For some people, divorce is a welcome conclusion to a marriage that is no longer working. For others, it can be the most devastating and overwhelming experience they’ll ever go through.
So if you’re seeing a dear friend cycle through the roller coaster emotions associated with this challenging part of their life, it’s hard to know what to say, especially since you don’t want to tell them the wrong things.
Here’s what to say to a friend going through a divorce, as advised by experts.
Table of Contents
- Understand the divorce context
- Offer to listen
- Support your friend in their self-care
- Lend a helping hand
- Provide information and referrals
- Never join in on putting him down
- Be a great listener
- “I am here for you whenever you need me.”
- “I know how you feel and how hard things must be.”
- “All things have their reasons and time will bring you a new love.”
- “You are courageous and brave to take the chance at a new life.”
- “What are you looking forward to in a new relationship?”
- “What feels great about the split?”
- Be reasonable in your expenses until you learn your budget
- Start a co-parenting relationship on the right foot
- Have emotional breaks
- Try to keep your children out of the divorce at all costs
- Don’t bring someone too quickly around your children
- Ask them what is heaviest on their plate and then offer to help out
- You can act as their sounding board and can help anchor them to reality
- Help your friend to find healthy ways to deal with their stress and practice self-care
- A listening ear is appreciated
- Suggest some fun things you could do together
- Show them that your friendship is a constant
- Find out their state of mind
- Offer tips for keeping their sanity
- Discourage any unhealthy behaviors
- Advocate for her resilience
- Compliment her courage
- Offer to hang out with the kids
- Suggest other resources
- “Thank you for sharing that with me because it’s always tough to be vulnerable about a pending divorce”
- Practice listening without giving advice
- Be present
- Be wise with their finances
- Secure online credentials
- Encourage your friend to think about all the positive things still left in their life
- “Lean upon me”
- “Lean upon reality (as painful as it is in the moment)”
- “Lean upon immediate consolations but not reliefs”
- “Lean upon others”
- “Lean upon the lessons learned”
- “Lean upon God”
- “Lean upon the signs which already surround you”
- “Lean upon your convictions”
- Listen and be emphatic
- Support them with their decision
- Help them concentrate on the future
- Listen and try to respond to their needs
- Listening and being present is more important than saying anything, especially during the early stages of a divorce
- Ask your friend about the ideal relationship they would like to have in the future
- Advise them to always think about their actions
- Give advice when asked
- Encourage them to commit to healing their heart
- Show them grace
- Share your support and stay neutral
- Do not give an opinion
- Be realistic
- Take them out
- Give them their space
- Be mindful of what they are going through
- Offer support without placing judgment or criticism
- Offer help with daily tasks
- “Do not let your ego get the best of you”
- “Don’t try to stuff your feelings down and be strong”
Professional Life & Divorce Coach | TEDx Speaker
Your friend is going through a divorce. You really want to be there for them. What do you say to help…and not make things worse? What does not help is to assume what’s going on for your friend. Offering the right words, on the other hand, is definitely a great first step. Here are a few pointers.
Understand the divorce context
Understanding the divorce context will guide you, whether you’re a close friend, a friend of the couple, or further removed.
According to the Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale, divorce is ranked as the second most stressful event out of ten that can happen to you as an adult, with the first being the death of a spouse or child. If you’ve ever been through it or helped someone who has, I don’t need to tell you…it is hard.
Divorce can feel like a fire hose going off in all directions. Often there’s simultaneous change in multiple areas – legal, financial, parenting, emotional and social.
The divorce could be amicable, civil, acrimonious, desperate, unexpected, inevitable, or even long overdue. There might have been emotional, financial or physical abuse.
Feelings of shame, sadness, denial, confusion, anger, relief, loneliness, and overwhelm are common and normal.
Offer to listen
A genuine offer to listen and connect can be powerful. There are many ways to express this. For example, “I’m not sure how you’re doing or feeling. I respect your privacy. Please know I care about you and that I’m available, if and when you’d like to talk.”
When you do connect, listen empathetically, with sensitivity, and without judgment. Commit to confidentiality. After all, breakups are hard enough on their own, without the “he said/she said” drama that can follow them. Unfortunately, certain friends, family, and colleagues – no matter how well-intentioned they seem – might feed off this. Promise yourself not to be one of these folks.
Support your friend in their self-care
While it’s important for all of us to practice good self-care, it’s especially important for those experiencing higher than normal levels of stress.
