By Amy Hackworth. Painting by Megan Balli.
Today our discussion of supporting our friends through challenging times continues with thoughts about how to best love our friends when they’re going through a divorce. Divorce is so painful, and complicated, and extremely difficult. How do we help?
For some people, like my friend Wendy, her divorce happened suddenly. “For me,” she wrote, “it was almost like a bomb being dropped. The first several months, I was in shock. ‘Is this my life?’ I would ask myself numerous times every day. Offers to talk were appreciated, but I didn’t even know what going on in the beginning.” In her situation, Wendy appreciated friends who didn’t pry, feeling that occasionally people were more interested in the juicy details of her divorce — and passing them on to others — than supporting her.
In other cases such as my friend Peter’s, a loving invitation to talk about his challenges was just what he needed. Though Peter acknowledges professional therapy might be advisable, he writes, “There is nothing more convincing that support exists for you than having friends simply take the time to offer a listening ear. There is something inherently genuine and valuable in a listener who isn’t trying to reach a conclusion with you, but rather is seeking inclusion in your challenges of the moment.”
Both Wendy and Peter shared how much it meant when friends reached out to their children, too, inviting them to over to play (and stay for dinner!), offering genuine friendship, teaching new skills, attending interesting events, and including them in plain old fun. This means support, inclusion, and genuine care for kids whose lives are also in transition, as well as time for grieving parents to be alone and take care of themselves for a bit. Remember that your friend still needs to have fun, too, and invite her to dinner and the movies just like you always did. “Divorce isn’t contagious,” Wendy says. “Single people still enjoy going out to dinner or to the movies with their married friends.”
And speaking of dinner, the gifts of meals or treats are always appreciated. The transition from two adults running a household to just one is daunting to say the least. You can’t go wrong by dropping by with a healthy dinner or a special treat.
But anything that shows you’re thinking about your friend’s challenges is helpful. Wendy again: “It touched me deeply when I would receive a card in the mail. For me, going through a divorce made me feel completely alone, so when I received something it was a wonderful reminder that people cared. Above all, divorce made me feel inadequate. I wondered why I wasn’t enough and what I had done wrong. Emails letting me know people noticed me, supported me, and were cheering for me boosted my confidence when it waned.” Being aware of birthdays, holidays, and other special events is another great idea, but Wendy cautions against Valentine’s Day. When a friend brought her a flower on Valentine’s Day, she felt it drew extra attention to her single-ness.
Peter especially appreciated, just like any of us would, friends who offered love without judgment. Instead of judging him or his situation, the most helpful friends “only saw an immediacy of need and looked to determine real ways they could offer some type of support, whether it be physical (with food), social (with inclusion of my kids), or emotional (by actions that said ‘you aren’t alone in this’).”
And there it is: once again, the answer to supporting our friend when they’re hurting lies in taking action. What have you done to help? And how have you been helped? Share your ideas and teach us to become better friends.