5 Ways to be Supportive of a Newly Separated/Divorced Loved One

We’ve all been there, a friend or loved one is going through something really difficult and you just don’t know what to say or how to begin to make them feel better.

And we’ve definitely all been there, when you have a well-meaning friend or loved one and everything they try and say about your marriage ending just falls so flat or worse - actually offends you.  Or even super worse, people just avoid you all together because they don’t know what to say and feel like avoidance or saying nothing is actually better.

So, this got me thinking about when my marriage had newly ended, and how many people just never discussed it or ask how I was doing for what seemed like FOREVER.  Or if they did ask and I actually gave them a brief but honest answer, they simply weren’t prepared to just hold the space for me – they had no idea how to respond and just ended up standing their awkward until the topic of conversation was changed.  It never failed to make me feel ashamed of my situation and reinforced the silly idea in my head that I shouldn’t talk about what was going on – that I should just talk about the tidy and neat parts of my life cause that’s easier :)  Which is true in the short term, but in the long run that strategy actually added to my feelings of loneliness - which totally sucked.

With all that said, below is a list I wish I would have had to send to my friends and family, when my Separation was really fresh, in the hopes that they’d be able to be a bit more forgiving and a bit more supportive when I needed it the most:

1 don’t be offended if I drop off the planet for a while, cancel plans last minute, or are generally not very reliable for a while (which potentially means months, maybe even a year or more):  

Know that I love you and I still think of you, and I mean well and want to hang out and have energy for fun things but that right now, I just can’t muster ‘fun’ and being in a group of friends scares me because I feel like such a failure and I don’t know if I can talk about how I’m doing without crying and that would ruin the fun of the evening.  And I’m SO tired.  Right now, it feels like an ENOURMOUS amount of effort would be required to just be social and put on a smile and make small talk.  So, I should really just get more sleep.  Until I can wake up and be happy that I’ve lived to see the morning again :)  ..This too shall pass, however, it hasn’t yet, so I hope our past history and connection can hold our friendship together until I can participate in my life again!  I’m so sorry!!

2 don’t judge: 

My marriage ended, it doesn’t mean I’ve got something weird wrong with me, it doesn’t mean that we didn’t try.  It doesn’t mean I don’t value family.  I value family and I also value my own happiness.  It doesn’t mean your marriage will end - this isn’t a virus.  I know it doesn’t look like what you wished for my future, I feel the same way!

3 keep checking in with words of encouragement - even if all the things mentioned in point 1 are happening: 

It meant A LOT to me to have people check in to see how I was feeling/doing.  A text or an email, just to let me know that I was on someone's mind and that they wished me well.  And bonus points if they offered to help in some small way, it really did mean the world and made me feel more connected to the world at a time when I felt very disconnected.

4 listen and listen: 

If you can just be there, then make time to just be there.  Give advice only when asked.  Just listen, because good listeners are hard to come by but talking it out helps digest things and helps heal things.  And silent and familiar company feels cozy too, like you don't just need to talk to fill space.

5 connect them with people you know who’ve gone through this before:

If you have any people you know who’ve gone through separation and divorce then by all means connect the two of them, if they are interested!  It’s so awesome to connect with people who truly understand what you’re going through, and who have made it out the other side and are happy and healthy and well-adjusted and maybe even re-married! :) :)

 

Wishing you all the best, 

Lisa

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