people do simple things for me like take out my trash, offer to watch Audrey while I go to the courthouse, or buy me coffee. I once had a friend ask really what would help my stress, I told her jokingly a massage. She mailed a check from Alabama the next day with the amount so I could do that. I will never forget that.
3. Be their protector: Help her come up with what she will say when people ask. Because let me tell you, do people ask. People come out of the woodworks to ask. It is helpful to have a blanket statement for what you will say to keep it neutral. Help her navigate that. If you have other mutual friends DEFEND her when it is spoken about. Again if it is not something you would say right in front of her, don’t. Tell them “It’s nice you asked about her. She is holding up. I will tell her you are thinking of her.”
Remind them that this too shall pass. The pain won’t be here forever. Their life won’t always feel like it is ending. Hold them accountable to not numbing them selves with avoidant behavior like substance abuse or dating too soon. Hug them. Love them, and know this isn’t about them being right or wrong. It happened, and no one is above it ever happening to them. Stay humble and supportive and know they appreciate every bit of it.