How to Help Someone Going Through a Divorce?
WhatToGetMy Instructional Article
Supporting your friend in the most difficult time isn’t easy. If you don’t know how to help someone going through a divorce, make sure to stay with us till the end of the article. We’ve prepared some useful advice that helped a lot of people.
Divorce is taught, even if former spouses stay in good relations. You’ll see your friend go through a lot of emotion and, naturally, you want to help him/her process them in a healthy way. You may feel helpless but you need to be a rock. He/she should know that you’re someone reliable and someone who’ll be there no matter what.
Before you get further down the article let’s just mention a few things:
- Every person is different. Something you find comforting, your friend might not like. The stuff in this or any other article might not be helpful for everyone but it’s worth trying.
- Forget about usual comforting phrases. They’re worn out and your friend might just get annoyed if he/she hears the “You’re better off without him/her” one more time.
- If your friend really has trouble dealing with this amount of difficult emotions, suggest that he/she sees a therapist. It’s not uncommon for people to go through depressing periods after divorce, so make sure he/she takes care of his/her mental health.
- Be there for the long-term, not just in the first couple of weeks. Of course, the period after the breakup is the hardest, but it’s crucial to also be there for your friend in the next few months.
- If your friend becomes distant, cold, or mean to you, let it slide a couple of times. People going through a divorce say or do things they usually wouldn’t do. Forgive and forget it happened, unless of course, this behavior becomes a regular occurrence. In that case, have an open and honest talk with him/her.
- Remember that it’s not about you, it’s about your friend and his/her feelings.
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Keep in touch
Keep inviting your divorced friend out and make an effort to see your friend often, even if you don’t leave nearby. People might decline social invitations when they’re feeling down but it’s important to keep reaching out. You can’t “forget” about him/her and just stop calling after some time.
If your friend doesn’t want to leave the house, it’s okay to just show up (with a meal or a present). Doing a nice gesture is always appreciated, even if it’s just bringing a pizza. Enjoying a nice meal with your friend can be exactly what he/she needs in difficult times.
Your friend is experiencing the growing sensation of loneliness. The best kind of support during divorce is just being a good company. Let your friend know he/she is not alone because you’re there. Interactions with friends are crucial, no matter what you do – going out for beers, jogging, or just hanging in the house together.
If you don’t know what to say to a friend going through a divorce, start by saying nothing. Encourage your friend to speak more while you just listen. Sure, he/she will get repetitive but it’s a part of the grieving circle. People need to let it all out before moving on. You should be patient and non-judgemental, so your friend can speak freely.
Naturally, you won’t agree with everything your friend says, but avoid passing judgment and giving advice. Most people don’t need advice. Instead, they want to know they’re not alone in all of this and you need to assure them you’re there for every step of the way.
The advice is usually unnecessary and sometimes even infuriating to a recently divorced person. You can’t tell him/her what to do, even if you’ve been in a similar situation. That’s because your friend’s situation is personal and he/she is experiencing it first hand. Let him/her find a unique way to deal with emotions and stress.
If your friend asks for your opinion, of course, feel free to express it. However, you should be honest. Don’t repeat those cliché phrases like “It wasn’t meant to be”, “He/she wasn’t good enough for you”, “You need time to heal”, etc.
As we said, if you don’t know what to say to someone getting a divorce, don’t say anything because these phrases are not helpful and just sound shallow. Your friend might even think you don’t take him/her seriously enough.
Understand the big change that’s happening in his/her life and allow him/her to adjust. You’re not just a bystander, you’re his/her rock and the best support you can give is listening carefully to what he/she has to say.
We should note that people are different, so if your friend doesn’t want to talk, that’s completely understandable too. Don’t press him/her for details if he wants to stay quiet. Sometimes even sitting together in silence is the best support you can give to your friend.
Help with usual tasks
To learn how to comfort someone going through a divorce, start with offering help with the practical tasks. For example, if your friend is moving, help him/her pack. Simple tasks like packing can trigger a lot of difficult emotions. Sorting things and boxing old memories is a lot easier with friendly support. You can provide distraction and help your friend finish the necessary but dreadful task.
Even light tasks like doing laundry or cooking can come as a burden when you’re going through a divorce, so it’s a good idea to offer help with household chores. You can even suggest that you babysit your friend’s kids, so he/she can have some “me” time to relax and take care of himself/herself.