Self-care is not a one-time thing, it’s an ongoing thing. To avoid overwhelm, I usually recommend keeping things simple, at least in the beginning: adequate sleep, healthy foods, hydration, exercise, journaling, connecting with loved ones. Identify where you might be able to help.
Ask them if they’d to go for a regular walk, or perhaps offer to babysit their children while they go for a mind-clearing walk, to the gym, or a health care appointment.
Lend a helping hand
Your friend is the one going through a divorce. Not you. You are not responsible for them, but you do want to be responsible to them. How can you do that?
Expressing a willingness to provide practical help can be a godsend to a friend who’s navigating the divorce process. “How can I help?” It’s a simple question, but it can give you a lot of information.
If they’re feeling overwhelmed, they might not even be able to answer that question, in which case it might be a good idea to be more specific. “Would it help if I…take the kids to the park…send over some meals…mow your lawn…check in on you once a day/week…come over on Thursday night?”
Provide information and referrals
In my work with divorce coaching clients, I often help them figure out who’s already on – or needs to be – on their “Board of Directors”. This refers to their support network, which will be a vital part of their divorce journey and recovery.
This network will include: trusted friends and family members; thinking or listening partners; and other service providers and resources. In fact, your friend may even need help to rebuild their entire Board of Directors, especially if they lost relationships during the separation.
If you’re able to provide credible information and qualified referrals, you could save your friend a ton of time, stress…and money. “Are you aware of your options…do you need or want a referral to a lawyer…mediator…financial advisor…divorce coach…counselor…health care provider…realtor…?”
Divorce is usually a time of stress, loss, and uncertainty. What you say and do can have a positive and lasting impact on your friend. Your words can convey an openness to listening empathetically. They can encourage them to practice important self-care. And they can convey a willingness to provide practical help and qualified referrals if needed.
Relationship Expert | Trauma Therapist
Words carry so much weight and things you say- can last and linger way past the time you say it. Be careful with someone who is breaking up a relationship. They have not had the time to settle in, to calm their emotions and to make sense of the changes that are upon them. Where they are – may change in a flash. So beware, be careful and be mindful.
There are things to say to a friend going through a divorce and things to never say.
Never join in on putting him down
Stay clear of judgments about the ex, as it might backfire on you. You never know with people on the verge of a breakup. Let’s say you participate in highlighting their faults. Your friend agrees and feels great that you share her criticisms.
But let’s say that friend decides to give the relationship one more try. What then? You will be the bad one and she may resent you. Never tell your friend the negative things you see. Now would be a good time to shut up!
Be a great listener
Let your friend speak, cry, vent, and get out her anger. Can you listen without judgment and just be an ear, without needing to comment.
Don’t tell your friend to stop what she is feeling. Even if the intensity scares you, again, it would be great if you just stay still and allow the anger to pass through – like waves on an ocean. People can be so scared of anger, but it is actually healthy when released in a safe way.
A great idea would be to go to the woods, or be alone on the ocean and let your friend have primal feelings. As Elizabeth Kubler Ross, the expert on grief has said- you have to externalize the grief.
Here are some great things to say to your friend:
“I am here for you whenever you need me.”
Just knowing that you are near, that they can call you at any time is the best medicine. Just knowing that you won’t judge when they keep saying the same thing over and over again- will bring great peace.
Being there means you can listen to the same story and not mind! This is what they need and you can give them – the most precious thing- to bear the story over and over again!
“I know how you feel and how hard things must be.”
Sharing the pain, and joining them in the energy of the suffering can be a great comfort. Your friend cannot be around happy people in love and joy- not now. They need camaraderie and understanding and what can be better than – sitting in the same field.
“All things have their reasons and time will bring you a new love.”
At the right moment, you can dream with your friend about all the new possibilities, new relationships. Now would be a great time to talk about old boyfriends and the ones that got away and what your friend is really looking for.
You can tell them that what they learned in their old relationship will be gold – to move into a dream love. Ask them what they hated about their relationship and let them realize they are now free.
“You are courageous and brave to take the chance at a new life.”
So many people stay in their unhappy relationships because they are so afraid of being alone. They will withstand a mediocre life just to be safe. And for those that have the courage of a lion- to break out when they don’t know what tomorrow brings- they are the ones who dare to live and get what they want.
“What are you looking forward to in a new relationship?”
In manifesting and creating the life that you want, you have to know your list. What are your 5 non- negotiable traits that you must have in a new love? Help your friend declare them and find happiness in the possibilities.
The next step in manifestation – is to become your list. Tell her/him that through the science of love and manifestation, you must become what you seek. If you become as amazing as what you desire in another, the law of attraction will bring it to you.
“What feels great about the split?”
To know what you want, you have to know also, what you don’t want. Let it rip, discuss all the things you truly have never spoken about – in your relationship. Leave the negative lane for a brief time and travel into the other lane of positivity.
What are you so happy about – that you will never ever have to deal with again? Get real about the joy of freedom and the hope of a new life.
The heart cracks open to let the light in. Divorce is an opportunity to let go of the old so you can have the new.
Kris Balekian Hayes
Family Law Attorney | Family Mediator | Managing Partner, Balekian Hayes, PLLC
Be reasonable in your expenses until you learn your budget
You are about to embark on a whole new life, and it’s tempting to start entirely anew. Try to resist the urge to spend money as much as you can so that you don’t start in the red.
Start a co-parenting relationship on the right foot
You will have a lifetime of dealing with the other side even after a divorce if you have children, so try and start off on the right foot with flexibility and generosity.
Have emotional breaks
Know that divorces are emotionally draining because you are forced to keep track of every negative aspect of the case, try to build in emotional breaks throughout the process. Most people budget for the cost of their divorce but forget to account for additional services that are vital to maintaining their mental health during this challenging time in their lives. Now is the time to make sure there is extra cash for therapy, massages, fitness classes, or whatever you need to help keep you sane.
Try to keep your children out of the divorce at all costs
Healthy kids are those that know that mom and dad love them dearly but are just going to live apart from now on. Never bad mouth your ex.
Don’t bring someone too quickly around your children
It’s tempting to be excited about your newfound happiness but know that kids are trying to adjust to their new lives. Don’t bring someone new around your kids too quickly as they may not be as excited as you about your new partner.
Stephen L. Cawelti
Divorce Attorney, Cawelti Law
Ask them what is heaviest on their plate and then offer to help out
Your friend going through a divorce doesn’t just need to hear that you are there for them however, they also need to feel it. Ask them what is heaviest on their plate and then offer to help out.
You might assist with childcare while money is tight during the early days/weeks of the divorce, or offer to take the kids even just for an hour or two so that they can have some time alone.
If they complain that there isn’t enough hours in the day to focus on their divorce case and get everything done they need to, consider taking over a casserole that will last a couple of meals.
If you are close enough, you could also offer to help research divorce attorneys or fill out financial disclosure forms. These forms can be time consuming and overwhelming, so dividing the labor can ease the workload.
Your friend might not want help but just need a listening ear. Regardless, it is important for them to know that they have people in their corner who are willing to have their back.
You can act as their sounding board and can help anchor them to reality
The divorce process is often an emotional rollercoaster, and the stress of it can cause many individuals to act in ways that they wouldn’t normally. As a friend, you can act as their sounding board and can help anchor them to reality.
Give them the assurance that they will get through this difficult time, but don’t condone irrational behavior. Remind them that while their ex might legitimately be the devil reincarnate if he/she gets them to lose their cool, they have major leverage in court.
Help your friend to find healthy ways to deal with their stress and practice self-care
Encourage them to take care of their mind and body and to take time out to exercise, eat well, and relax. It is absolutely fine (and normal) to feel and function at a less than optimal level for a period of time.
Remind them that there is no person during this time more in need of their care and compassion than themself.
Certified Divorce Coach | Certified Divorce Specialist, Designed Divorce
A listening ear is appreciated
As a Divorce Coach and two-time divorcée, I know that going through a divorce is a very isolating experience. It’s wonderful when friends check in to see how things are going. Often, the person going through divorce simply wants to vent about the ex, so a listening ear is appreciated.
Suggest some fun things you could do together
As a coach, I do not let my clients vent for too long, since my goal is to move them forward. As a friend, it can be helpful to suggest some fun things you could do together to focus their attention on the future.
If they feel sad they will not be seeing their children on a holiday, invite them for an early morning coffee or a walk that day as a distraction. If they are upset about a reduction in household income, suggest that you go for a hike or hang out and binge a Netflix series to show your friendship goes beyond expensive restaurant meals or spa days.
Related: What to Do After a Breakup
Show them that your friendship is a constant
Divorce changes almost every aspect of someone’s life from money to parenting to how they spend their time. As a friend, the best thing you can do is show them that your friendship is constant. Telling them that you are their ride or die and you will be there for them no matter what is the best gift you can give them.
