If you are among the more than 50% of Americans who have experienced divorce, you know what a painful process it can be. Whether you are the one initiating the divorce or the one experiencing the shock of your life, divorce has a grief process all its own and a pain that can take on different forms for different people.
If you are among the 40-something percent of Americans who haven’t been through a divorce, but are friends with someone in the first group, I know how hard it can be to watch someone you love go through such upheaval and pain. You may even hope that you can be the one who soothes and heals your brokenhearted friend.
While your concern is admirable, there are certain things you should avoid saying and doing during this difficult time:
- Don’t say, “You’re better off.” While it may be true, a truth with bad timing is just as bad as an untruth. It puts pressure on the hurting to feel like they need to heal faster and this may not be possible right now. Often times, people don’t even know what to say. It’s ok to ask where they are in the process and just let them know you want to be there for them in any way they need.
- Don’t suggest dating. Never have I seen dating to ever to be an advisable course of action. If someone is going through the grieving process, inviting someone else into their life for companionship almost always causes more problems later. Instead, suggest keeping good friends and family close at this time. This is all the relationship this person needs at this time…. Trust me.
- Don’t tell the story of others you know who are also going through a divorce. I know you may feel that this helps you relate, but it doesn’t. It puts the divorcee in a position to feel that they are supposed to feel a different way than what they are already feeling. This includes sharing things about your divorce (unless specifically asked). No two divorces are the same, please resist the temptation to share in an effort to help. Instead, be willing to listen to their story. It’s unique.
- Don’t push. This may mean do not push yourself on them. Everyone has a different temperament and they will grieve differently. If you are an outgoing people person, you may find it hard to believe that someone actually wants and needs to be alone sometimes. Do not push them to do anything other than what they are feeling called to do. This could also mean do not push them if they are not “getting over it” fast enough for you. Yes, as friends or sisters we should do what we can to help them to get unstuck, but use words of encouragement (after you’ve listened). And ask questions, always ask questions. Your advice is not as wise as you think it is in your own head.
Divorce is an ugly situation that no one ever wants to be in. Help make it an easier time for your friends by simply being there for them – asking questions and listening, offering empathy – while they go through this process. Believe me, they want to go through it and get to the other side as much as you want them to.