It’s the same if you want to know how to help a family member going through a divorce. Just offer help and support. Present yourself as reliable and helpful. Be the source of information if he/she needs it. Form paperwork to finances discussed, do your research, and offer help. Be the source of physical help, as we said, with chores and other dreadful tasks. Be the one who’ll make him/her laugh. Be there.
No trash talking about the ex
You should offer words of encouragement for someone going through a divorce instead of bad-mouthing the ex. Sure, you’re angry because your friend is hurt. However, the best way to help him/her cure a broken heart isn’t putting blame on the ex. You need to shift focus from the ex and work on getting your friend to a better place.
Even if your friend is bashing his/her former spouse, you should resist the urge to do the same. Your friend is going through a lot, so he/she will say bad things about the ex. You just need to listen and not validate those insults.
After your friend overcomes those feelings, he/she will start sharing positive statements about the ex. You shouldn’t encourage those either. Just sit and listen, so he/she can get everything out of his/her system. The rollercoaster of emotions won’t go away easily but it can become manageable if you don’t add more fuel.
The problem with trash-talking the ex is that it feels good only at the moment. Your friend is venting and you join in. You’ll say all the bad things he/she has done, and how your friend is too good for the ex. Naturally, he/she agrees with you and feels better for a second.
However, your friend may regret the said things. What will you do if your friend and his/her former spouse want to reconcile? Do you think he/she will forget all the bad things you said too? That can ruin your friendship if they do decide to get back together.
Even if the ex does something unforgettable, keep your mouth shut. You can voice your disapproval about the ex’s behavior but stay away from insulting your friend’s former partner.
Accept his/her views on dating
Some people start dating right away and some stay away from dating altogether. Whatever your friend chooses to do next with the dating life, try to be open-minded. It’s his/her choice after all. You might do something different in that situation but it doesn’t matter.
Support him/her through the choices and don’t be tempted to give dating advice and tips. You can fix your friend up with someone if he/she doesn’t want to date at all. You shouldn’t explain either that rebound relationships don’t always work. Just let the preaching go.
Everyone needs affection, especially recently divorced people. Yes, even men need friendly hugs, so when you’re thinking about how to help a male friend going through a divorce, take this into consideration. People going through divorce need physical attention too and there’s nothing more healing than a friendly hug.
Who has control?
The best advice for someone going through a divorce (if you really want to offer) is the one that encourages your friend to take control over his/her life. A confidence boost is always welcomed, especially in difficult life periods. You can all start doing something together like exercising, singing karaoke, or anything else you can think of!
You can also write him/her a letter full of encouragement and compliments. Writing might not be your best skill but this letter doesn’t have to be literary perfection. You just need to pour your thoughts onto paper and shower your friend with positivity. We don’t mean fake cliché positivity of course. Try to be honest, kind, and open-hearted. He/she will surely appreciate the gesture.
If your friend continues with negative self-talk and pessimism, you might want to suggest he/her sees a therapist that can help him/her get through this. You can only be there as support but you can’t and shouldn’t offer professional advice.
When in doubt, ask
If this is the first time you see someone going through a divorce, it’s understandable that you don’t know what to do or say. You can only assume the possible needs your friend has but naturally, you can’t know for sure.
All you need to do in this case is just ask. Be honest with your friend, tell him/her that you want to be there, and ask what he/she needs. Your friend is your priority right now, so there isn’t any reason why you shouldn’t let him/her know this.
People who are trying to support a friend going through a divorce sometimes make typical mistakes. We’d just like to mention the things you shouldn’t do if you truly want to support your friend.
The first thing you should avoid is saying the already mentioned worn-out phrases. Don’t give pep talks about how divorce is an opportunity for a new life. People who’re suffering can’t just “snap out of it” and start feeling happy.
Don’t minimize or downplay the feeling your friend is experiencing. He/she isn’t being dramatic, nor ridiculous. When people are venting, they can exaggerate a bit but their feelings are still valid. You shouldn’t try to explain or rationalize emotions. Just let him/her feel because avoiding and repressing emotions by being busy, partying or shopping can just make things worse.
Lastly, don’t say that you saw the divorce coming. Reminding your friend that his/her marriage had issues for a long time can’t be very helpful. It might make you feel a bit better, but as we said, this isn’t about you.
Although you can’t know exactly how to help someone going through a divorce, you can have a pretty good idea of where to start. Saying “you can do this” and being there for your friend. You can’t fix the problem but you can keep showing up. That will make the difference and help your friend get through this. Even if your friend and his/her ex decide to reconcile, you’ll be there for support.
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