How to help a friend through their divorce

If your friend is going through a divorce, you may find it very distressing yourself, especially if you have known them as a couple for some time, or if you have been very close for many years.  You may wonder how you can help in a practical way, or want to be able to offer more emotional support in their time of need.

If you can, try not to rant and rave about how you feel about the situation, because, although they may have come to the hard decision of getting a divorce, they may still be feeling very confused about the mix of emotions that they are encountering whilst going through the process.  Try not to place lots of blame on their ex and dredge up endless stories of times that you thought that they were wrong for them and so on, as they may end up even more upset than they already are.  This is especially important when they have children, as they will have to stay in contact with their ex for the children’s sake, and this can be very hard if they remain attached to the negative emotional side of the relationship ending.

It can be really hard to take a step back and resist telling them exactly what you think they should do and why, especially if you have been heavily involved in the ins and outs of their relationship over time.  If you offer your advice and they take it and then feel it was a bad decision, they may blame you for the fallout, or they may not take the advice you give and you will feel miffed that your words of wisdom were not heeded.

Aim to listen more than you talk, so whilst it is obvious that you will ask them how things are and offer them free rein if they want to talk, don’t keep on on the same old subject.  Your friend may have a lot of thoughts swirling around in their mind and may actually want to talk about other more light-hearted subjects on occasion.  Other times, they may want to blurt it all out to you, and allowing them this time to get it all out whilst you just sit and take it in, will be invaluable.

If your friend is so bogged down in their emotions and what is happening to them and you feel that you are out of your depth, or feel that it is negatively impacting on your life, you should encourage them to find professionals who can help them.  You could find out who would be the best solicitor or professional therapist in your area that is recommended to help in divorce and gently suggest that you are not qualified to deal with some of the issues.

Try to encourage your friend to get into a routine of activity so that they will not feel that their life is ruled by the divorce proceedings.  If you used to do an exercise class or go walking together, how about reinstating that?  What about the occasional meal out to break the routine, or inviting them over to spend time at yours when they may feel additionally lonely?  This is not sympathy but a practical way of helping them create a new life that suits their new status.  Perhaps you could help with some babysitting or offer to join in in taking their children somewhere so that they can have a bit of time to breathe on their own if applicable, or meet them before or after important meetings if they don’t have other people in their circle of friends to do that with.

It’s not about the grand gestures, it is the small thoughtful offerings that show that your true friendship is available through their tough times and onwards into a brighter future.

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