Supporting a Friend Through Her Divorce

Illustration by Rebecca Shapiro

Women navigating the process of divorce are faced with many challenges. The support of a dear friend or family member makes the ride a lot more manageable. The attitudes and responses of acquaintances and friends play a vital role—for better or for worse. It is natural not to know what to say and to feel awkward when you first hear of your friend’s struggle. The following tips will help you handle the situation with more ease:

  1. Be There – This consists of showing your concern in an empathetic manner. You should listen to what she needs to say or offer a helping hand to get errands done. A cooked meal, taking a turn with her kids’ carpool or dropping off a care package with treats can raise her spirits. Being there can also mean taking a step back if she needs the space to cope.

  2. Show Concern – To avoid unintentional hurt, watch the content of your words and the manner in which you say them. Women going through the challenge of divorce are overloaded with stress and need some extra tender loving care. Fewer questions and more listening is a good combo for success.

  3. Don’t go overboard with how terrible the situation must be. She has enough to deal with and should not be burdened by having to comfort or educate others as to what she is dealing with.

  4. Don’t press her for detailed information in the initial stage. She is just adjusting and doesn’t need the added pressure of explaining everything.

  5. Let her feel her emotions – We all need to feel our emotions if we are to move on and tackle them. Don’t invalidate or belittle your friend’s feelings with such disclaimers like “be happy it isn’t worse….” Only the person experiencing the difficulty can feel and say this for herself.

  6. Educate Yourself – Take the time to get the facts right. It is very easy to cause senseless pain by making uneducated comments. Your misconceptions can make the real situation look much worse. Offering tips that are not even relevant can put further stress on the person.

  7. Supporting and Respecting – The priority is to focus on your friend and her children. Don’t second guess or interfere with her long-term coping strategies. Respecting her way of doing things is vital. A bit of considerate thought can prevent a lot of undue stress.

Helping others through tough times can be difficult, but it can be done by working on our own fears, educating ourselves and being sensitive with our words and actions.