Divorces are common but that doesn’t mean the people going through them aren’t suffering. Going through a divorce you wanted isn’t easy which means going through one you didn’t want can be emotionally traumatic. During times of great duress, we turn to our friends and loved ones for comfort and understanding. What our loved ones tell us helps us cope with the sleepless nights, overwhelming thought, and strength to get through the day.
Finding yourself in the position to support and be there for your loved one is difficult. You may want to lash at the ex who hurt your friend; however, this is not the time or place to react. In fact, your loved one is relying on you to be stable and rational while their world feels like it’s spinning. Below do’s and don’ts for helping your friend through a divorce.
1. Do be there to listen but don’t trash their ex. The greatest gift you can give your loved one is to listen without judgement. They need to vent and talk about what happened and how they feel. Listen, but don’t give into the temptation to trash the ex or try to fix the pain.
2. Offer to help but don’t be their therapist. If you have the time, offer to run errands for them or help transport kids to appointments. This helps your loved one feels supported. Stay away from being their therapist and telling them what they should do. You’re their friend, not their therapist. Keep that boundary clear.
3. Encourage them, but don’t tell them everything will be fine. Encouraging your loved one by reminding them of how far they’ve come and what a great mom or dad they are helps restore their confidence. However, telling them everything will be okay makes them feel alone. Anyone going through a divorce knows it’s a painful process; it must be worked through and grieved. Telling your loved one that you will be there for them is much more helpful then telling them it will all be okay.
4. Continue to invite them out, but don’t use that time to pry into details of their divorce. Your loved one may feel lonely after they divorce so inviting them out will help them feel included. When you’re together, talk about your life and theirs but respect their privacy and don’t pry. Your friend may need to process some of the painful issues without talking about them to you.
5. Allow your loved one time to work through their feelings without make them feel pressured to date again. When someone is going through a divorce, they are in the process of grief and loss. Trying to cheer them up by urging them to date or setting them up on blind dates is not a good idea right away. Give them space to grieve and work through their emotions. There is no "right way" to grieve, and everyone deals with their emotions according to their own experiences. Holding a space for your loved one to feel safe and unjudged is a loving gesture.
You cannot heal the emotional trauma of your loved one going through a divorce. Being there and providing a safe place for them to grieve in their own way is the most loving thing you can do. Your consistent presence and ability to show up reminds them that they are loveable even when they feel they aren’t and knowing this is the single biggest predictor of being able to trust and love again.