I went through divorce after 33 years of marriage, four amazing children, and a great life. I was a mess, and I was surprised that it took so long to get over it. I appreciate you for searching out advice about how to help someone get through divorce. Your help for a friend going through divorce is an incredible gift in so many ways.
My words come from experience about what I needed from my friends during my own divorce process. I can give you practical ideas about how to help a friend getting divorced and tips about what to say to someone getting a divorce. Friends can be a lifeline to people going through divorce. Literally.
As we try to survive divorce, we usually desperately need help, especially if we were blindsided by the divorce and didn’t want the divorce. Sometimes we’re so devastated by the whole thing that we don’t know how to ask for help. We are embarrassed and ashamed and our self-confidence is usually in the toilet. We wonder if anyone likes us. So again, friends can reassure us we’re not total losers when that is what we feel like during divorce.
Never does a person need a friend more than when he or she is going through divorce. Our whole world feels like it is falling apart. We can’t talk to our spouse. We can’t confide in our children. Sometimes even our family members don’t understand what we are going through.
The road of divorce is very lonely and isolating. No one seems to understand. We’re not sleeping. We’re not eating like we should. It’s hard to concentrate. We forget the simplest things because we are overwhelmed by this tornado that has slammed into every single part of our life. We truly feel like we might not survive.
When a person first finds out his or her spouse wants a divorce, or finds out about the affair, or finds a note on the counter that says “I am done,” our world collapses around us, and it’s hard to keep functioning. That’s not an exaggeration. One friend going through divorce said, “I had to keep telling myself, “Breathe! Breathe! Breathe!”
People experiencing divorce get complicated. We sometimes sob in despair or rant in fury. We can’t get out of bed. We hole up in our house and don’t want to see anyone. We start drinking too much or doing things that might land us in jail!
So, as a friend, you wonder, “How to help someone get through divorce?” Or “What to say to a friend going through divorce?” Or “What are some words of encouragement for someone going through divorce?”
Below are some practical ideas for how to help a friend or loved one get through that often agonizing journey of divorce.
Life is busy for almost everyone. During divorce, our lives are usually busy on steroids! The process of divorce is overwhelming and exhausting. We are dealing with all of the complicated details of the divorce itself, and that is time-consuming and emotionally draining. And on top of that, we have to do everything else we need to do everyday.
In my very first RADiCAL Divorce Recovery group, one of the women said,
“A friend came over every morning for a couple of weeks after I found out my husband of 27 years had been having an affair and wanted a divorce. I was a total mess. She helped get my kids up and off to school, and helped me get up and out of bed myself.”
Friends like that are not just priceless, they are sometimes the difference between surviving and spiraling down into a dark hole that’s hard to get out of.
Our kids almost always need more attention when we’re on the road of divorce. Work piles up both at our job and at home. Most of us have to sell our house and that means another whole truckload of stuff to figure out and get done.
So, some simple ideas for how to help a friend getting divorced:
- Call and ask if they need help with the kids.
- Offer to come help rake the leaves.
- Bring them home after they take their car to get it fixed.
- Go with them to a child’s performance at school.
- Help with sorting through the stuff.
- Help them get their finances figured out.
- Go get an ice cream cone together
- Agree to meet at the corner and walk around the block together
Send them a card in the mail. Encouraging words for a friend going through divorce can make their day or their whole week! It was hard when everyone else seemed to be just going along like nothing happened when my entire life was falling apart. Knowing someone was thinking about me was unbelievably encouraging. Simple but profound!
In our case, our last child at home was into a lot of extra-curricular activities. Swimming. Track. Cross Country. Choir. Etc. I was always grateful when fellow team-mates or classmates invited him somewhere or to spend the night. It was a good break for him from all the drama at home, and a good break for me, too from having to act like everything was fine.