Former Chicago Dating Advice Examiner | Author, “My Cat Won’t Bark! (A Relationship Epiphany)”
Before you say anything you should consider the true nature of your friendship and it’s level of closeness. It’s one thing if she/he is your best friend who has been keeping you privy of their unhappiness versus an acquaintance suddenly making an announcement.
Another factor to consider is whether or not your friend initiated the divorce or was caught off guard when their spouse made their intentions known.
Getting a divorce can be a cause for celebration if someone feels they are courageously taking a major step towards reclaiming their life. Divorces can be amicable, a gut wrenching heartache experience, or a nasty brutal war whereby both people have a “torch the earth” mindset.
Life is a personal journey. Each of us is responsible for our own happiness. Your role as a friend is not to talk them into or out of their decision to divorce. Some people claim divorce is the “easy way out” however in most instances those people have never actually gone through a divorce!
Unless you have been in your friend’s shoes, any advice you give is based upon your observation of others or a hypothetical belief of how you think you would deal with it. Anyone who has ever been divorced will tell you getting married is a lot easier and more fun than going through a divorce.
Charting a course towards an unknown future is always riskier than maintaining a known present. However, when it comes to marriage, the goal is to find a “soulmate” not a cellmate.
No one is “stuck” with anyone. Suffering is optional.
Find out their state of mind
You want to have an idea of how your friend perceives their own circumstances before saying too much. After initially stating how sorry you are to hear they’re having to deal with going through a divorce you should ask a few questions before commenting further.
Naturally, if your friend is distraught, being empathetic is far more important than offering motivational words of encouragement.
The best thing you can do is to let your friend know you are here for them if they want to talk or do activities to take their mind off of things for a couple of hours.
However one of the best things a friend can do is to remind their friend of the importance of formulating a strategy. There will be plenty of time to grieve or celebrate whichever might be the case once the divorce is settled.
Sometimes when you’re going through something such as a divorce you just want it to “be over with” so you don’t give much thought to the future. A good friend will ask if any thought has been given about a variety of things from child custody to division of assets as they go through the divorce process. Knowing what one wants for an outcome before hiring an attorney can help to expedite the process.
Offer tips for keeping their sanity
Encourage your friend to take care of the details of their divorce. Suggest she/he grieve among close friends and family or see a therapist if need be. The next thing you want to do is help them keep things in perspective. Human beings make mistakes in all areas of life including choosing the wrong mate.
Remind them; In order for their ex to have been “the one”, their ex would have had to see them as being “the one”. At the very least, a “soulmate” is someone who actually wants to be with you! (And vice versa)
Getting a divorce is not the end of the world. It’s just the conclusion of one chapter in your book of life. The sun will rise tomorrow. Your future lies ahead of you and not behind you. A divorce when it’s all said and done is public admission a mistake was made in someone’s mate selection process.
“A bend in the road is not the end of the road unless you fail to make the turn.” – Helen Keller
Every ending is a new beginning!
Break-Up Coach | Exit Strategist | Blogger | Author, “The Goodbye Guide”
It’s difficult to watch a friend go through a life experience as tumultuous as a divorce. Even in the most civil situations, divorce can still be jarring and jolting. In most cases, your natural instinct is to support your friend by offering a shoulder to cry on and a listening ear. At some point, your friend may need more than a supportive shoulder and an attentive ear. They may ask for your insight, your opinion and even your advice.
Even the closest of friends may find themselves speechless and unsure of what comforting magic words might soothe your inconsolable friend. Here are some things that might be helpful to share:
You probably already know the details of your friend’s marriage story. But she may still want to talk about, . Rather than encouraging her constantly relive the subtle nuances, just listen to what she has to say.
Sometimes, she just needs to vent and get it out of her system. She may not be looking for answers but just wants an attentive and discrete friend with whom to share her frustration with.
Discourage any unhealthy behaviors
Your friend may temporarily go down the rabbit hole of cyberstalking their ex or trying to decipher text messages or social media posts.
You may need to tell your friend that this behavior will keep her stuck in the past and that the best way to move forward is to NOT obsess over the ex. Instead, your friend should channel that energy into healing and building her new life.
Advocate for her resilience
Divorce can feel like a never-ending saga but one of the most important things that a good friend can do is to remind your bestie of any seemingly insurmountable challenges they’ve conquered in the past (getting a degree, running a marathon, raising children, climbing a career ladder, etc.).
Remind your friend that she has an unlimited reserve of resilience that she can tap into to get through this phase of her life. The same way that she overcame those other challenges or obstacles, is the same way that she can get through divorce.
It feels unbearable at the moment, but the pain and discomfort are temporary. Remind your friend that on the other side of it awaits freedom and new adventures.
Compliment her courage
Divorce can cause most people’s self-confidence to take a hit. Oftentimes, women stay in an unhealthy or unhappy situation because they haven’t yet mustered up the courage to leave their expired relationship. Be sure to remind your friend of how courageous she is. Admire her strength and compliment her foresight to take that leap of faith.
Despite what we see in fairytales, marriages don’t always last forever but the honesty and courage to acknowledge that and move forward should be applauded.
Offer to hang out with the kids
If she has children and is also trying to navigate being a single parent, offer to hang out with the kids if she needs some me-time. Also, it’s important for children to know that they have a village of support aside from Mom and Dad. Tell your friend that she can call you periodically if she needs a break.
Suggest other resources
No matter how great of a friend you are, your friendship is not a substitute for professional help. If your friend does not seem to be making progress in her healing journey, consider suggesting a therapist, counselor, life coach, or even a support group. If your friend has had a significant change in appetite, sleep patterns, or has intense anger and sadness that do not seem to be improving as time goes on, she may benefit from seeking additional support.
Divorce sometimes brings past trauma to the surface. It may also bring awareness of unhealthy patterns and behaviors. A professional can help your friend course correct. It may be uncomfortable to bring up the notion of professional help, but if you really love your friend, suggesting that she seek mental health services can make a positive difference.
In essence, divorces can be debilitating but it helps to have supportive friends to make the journey a little bit easier. As a friend, your role is to support, encourage, and hold space for your friend. Put yourself in her shoes and treat her with the same gentle kindness that you would want if you were in the throes of a divorce.
Domestic and Family Attorney
“Thank you for sharing that with me because it’s always tough to be vulnerable about a pending divorce”
However, if your friend is looking for more concrete advice, these are what I’d suggest:
Even though it’s personal, treat this as a business situation. Take extensive notes on everything, just in case you need to reference it later.
Get everything in writing, especially the important stuff. Your friend is probably going to discuss different aspects of the divorce over the phone with their soon-to-be-ex but it’s important to remind them that written documentation is key! It’s best to follow-up chats with an email and asks their ex to reply and confirm that they understand/agree with the details.
Determine what type of divorce you want. They need to be clear on if they want to fight it out in court or settle things quietly, and be prepared if the other spouse does not agree with their position.
Hire an attorney who’s aligned with your goals. Advise your friend to hire a lawyer that will handle the divorce how they want to, and who has experience in Court as not all cases can be settled out of court and you need to be prepared to go to court to fight for what you are entitled to.
Use Google Drive to share documents with your attorney. It’ll be easier to manage communication during the divorce process if your friend creates a folder in Google Drive and shares the link.
Practice listening without giving advice
For supporting a friend who is going through a divorce, it’s important to practice listening without giving advice. Most of us faced with a friend who is going through a difficult experience are compelled to help: we want to make it better! We want our friend to not cry anymore!
While these sentiments come from a good place, they are missing the point entirely. Someone going through a divorce is experiencing possibly one of the hardest times of their lives, and no amount of cheering up or suggestions for how to “move on” will change that or make it better.
Instead, try to listen and be present. Saying things like, “I can’t imagine what you’re going through, but just know that you’re not alone and I’m here right by your side,” communicates both understanding & support without insisting on that person changing how they’re feeling right then and there.
By acknowledging that you have no idea what your friend is experiencing you are actually validating what they are going through and also letting them know that while you may not understand exactly what they are feeling or thinking, you are with them and will be there for them to count on.
Oftentimes, the best support you can give someone going through a divorce isn’t through words, but through actions. Invite them out for lunch or coffee. Have them over for dinner. Sometimes just simply involving them in activities that can distract or entertain your heart-weary friend is all that’s needed to help them.
Going through a divorce is lived one day at a time. Focus on what you can do you for your friend in a moment of that day, and resist the urge to want to rush them through the grieving process of losing the marriage they once had.
Laura D. Dale
Certified Mediator | Certified Collaborative Law Attorney | Parenting Coordinator, Dale Family Law
I like to tell the clients that divorce is a process, most likely longer than they might like, so prepare for a marathon, not a sprint.
