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?