By Erin Levine
So many members of the Hello Divorce community tell me they have joined because they know someone going through a divorce. They wanted to find a way to be supportive, and felt that our tip sheets, resources, and videos would be a good way to help them feel informed enough to support their loved one through this difficult process.
While you’ll find resources on every aspect of divorce, from our pre-leaving checklist to how to prepare for a meeting with your lawyer or divorce coach to our divorce process flow chart to what to wear to court (and so much more) – I wanted to take things a step further. In 13 years of practicing family law, I’ve seen a lot, and I think most people would agree that there’s a right way and a not-so-right way to help a friend going through divorce. So, I reached out to my network to find people who have gone through divorce who could share stories of thoughtful ways they were supported. Lots of insights and ideas below worth borrowing!
Rehash the “Good ‘ole Days”
“Going through a divorce can be rough, challenging and lonely all in one. My friends actually were a huge part of my healing. From staying on the phone late nights with me until I fell asleep, to picking me up, or calling me to remind me to meet them at the gym. They also were great listeners. Without jumping to attempt to solve anything, they listened and listened. Having a safe space where I could go to talk non-judgmentally was ah-mazing.
The most important thing they did was remain positive by talking about the “good ole days” like back when we were in high school. We laughed together. Very hard laughs, until it hurt your stomach laughs. Those were the most therapeutic.” – Dr. Alisha Griffith, Au.D., CCC-SLP
Show Up, In Person
“I had a male friend who was going through a terrible divorce. He was at the end of his medical training and finally excited to be able to spend more time at home, but found out shortly thereafter that his wife had been cheating on him. He was devastated.
“For me, I found that the best thing to do was to give him the opportunity, space, and permission to just talk. I’m not sure how often guys get that after a loss. I asked him if he would join me at a coffee shop where we could have a fairly private table, and just simply asked how he was doing and how he was feeling…and listened. I was supportive, but just let him say and share what he needed to.
“It doesn’t sound like much, and he isn’t a guy who is big on emotions, but I think having someone who cared enough to ask and sit with him was really important. Not texting, but in person.
“He later told me that I was the only person who reached out in a meaningful way…I think men’s emotions are often overlooked or we kind of brush them off, like they are ‘strong enough’ to not need a friend. But those old stereotypes do no one any good – especially the person struggling.” – Dr. Julie Gurner Dr. Gurner is a thought leader in personal development, company culture, and has a vast background in psychology.
Don’t Stoke the Fire
“While it’s important to be there and listen, you want to make sure that you don’t ‘stoke the fire.’ By giving too much emotional support about the horrible situation/spouse/etc., a friend may inadvertently drive the person going through divorce to send more heated communications then necessary or make decisions in anger or emotion as opposed to calm and logic,” advises Arielle Band, founder and chief navigator of Colibri Life.
Arielle also offers other tips:
Help with their kids. Things as little as packing lunch for the separated/divorced person’s children one day a week, or offering to pick the kids up from school can help take something off their plate.
Keep them social. Make sure your friend gets out and stays social – even when they may not want to. This is important to help keep them from always living in their own head.
Offer a release. I often do walk & talks with friends going through divorce where we go out for a walk and they get to talk (or not) about whatever is on their mind. It’s a great way to help change their mood with the activity and air but also create some release.
Send an Unexpected Surprise
Sometimes, it’s the smallest, most unexpected gestures that can mean the most.
“One friend who I met at camp when I was in 9th grade – and have only seen less than ten times since, because we live in different parts of the country – sent me the most wonderful care package. It arrived on a day when I really, really, really needed a pick-me-up.
“This care package had a variety of items inside, each with a note about why it was in the box: a tube of hand lotion because I would hold your hand and tell you everything is going to be all right, a package of tissues because I would help to wipe the tears away when you are sad, a bottle of flashy bright red nail polish because even in our saddest and darkest moments, there is nothing like some bright red toenails to brighten our spirits, and a coffee cup because I would love to sit and talk with you over a nice cup of coffee.
READ MORE: With A Little Help From My Divorced Friends
Stay Close, But Don’t Press
“I give this same advice to anyone asking the question, How do I show up for someone after a death, a bad diagnosis, or bad news in general? I always advise people to stay close, but don’t press. Don’t avoid talking to your friend, and don’t avoid the topic of divorce. Let them know you know what’s going on, that you love them and are there for them. But don’t pressure them into self-care, to talk, or to do anything else. Just be available. Ask them to dinner. If they don’t want to go, that’s okay. Or when the time feels right, you could help them write their dating profile. Staying close but not pressing. Don’t avoid them. But also don’t assume the person going through divorce is going to want to take you up on every offer of help.”
– Annie Wright, LMFT is a licensed psychotherapist and social justice advocate who maintains a thriving psychotherapy private practice in Berkeley, California. Learn more at www.anniewrightpsychotherapy.com.
About the Author Erin Levine is a Certified Family Law Specialist and the owner and managing attorney of Levine Family Law Group, based in Oakland, CA. She is the founder and CEO of Hello Divorce, a platform that helps users divorce on their terms, offering curated articles and resources, DIY videos, instructional form templates, flat-fee legal services and mediation. Learn more or register for a free Hello Divorce starter membership at www.HelloDivorce.com. For advice, inspiration and tips to help you navigate your divorce, follow Erin on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest.
Erin Levine is a Certified Family Law Specialist and the owner and managing attorney of Levine Family Law Group, based in Oakland, CA. She is the founder and CEO of Hello Divorce, a platform that helps users divorce on their terms, offering curated articles and resources, DIY videos, instructional form templates, flat-fee legal services and mediation. Learn more or register for a free Hello Divorce starter membership at www.HelloDivorce.com. For advice, inspiration and tips to help you navigate your divorce, follow Erin on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest.