What to Do for a Friend Going through a Divorce | Do Say Give

What to Do for a Friend Going through a Divorce

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friend going through divorce

We’ve had many readers reach out to us about what to do for friends or family members who are going through a divorce. While this can be a touchy subject, we think it’s important to talk about. Chances are, we’ll all have loved ones who go through a divorce at some point — so we wanted to share our thoughts on how we can be supportive of them during a truly difficult and hard time.

Below we’ve listed ten things to do for friends who are going through or have just finalized a divorce. While no suggestion is one size fits all, we hope the ideas below will help you be more thoughtful as you love your friend well. Do remember that your presence, listening ear, and acceptance are the most important things you can give!

1. Acknowledge appropriately. It’s not always necessarily a situation where you’d say “I’m sorry” when a friend tells you about a divorce. We don’t know if there was a case of abuse, addiction, or if it actually might be a thing that has brought immense relief. So if you don’t know the personal details, say something along the lines of “That must be so hard” or “I’m thinking about you because this has got to be so difficult.”

2. Don’t ask for “the story.” People can get tired of having to tell “the story” over and over, or being asked about it. So if they’re not at a place where they want to share details, don’t ask. And if you have already heard details, it can be a relief to the other person when you acknowledge it. This helps them avoid having to rehash details that are likely hard and hurtful.

3. Continue to include them. When we polled our audience, this was the most common answer we received: Keep including your friend dinners and events. Even if those are normally a “couples’ thing!” The same goes for your friend’s children, too. Invite them over for play dates or on outings — being around friendly faces does wonders for adults and children alike.

4. Set up a meal train. For a newly single parent, a meal train would be so helpful — even if only once a week as she adjusts — and a thoughtful gesture by a group of friends or small group. Other thoughtful gestures as they adjust to a new normal:

  • A Favor or UberEats gift card so the family can choose what they want, or order in already prepared food from a favorite restaurant.
  • Ready-made lunches and dinners from Whole Foods via Amazon Prime.
  • Spoonful of Comfort and Southern Baked Pies are an unexpected treat — and are the next best thing to homemade.

5. Be intentional with gifts. A divorce can be a big adjustment financially. Single parents would be blessed by thoughtful gifts like gift cards to buy school supplies or sports gear. Care packages and household necessities would be welcome, too. If you want to give something more thoughtful, a necklace for a single mom with her and her children’s initials would be so thoughtful. We love this necklace

6. Be present. Offer to stay the night with your friend the first few nights of being alone in the house without her husband and/or children. Show up with coffee after school drop-off in the morning. Go on walks together.

7. Check in on them. In-person check-ins are the best, but if that’s not an option (perhaps you don’t live in the same city), checking in by phone and text is the next best thing. And don’t give up if they reschedule your outings or avoid your calls! Continuing to to show up for friends during any major life change is the best thing you can do.

8. Remember them on birthdays and holidays. Those first big holidays and events — birthdays, anniversaries, milestones — can be difficult to experience alone. Include them in your plans, buy your friend a gift, and even involve their children! Many of our readers said that it meant so much to them when friends would take their children to buy them a birthday or Christmas present. 

9. Help with the children. Even in a two-parent household, the juggle is very real. Offer to carpool or take children to and from after-school activities. If you’re running an errand and can grab a few extra supplies or necessities for their children, that would be so appreciated. And offer to watch the children for a few hours here and there so she’s able to run any errands or have some “me time.”

10. Don’t assume they’re doing okay. Remember that, even if you do everything we’ve talked about, there is a major life shift happening and some days might be better than others. We know that it can feel awkward to bring up with someone, but continue to ask her if they are doing alright and if they need help with anything. Silence can often mean the opposite.

If you’ve been through a divorce, please share what was most helpful to you below. And remember that there are so many different ways to love and support someone — well beyond this list! However the ten things above are a great place to start.

Photos: Brenna Kneiss

Lee
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2 thoughts on “What to Do for a Friend Going through a Divorce

  1. Thank you for speaking to this often uncomfortable topic! I think one of the hardest parts to understand about a person going through divorce is just how long her brain stays in a fight or flight stance. The long-suffering patience of a dear friend can be a true support in those days.

  2. Thank you for addressing this topic! No matter the age, or the duration of the marriage, or the ages of the children, or the reasons for the divorce, it is difficult. You are almost guaranteed to lose some *friends* in the process but the real ones will make themselves known. That was my experience.
    The tip you offered about including the divorced folks in gatherings has been the most important one, TO ME. As a single woman (divorced now almost two years), I am not shy about inviting a couple to join me for a cocktail from time to time (I find that they actually love the shake-up to THEIR routine too!) but it takes effort. I appreciate the friends who still invite me to things without thinking they have to set me up with anyone. I just want to continue to socialize with fun and interesting people — a set-up for a date is nice but it is not my priority.
    Kids: no matter the ages at divorce (mine were 15 and 21), they struggle. If the reasons for divorce were not so obvious to them (parents rarely fought, there was no shouting, no outward signs of discord) they can wonder what was real and what wasn’t. “I always thought my mom was happy. Now she says she had not been happily married for years — was it ALL fake? Was she not happy with me? Was I not enough?” Therapy helps.
    Lastly, encourage people supporting the divorced person to NOT take sides. No one knows what goes on behind closed doors. No one knows everything about another person’s struggles. Just acknowledge the state of affairs (the couple are splitting) and continue to take the high road — you can’t fall into a ditch if you do — and you will be leading by example. Your kids are watching how you treat others, all the time.

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