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7 Ways to Help a Friend Through a Divorce

You know I try hard to keep things pretty light and happy around these parts. And to new readers, I think it may seem I live a pretty charmed life. I may be inclined to agree. I have a great life and I’m very lucky! However, the occasional PTSD meltdown and feeling of guilt that I get to be this happy or live the life I live reminds me even more how lucky I feel to have my life! I get to be a happily married woman with my own child in a healthy and happy life.

It’s such a far cry from the abuse victim living in fear for their life I was a decade ago. And in the back of my mind all this time I write happy posts I also feel the need to hit some of the harder things and talk about abuse, learning to let go, and divorce. After talking to not one but several friends this past month who have let me know they are going through or facing a possible divorce I just feel all the more need to open up and share and finally hit publish on this post that’s been stewing for years.

How Can I Help a Friend Going Through a Divorce? 

A few years I got an email that touched me so much I’ve never forgotten it. A sweet girl told me she loved getting date ideas here, but she also knew I’d mentioned a few times I’ve been through a divorce. She had just found out a girl she goes to church with (who had been a neighbor and friend) was unexpectedly facing a divorce. It happened after uncovering a husband’s addiction and affair. She knew my story was very similar. Consequently, she asked me honestly if I had a few minutes if I’d be willing to offer advice on anything she could do to help. She felt at such a loss and truly wanted to do anything she could to ease a friend’s burden without overstepping.

I sat smiling thinking of the people who really reached in and really made a difference for me at the lowest time of my life. They were there while I was trying to figure out how to go on and how to start a new unexpected life plan. And I wrote an email with what they did that I keep feeling like I should share with others. I’m going to add more I’ve learned now being on the other side helping friends, but if you’re reading this and setting it aside for someday, or maybe searched and found this post, I hope you know that you can make a huge difference in the life of a friend going through a divorce.

Can I tell you what honestly helped me the most aside from all things spiritual? As a former part of a pair, you feel so alone, and for most, they aren’t ready to go back to the single’s scene to make single friends or date again immediately. And even if they are, most people wait until their divorce is finalized to go there.
The process can feel so long, and so lonely. You feel awkward asking your married friends to hang out with you because you’re alone and a sudden plus one. The time between deciding to get divorced and being finalized is often the hardest time, tied only with the day the judge pronounces it official and you have that failure feeling.
So to all who have someone they care about facing this process, here are my tips for helping someone going through a divorce.

Help a Friend Through a Divorce 

1. Invite Them to Social Outings- Even Couple’s Nights
I had two couples that invited me over once a week for their Biggest Loser/Chinese Food night. Yes, we know this was an ironic evening. Yes, I would totally be the 5th wheel. However, it helped me so much to have one social outing a week where no one treated me like I was the 5th wheel!
I talked to all four people, and they loved and supported me and helped me not feel completely alone. The best things were the feeling that I had peers my age to be with. They were people who loved me, and let me have a social outing outside of my immediate family.
Similarly, I was lucky enough to move in with my parents for a short time and have family around. My brother used to have me watch their baby while they went to dinner, and then they and their friends would come back for a game night, and the five of us would play. Once again, this Friday night activity helped me feel like I wasn’t alone and helped me get through the awkward months while going through the process.
Anything you can do to help a friend not feel totally alone will help in big ways! I owe my ability to get through it to the friends that supported me. So my biggest advice is to not stop inviting, still include them in couple’s nights as long as they want to be there, and don’t feel bad if they don’t. Help them ease into their new life without letting them feel cut off from their old.
2. Be Ready to Listen, and Be Ready to Talk
I know now that I’m on the other side I want to listen, I want to hear the details, I want to be a sounding board. But I also know when the shoe was on the other foot I didn’t want to just sit and talk about divorce and the process during every conversation I had. Sometimes I wanted to leave it at the door and talk about fun things and pretend the divorce wasn’t happening. Sometimes I just wanted to hear what someone else had going on in their life and not focus on mine. Be ready for heavy conversations and crying on shoulders, and be accessible for them.
My best friend lived in another state but took every phone call. I still remind her to thank her husband for it nine years later! We talked hard things and there were tears. But also, we talked about the first time someone else hit on me. We laughed about awkward me learning to date again. And, sometimes we just talked about her and her life. It felt great to have the best of all worlds like the good old days, and moments of sobriety where I could sort through feelings.
3. Check-in Often
I’ve learned we all grieve differently. I wanted to crawl in a hole and not see anyone for the first few months. I didn’t feel like talking about it to more than the few close friends and family I let in, but eventually, I was ready. On the opposite side, many of my friends wanted support immediately and to not be alone.
I’m so grateful for friends who sent messages! I appreciated in all forms. There were kind messages on social media, texts, or a call just to say they loved me and make sure I was okay and constantly remind me of that. I felt like no one loved me, and the support was so amazing, even if just a quick I’m here. Respect privacy. Let them be alone if they need to. But also, remind them you’re there to chat, you’re there to give space, and you love them.
4. Get Excited About the New Possibilities 
I laughed out loud when someone brought up dating and remarrying. I didn’t think that was in my cards. Surprisingly, people seemed to bring it up fast! But at the same time, hearing old friends remind me what they saw in my future filled me with hope! They saw new relationships, awesome men, and a lot more happiness in my future than I did! 
When I wasn’t ready to dwell on new relationships, there were other hopes to focus on. I was so grateful to my dad who encouraged grad school. He filled me with the belief I could overcome all this abuse and become anything I wanted to professionally. I owe my career to parents and a brother who encouraged and supported me! They talked about how much I’d love business school. For the record, they were 100% right and I’ll forever be grateful for the hope of a new career, new life, new home, and new possibilities that are so hard to see when you’re in the thick of grief.

