Seeing a friend going through the heartache of a divorce is never easy. You might witness the feelings of sadness, anger, betrayal, and anguish first hand. If your friend has children, it can also be very painful to see them suffer.
Sadly, between 40 and 50% of all marriages end in divorce. Therefore many people might experience their friend’s marital breakdowns. If you are this friend, what can you do to help? Keep reading to find out.
Listen to your friend
Listening is such an important skill to learn. When someone is going through the pain of divorce, the best thing that you can do is listen. It can be easy to jump in and form your own opinions on the situation, but you can help your friend emotionally when you listen attentively.
Many studies suggest how allowing a person to talk about their feelings can help them heal. So, be that shoulder to cry on. Let your friend rant, cry, talk, and express their emotions without feeling judged.
Only respond with your opinion when asked, and always be kind with your replies. Remember, they might be going through mixed emotions, from missing their spouse and wanting them back to hating them and never wishing that they had met.
Be prepared for changes in their emotions and in the way they feel. Divorce is a confusing time, and it will take a while to work through those feelings.
Offer practical support
Besides being a good listener, you could also offer practical support. If your friend has children, you could offer to babysit while they meet with their lawyer. In this way, they won’t have to pay for extra child care. You can also help with school runs, homework, and other helpful tasks, like offering to bring them some meals. It could be a lifesaver on days when your friend might feel too depressed to cook something healthy.
If your friend needs to find a new home, you could offer them a place to stay in the interim while they find a place. Some people might not want to accept money, but in some cases, money could help, especially if the divorce is costly. Extra cash could go towards groceries, gas, or savings.
Don’t lose contact
A divorcing friend might pull away. If this happens, continue to stay in contact with them. If they don’t respond to calls or texts, keep letting them know that you are there for them when they are ready to talk or visit.
They might need some space to gather their thoughts, and this is completely normal, but if they know that you are there for them no matter what, it will be easier for them to talk to you once they feel ready.
Don’t feel angry or upset with your divorcing friend if they do pull away. When they are ready, they will need to know that you are a safe space, without judgment.
Invite them out
Inviting your friend out often will also do wonders for them. When a friend is going through a divorce, keeping them busy can help keep their minds off feelings of loneliness. Even if they decline invitations initially, keep inviting them out.
You might feel awkward inviting them to family get-togethers, but do this. There is nothing more lonely than having the world carry on as normal while your whole world feels as if it’s falling apart.
They might be busy with work during the week, but you can offer to do fun things together on weekends. It could be a short weekend away, a trip to the movies, or a jog every Saturday morning. These fun outings will also give your friend something to look forward to.
Offer to help with the divorce
You could research good divorce lawyers for your friend or help them find a reputable online divorce service. If children are involved, finding a great lawyer specialising in family law or interviewing a few could also help them. Alternatively, you can check out relevant articles such as https://www.kanialaw.com/
Sometimes your divorcing friend might feel so overwhelmed by all the new changes that finding help can be tough. Offer to help them every step of the way, as this will take the pressure off them to find the right legal representative.
If they don’t want you to help with finding a lawyer, you could help with finding a counsellor or a divorce support group.
Some people are affected terribly by their breakup, and therapy might be the only way to help. When your friend listens to other experiences, it can help them realise that they are not alone and will get through this dark time.
What to say to a friend going through a divorce
Finding the right words can be challenging. Try to put yourself in your friend’s shoes, and think about how you would feel if you were the one getting a divorce. What would you say to yourself?
There are a few things that you can say. Please see the list below:
- I’m so sorry to hear that you are getting divorced, what can I do to help?
- I’ve been there. This is how I coped. What do you need?
- I can recommend a great counsellor who helped me.
- Let me take you out, and we can talk.
- Can I help look after the kids?
Depending on how your friend is taking the divorce, remember always to be compassionate, caring, and understanding. They need a listening ear and support. The last thing a divorcing friend needs is to feel judged or blamed for their divorce.
Ask them what they need
If you are unsure how to help your friend, why don’t you ask them what they need? You might be surprised by their requests. They might ask if you could help them tidy up the house, do the laundry, or even just make a weekly appointment to do something fun.
Let your divorcing friend know that you won’t feel offended or upset by their request. Reassure them that supporting them is what you want most of all.
Don’t be nosey
Is your friend ready to talk? If not, don’t push them for details. When they feel ready, let them know that you are there. It might be too painful to recount the hurtful details of the divorce. Therefore they might not tell you everything initially.
Or perhaps they don’t know all the details yet, and would rather not talk about their divorce.
Everyone copes differently, and maybe your friend would prefer not to think about their divorce. If this is the case, go out, have some fun, and speak about something else.
Accept their dating choices
If your friend decides that they would like to start dating, try to accept their decision. As long as their dating choices are not posing a danger to themselves, then it’s okay. Your friend shouldn’t use sex or multiple partners as a crux, though, to get over their hurt. This could lead to more heartache in the long run. If you notice that this might be an emerging pattern, try to talk to them in a loving, kind, and supportive way.
Your friend might also be on the other end of the scale. For example, they might not want to date at all. If this is the case, avoid trying to set them up with someone. When they feel ready, they will be willing to jump back into the world of dating. Pushing someone to date when they are not ready will just lead to frustration and more heartache.
Remind them of their good qualities
It can be very easy to lose all self-esteem during a divorce. This is especially true if infidelity was involved. If this is the case, remind your friend of how special they are. Think of all their strong attributes, and let them know what you appreciate about them.
They might not believe you or feel good about themselves for a long time, but reminding them of who they are can genuinely help over time.
Don’t bad mouth their ex
Bad mouthing the ex can be exceptionally easy, especially if they were the cause of the divorce. Just remember, though, that this was once a person that your friend loved, and it might hurt to hear how bad their ex was. Having an ‘I told you so’ attitude could cause terrible agony.
Instead, try to keep conversations up-lifting and listen intently.
Let it be
Not all people who go through a divorce are sad about it. So if your friend is happy about their divorce, let them be. Be there for them, have fun together, and accept that they have a new life waiting for them, without their ex.
Yes, divorce is hard! It’s heartbreaking in many cases, but by listening, supporting, and being there for your friend, you can make the hurt a little less painful.
Tommy Williamson did his degree in psychology at the University of Edinburgh. He has an ongoing interest in mental health and well-being.