Invite Them Out Somewhere
Even though your friend may say she doesn’t want to go out, it will probably be good for her. (Just remember to bring the tissues.) Early on a friend asked me to go to a movie. Even though I was silently crying through much of it, she was patient and okay with it. Getting out helped me in spite of the tears. Go get pizza if she’s willing, or you can just order pizza and watch a movie at your house.
Especially on the nights or weekends that my son was with his Dad, I really appreciated friends who asked me to go to dinner or to go get coffee and dessert or a glass of wine. Sometimes it helped to go someplace with distractions like a museum or a Home and Garden Show or to get a pedicure.
How to help a friend getting divorced or recently divorced was anything that made me get dressed and back into the world of the living, when I could have just stayed in my sweats all day and felt sorry for myself. A friend’s encouragement made all the difference.
Help Them Pack & Move
Most people who divorce, end up moving out of the family home. For your friend, moving from a home her children have grown up in and full of so many memories is probably heartbreaking. It makes the whole divorce real, and she knows that her marriage is really over. That’s hard to accept. It’s a great gift for a friend going through divorce to have someone share that pain.
Helping a friend while she sorts through and packs up stuff to move is a tremendous display of caring from you, too. In one of our RADiCAL groups, the whole group helped move a class member into her new apartment. It’s usually an agonizing day in many ways. Your words of encouragement can help her see that a new home can be the first step to creating a good, full and fun life moving forward. But again, be prepared for tears. Let her know that’s okay.
Friends like you can be a lifeline to people going through divorce, but friends often have no idea what to say or what to do, so sometimes they don’t make the effort. Some friends don’t know all the details so they don’t want to “get involved.” So their friend is left with little support.
The truth is, to help a friend getting divorced, sometimes all you need to do is listen. Sometimes all we need is for someone to let us talk. Don’t judge. Don’t criticize. Don’t pretend to know what will help when you don’t. People going through divorce have all of these intense and erratic emotions crashing around in our head and our heart, and sometimes just getting them out into the open is all we need.
When you are helping a friend through divorce, you don’t need to have the answers, either. You just need to be there to reassure her that her life is changed, but it can be good again. Remind her that from what you’ve heard, it takes time and work to get through divorce, but that life can be fun and adventurous and full of happiness again, too.
What NOT To Say
Don’t Say Negative Things About Their Ex
If you are trying to help someone through divorce, don’t constantly bad-mouth the ex or soon-to-be ex. However, sometimes, it was validating to me for someone to say, “I just can’t believe he did this!” or “I am so disappointed in him!” Or even to say, “He is being such an A$$hole!” But don’t stay in that tunnel.
Don’t let your friend go into that dark place of focusing only on everything he did wrong. There is a place for that, but, in trying to find a word of encouragement for someone going through divorce, focus on things that will help your friend make progress forward instead of staying stuck in a place that only brings more pain and frustration.
When you are trying to figure out what to say to someone going through divorce, do not say:
- You’re better off without him.
- It’s been long enough, you need to just move on.
- Just get over it!
- You need to start dating.
- Lots of people get divorced.
- We never liked him anyway.
Those words are NOT helpful! Just remember: healing from divorce is often more complicated and in some ways more challenging than healing from the death of a spouse.
Often the divorce is caused by a decision your partner made to leave or to do things that were incompatible with a good marriage. Sometimes that’s harder to accept than a death that happens because of natural causes or even illness. There are no easy quick fixes to help a friend going through divorce! Just be there.
Don’t Make Comparisons
Every divorce has similarities, but every divorce is unique. No two divorces can be compared because of all of the intricacies of each individual relationship. As a friend, instead of making comparisons to someone else’s divorce, help your friend get help, no matter how her divorce happened.
Either purchase our year-long MasterPlan Program and Community for your friend or send her to our website for help. We have all kinds of ways to make her trip through divorce easier and with less drama and fewer tears. The MasterPlan is absolutely the best gift idea for a friend going through divorce. It’s the best thing you could possibly do for her.