Real Stories: Supporting Friends through Divorce
“I remember the feeling of being very much alone. I think lots of friends assumed that I was doing ok or that I was being helped out by other friends and family, but I wasn’t. But I had one friend who never just said, ‘I’m here if you need me’—instead, she was just THERE. And it made all the difference.”—Cat H.
While the statistics on divorce vary from state to state and are often interpreted differently depending on who’s looking at them, divorce is still a very common occurrence in the US. It’s rarely a decision made lightly, and many couples and their families experience a great deal of pain and emotional duress during a divorce, with some describing the feeling as akin to grieving a death.
We spoke to some people about their divorce experiences, and in sharing their stories, we hope you’ll find some good ideas to help comfort someone you care about.
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What to do to support someone who’s going through a divorce
“Unexpected cards found in the mail brightened my spirit and improved my outlook. A close friend dropped off a coffee mug that says ‘you’ve got this.’ Three simple words on a coffee mug I used each morning kept me going.” –Jenny L.
- As with any difficult time, little pick-me-ups can have a big impact. When you’re going through something as personal and solitary as a divorce, just knowing people are thinking of you and rooting for you is a gift.
“Divorce is like grief—it isn’t a one-time event, it’s a long process.” –Cat H.
- Even once the ink is dry on the divorce papers, there’s still a lot of emotional distress and uncertainty. While it’s nice to be there for someone during the actual process, maintaining that caring connection in the months afterwards is important.
“The things I remember are the friends who didn’t ask why, they were just there for the ‘ugly cries’ and to pick me up off the floor when I would start to let the self-doubt emotions take over.” –Em B.
- Being there physically—to listen without judgment, to hug, to be a shoulder to cry on—can be such a comfort. A person going through divorce is separating from someone they once thought they’d spend the rest of their lives with, and it can make them feel very alone.
“For my first birthday as a divorced, single gal, my friends went all out with a celebration fit for a queen with a girls’ weekend getaway and a beautiful bouquet of flowers on the actual day.” –Jenny L.
- Divorce is hard, no doubt. But reasons to have some fun will be a welcome respite for many people who still want to experience the joys life and their relationships have to offer. Invite a friend out for an evening, host a movie night, or celebrate their special days in special ways.
What to say to support someone who’s going through a divorce
“I talked with other women I knew who went through a divorce as well, and from them, I learned that divorce isn’t a failure, and although it was painful, I would be happier in the long run.” –Jenny L.
- A person going through a divorce has often made a very difficult and sometimes life-upending choice. Support them with words of encouragement and let them know that they have made the right choice for themselves.
Helpful tip: Even if you have experienced divorce, everyone’s path through it is different. It can be tempting to compare your experience with someone else’s, and while that’s not always a bad idea (especially if it leads to helpful advice), be careful to listen to the thoughts and feelings of the person you’re trying to support first and foremost.
“Some days I just thought ‘I honestly don’t think anyone cares.’ I know how bad that sounds but there were days when I 100% meant it.” –Em B.
- With any difficult time, one of the biggest boosts is just knowing someone cares. A simple text, call or card saying “I care about you and what you’re going through” can shine a light into what might otherwise be a dark emotional experience.
“Divorce is tricky—most people, even your close friends, don’t know what to say. Is it ‘Congrats’ or ‘I’m sorry’?”–Em B.
- Listening with an empathetic ear will help you understand how someone is feeling about and processing their divorce. What you say in support should align with their personal perspective, which may even change day to day or month to month.
“One friend gave me lots of fun ways to spend my time and supported my creative endeavors so that I could rediscover who I was outside of the confines of my past relationship.” –Cat H.
- Asking a person experiencing divorce about their interests and passions can reignite a spark in them that may have dimmed as well as open a door for you to support them in a way that feels fulfilling for both of you.
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