Going through a divorce is never a “club” one aspires to be a part of, but it happens.
Oftentimes, friends and loved ones very much want to help and ease the pain, but are either at a loss for what to do, or they try to fix the brokenness. Having gone through a divorce twelve years ago and having the privilege of leading in the national support group DivorceCare for five years, I have heard and seen a lot! So, here are some practical do’s and don’ts of helping friends who are navigating the painful road of divorce.
1. Freezer meals
As a single parent, working and having to think about making dinner and just planning ahead is beyond difficult. Stocking your loved one’s freezer with already-prepped meals is especially helpful so that on the hard days there is a no-thought-required meal ready and waiting.
2. Gift cards
If you don’t like to cook then a gift card would be great too. Choose places like Boston Market so that they can stop and get something on the way home from work.
3. Fill the empty time
Take your friend out for coffee or lunch on the weekends they are without their children. Going from being a full-time parent to being alone for two days is very hard at first. All that extra time gives them a lot of time to think about the divorce and to worry about how this is going to affect the children. Your loved one now has time to fill their mind with “what-ifs” because the dream of what they saw for their life is over and they can’t see a new dream yet. They are in the deep stages of grief and will be there for a while.
4. Be their family at church.
If you see them at church sitting alone, ask them to sit with you. Everyone in my DivorceCare class has a really hard time going to church. It is beyond painful to see all the “happy” families and hear all the analogies of families/marriage in sermons, etc. Even though most people don’t notice, it’s easy to feel like everyone is looking at you and wondering why you are alone.
5. Encourage them.
Text them and let them know you are thinking about them, praying for them, and maybe send a verse about God being an ever-present being.
1. Don’t try to force them out of their feelings.
Did you know that if you are in an active healing process (counseling/group therapy) for every five years someone was married it generally takes a year for them to heal? So don’t rush them into feeling better.
2. Don’t encourage them to start a new relationship. This can delay healing and actually create more pain to heal from.
3. Don’t say, “I saw this coming” or bad-mouth their former spouse. Even if that is true, it compounds the hurt and emphasizes in their mind the failure they feel.
4. Don’t try to give advice unless you have been in the same situation. You can be a friend by listening and being there, but encourage them to seek counsel from someone who is further down the road, a professional, or a support group.
These are just a few things that I hear over and over from people who are going through this process. It is a marathon and not a sprint. Above all: be patient. The healing process is painful but possible and it helps so much to have loving people walk alongside you.
If you have experienced divorce, what was encouraging to you?
Be encouraged by these posts as well!
- How to Help Those Going Through Divorce - January 22, 2018
- Courageous Perseverance - January 9, 2018
- Hearing God through Music - October 24, 2017
I love the “don’t try to give advice.” I also went through a divorce and became a single parent. I always look back on it and have the most gratitude towards all those that simply invited us over for dinner, brought us meals, bought the kiddos something for no reason, or just stopped by to chat. I did not appreciate the “I told you so’s..” Yuck! This is a great post! I love it!
oh my gosh – love this list and anyone who says “i saw this coming” should be punched! with joy of course…. but seriously. this is awesome!
Sigh…this is never an easy thing to go through. Sometimes we do more harm than good when we are dealing with persons in this situation. Thanks for showing us how
I have a friend going through divorce right now so this was a timely read. Thank you for the advice. I love the idea of freezer meals.
Thanks for the tips! I think “don’t try to give advice” is important for many things and is only “welcome” with really GOOD friends.
This is very practical, I think that is the best way to help someone who has been hurt.Identifying with the person shows you care, the scripture admonishes us to carry each other’s burdens.
You did a good job, God bless you.
I love all of the practical ‘dos’! So awesome. I think people forget about these easy ways to help.
These tips are super helpful! Our good friend is going through a divorce right now! We made him some meals and my husband stays with him when he travels for work!
Great advice. I particularly like the one about not trying to fix their feelings. If we honor our feelings by acknowledging them, then we can begin to let them go and perhaps achieve some new perspective. I get so tired of hearing people tell other that ‘they shouldn’t feel that way’.
I was married for over twenty years, and when we divorced, I was surprised at the number of people who said we wanted to tell you he was with other women but didn’t want to hurt you. Seriously? Don’t you think a divorce would hurt? If you see a relative or friend’s husband or wife looking intimately with someone else, blow the whistle! It could save a family from extreme hurt or validate the partner’s feelings so they can confront the issue. Divorce is painful, but finding out everyone knew but you is even more painful. These are excellent ideas.… Read more »
This is so helpful. I don’t know anyone right now going through a divorce, but it’s one of those topics that you don’t really know how to deal with as a friend, like you said. It’s hard to know how to encourage. I always appreciate advice from those who have gone through tough situations. Thank you!