Supporting During a Divorce

5. Love Them in the Lowest Moments 
For two seconds my ex had me convinced he was going to come back a changed man who would never lie again, and I remember everyone feeling super upset that I was back in this low moment and being brainwashed by him again. I called one friend out about not being happy for me at this possibility. She reminded me that everyone who loved me wanted me to cut ties and move forward because they honestly wanted to best for me and saw the abuse I didn’t see.
It was a wake-up call to me to move forward and continue counseling since I was still clearly so much of an abuse victim I wasn’t seeing clearly. I’m glad there was love instead of upset. Truly, I’m glad she heard me out on why I thought it was a good moment. I’m grateful to the friends and family who listened during my darkest times and lowest moments. But most of all, I’m grateful to have experienced love when it was so deficit in my life and I wasn’t at my best.
6. Encourage Therapy
As friends listened and cared I was often reminded that only one of my friends was actually a licensed therapist. I really needed subjective help to get over obstacles. Honestly, I really believe everyone does! 
I had panic attacks as I started to date again, and my therapist got me through it. Also, I had a lot of false beliefs about myself that he helped me see. Worst of all, I had a lot of night terrors relieving one particularly traumatic experience. Those would wake me up and kept me up all night. Quite often, I was only getting two hours of sleep a night.
My therapist gave me the tools to overcome the pieces crippling my life. I’m so grateful for friends who encouraged me to go to therapy! And even more for those who encouraged to find another one when my first one wasn’t working out. The biggest blessing was a therapist who became a friend who changed my life.
7. Be There on the Hard Days 
I was feeling very happy as the days grew closer to divorce finalization. Oh the feeling to get my life and my good name back! I knew it was right and freedom and happiness with mental clarity were returning. But something shocking happened the day of that I’ve heard happens to almost everyone. I became very depressed as it finalized and remarked to a friend I felt like a failure.
I think even when it’s the best thing that can happen it’s still a sad thing to see the dissolution of people who were once in love in and happy. As I’ve talked to others I’ve heard the same sentiment. They can be doing awesome, and the finalization is a rough day for almost everyone.
Be there for your friends this day. Similarly, reach out on the one year anniversary of the divorce. Also note the first anniversary they face divorced instead of at a fancy dinner. Offer love during the first Christmas, the first weekend without their kids etc. Each of these events can all really sting. Check-in often, note the moments that maybe the hard days, and be there.
How to help a friend through a divorce- 7 ways to support a friend going through a divorce from someone who has been on both sides

Those are the things that have helped me the most. But also, these are the things I try to do for those I know experiencing a broken heart. The make a difference whether it’s through facing a divorce, a separation, or the loss of a loved one.

I know I have several who have a similar story to mine. Either through facing life alone or who have happily found an amazing person to love and convince them to believe in love again. I would love to hear, what has helped the most? Is there anything you’d add to the list for those who have the chance to help someone through a divorce?

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One Comment

  1. Sutton Turner says:

    I like how you said to check in with your divorcing friend often. One of my best friends just hired a divorce lawyer and needed some support. I am grateful for the tips on how to help a friend through this time in their lives.