Top 10 tips on how to support a friend through divorce
Updated: Nov 7, 2019
1. Understand that divorce is a loss, like a bereavement
Divorce is the loss of a loved one, no matter what your friend may say to you. It is the loss of a loved individual, a loved family, a loved life – at one time or another.
The emotional stages that people getting divorced go through are the same as those in a bereavement – disbelief/shock, anger, depression, bargaining, acceptance.
Become familiar with these stages so that you can recognise them in your friend, and support them through it. They will go through some or all of the stages, in varying order, and sometimes more than once.
2. Remember that a breakup is not the same as a divorce
They are not comparable – although the emotions of a breakup can be intense, like with a divorce, divorce has a whole raft of legalities to navigate too – and this has to be done with their ex, they can’t just walk away and move on straight away. It takes months and, more often than not, years to get through the whole process of divorcing legally.
3. Don’t judge them
Be there for them, and listen without judgement.
Don’t judge them if they share something with you about their relationship breakdown that you are shocked by. Seek to understand, it probably took them a lot to tell you and shows how much they trust you. Don’t damage that trust.
4. Include them in social events
Divorce is an exceptionally lonely process, and lots of people lose friends during this time where a couple’s friends either take sides, or don’t take the time or effort needed to understand.
Don’t forget that they’ve probably also lost a family network that they may have had for years. Make a conscious effort to invite them to things – they may not accept all of the invites, but they will do for some.
5. Don’t assume they want to meet someone else straight away
Everyone is different, but most people who come through divorce will need to take some time to be happy on their own, before entering into the dating game again. They are likely to have had their confidence knocked in the process of divorce and will need to find this within themselves again.
6. Support them whilst they “find their feet” in getting their life back on track
Getting divorced impacts every part of someone’s life. Life will never be the same again for them, and they will need to take some time to carve out their new life and the routines associated with it.
They will need to find their independence again – this may involve new interests and hobbies. Encourage your friend in this, offer to go with them where you can.
If there are children involved it can be even more complicated. Time is at a premium if the children are spending time with both their parents.
7. Let them talk
They are living and breathing this divorce every day…and it can go on for years. It is relentless and pulls on every ounce of strength that people have. It may seem tedious at times, as they may be talking about it a lot….but they need to. Let them rant, and be a sounding board for them. They need to let off steam. They will do the same for you if you ever need them to.
8. Avoid placing blame
Don’t place blame on either party, even if you think it’s what your friend wants or needs to hear…. always remain balanced. Encourage your friend to see the broader picture. No matter whose “fault” the actual break may have been, things won’t have been perfect in the relationship for it to reach this stage. Help your friend to see this and to take responsibility for their part in the relationship.
9. Remember it's about them, not about you
You may not agree with the divorce, but it’s not you that’s going through it. Detach your own thoughts and feelings from the situation and focus on your friend.
10. Make your support ongoing
Divorce can be a very long process. It’s not just the first few weeks. In fact, it can get harder the longer the process as you invariably find that friends don’t have the time to talk so much. Take the time to check in on them – even if just a text or email. Let them know that you’re thinking of them. A quick phone call will mean the world to them.