4 Ways to Be There for a Friend During Their Divorce
Divorce is one of the most difficult changes in a person’s life, regardless of the reason why it happened. It’s a delicate time filled with overwhelming worries (who takes the kids? Where will I move?) and mixed feelings of love, guilt, anger and sadness.
If you want to be there for a loved one during divorce, I’ll tell you this: it’s not easy.
Any cliché like ‘it’s going to be fine’ or ‘you’re better of without them’ can do more harm than good. So then, how can you really help a friend through their divorce? Today, we’ll share a few useful tips.
Ask them out…
…and insist when they say ‘no,’ because they will at some point. Licensed clinical psychologist Ramani Durvasula explains that ‘Many people report that once they’re divorced, they are ‘outed’ from the marital friend group.’
Dinner, jogging, gardening, a cup of coffee – really any invitation means a lot for your loved one even if they decline! Including them in your plans makes them feel wanted and provides some sense of stability in a difficult time.
One of the first reactions we’re tempted to have during a friend’s divorce is to defend our loved one… by trashing their ex. It may seem like it makes your dear one feel better, but putting their ex in a bad light may have a real negative impact later on.
“Oftentimes emotions can vacillate quickly, frequently, and intensely,” says clinical psychologist Joseph Cilona. “One day your friend might be feeling and saying aggressively negative things; another day quite the opposite.”
The best you can do in this case is…
During a divorce, there are very few things that make sense in your friend’s mind. Because of this, you’ll probably talk through the exact same things every day for a while.
It’s going to be repetitive, tiring, but no matter how pointless it seems – keep listening. Durvasula explains that this process is ‘how we off-load grief.’ After all, there’s very little advice you can give anyway, so listening is a great way to show up.
Be their partner
You can’t fix a heart broken by divorce, but you can help out with the practical side of everyday needs your friend has. Here are some examples:
- Offer to do grocery shopping since you’re doing it for yourself anyway;
- Baby-sitting if your friend has an urgent appointment;
- Watering plants/watching the dog if they’re going away for a day or more.
In other words, you can try to fill in the gaps left by an ex-spouse who helped your friend on a daily basis. Family therapist David Klow says that ‘Filling in—or at least trying to—will help them remember that even though they lost their spouse, they still have a partner.’
Have you ever had a friend who needed help during divorce? If so, what did you do to help them through such a rough time? Let us know in the comments and let’s chat!