Be wise with their finances
I would make sure my friend has a handle or a good idea on their ‘finances’ and what they entail. Specifically, what does it cost them to live, where does the income the spouses make go, and what credit cards (Amex, MasterCard) are out there.
Secure online credentials
Finally, in the age of digital everything, know who has access to your digital accounts, including email, social media, banking, etc. You may possibly want to change those passwords and the email address and/or phone numbers for which the current spouse might be listed as a recovery/lost password/verification contact.
We are seeing where a spouse or a child is on the same digital account as a client, and suddenly all information is available to the other spouse during the divorce.
Allen Klein, MA, CSP
Award-winning Speaker | TEDx Presenter | Best-selling Author, “Embracing Life After Loss”
A divorce is a loss not too unlike the death of a loved one. Anyone who has been through one knows that they will probably experience some of the same stages of grief…anger, bargaining, depression, etc.
What could help during that time is to remember that all is not lost, that there are still some wonderful things in life. And you can encourage the person involved in a divorce to partake in some of those things.
I once had a spiritual teacher who taught me a great lesson, so important in these kinds of situations. He said, “To want what you don’t have is to waste what you do have.”
Encourage your friend to think about all the positive things still left in their life
To this end, you can encourage your friend to think about, or even make a list, of all the positive things in their life for which they still have and for which they are grateful. Depending on the situation, even the divorce itself might end up on the list, if the marriage was not a happy or fulfilling one.
It has been said that “When one door closes, another opens.” The divorce has closed one part of a person’s life but there are so many other doors that are waiting to be opened. A friend can help the divorcee open some of those in order to move on. For example, they can suggest:
Getting out of the house
Becoming a hermit might feel safe but it is engaging with the world again after the divorce that will make them feel normal again.
Studies have shown that helping others is one of the best ways to put your problems in the background.
Doing something new
Their new freedom is an opportunity to do new things…eat at a new restaurant, wear something bright, travel to someplace they have never been before, etc.
Remembering that “This too shall pass”
Everything changes. It may feel awful right now, but nothing stays the same forever.
Seeing the experience as a learning opportunity
Sometimes, icky things in life can be our greatest teacher. What has the divorced person learned from this event and how can it help them be a better person?
Perhaps the most important of all, your friendship itself can be a reminder that there are still people in the divorced person’s life that care about and love them.
Rev. Martin L. Dunne, III
I’ve not only had to answer this question frequently in ministry to people of all backgrounds which I knew personally at various levels, but I also have had to answer this question for the benefit of most of my very closest friends (both men and women). My friends have since found healing and meaning in their lives to a higher degree than even before the divorce.
This reflection includes “my actual words” used to help others respond the best way during this unavoidably-painful time.
“Lean upon me”
You may be asking: ‘How should I continue? Why should I continue?’ What’s worse is that these may be your most coherent thoughts in the seeming internal chaos you feel right now in your mind. For example, one of our greatest fears is feeling rejection, but you’re likely feeling the pain of that now more than ever before!
That’s why, now more than ever before you need to express everything you need to express, but in the safest way possible. You will never shock me. You will never disappoint me. You will only be loved by me at this most painful time, and always.
Thank you for turning to me at this time. This is a time when the temptation to shut others out can be overwhelming. This is a time that, at best, going to feel like a roller coaster. Just when you think the worst is over you get slammed by another drop from pain. But I promise that you will be able to get off this ride and lean upon everything you need to lean upon… now more than ever before.
“Lean upon reality (as painful as it is in the moment)”
Yet, I realize that leaning on me is not the same as leaning upon a spouse. I can’t be there for you in the same way you had hoped your spouse would be there for you. I can never fully grasp the depths of agony you feel right now in so many ways and the added dimension of loneliness that gives.
This must be most-pervasively, most-deeply impacting you, especially because you realize that your marriage, what you considered the most important aspect of your life, didn’t go the way you had hoped … the way you had longed, worked, sacrificed, and trusted in so many countless and significant ways for so long (hoping that the other saw things the same way).
It doesn’t help that some things are just beyond comprehension. This pain you feel compounds the pressures, challenges, difficulties, and responsibilities you still have to face as you go through this process. Yet, all the while please trust that healing will simultaneously occur when you incorporate several strategies.
There will likely be days where all you can do is literally force yourself to get up, put one foot in front of the other, and continue about your responsibilities. One moment at a time is all that will ever be expected of you or anyone–even as it feels the knife is being turned at the worst, and least-expected, moments. It will get easier in time as you strive to give your best through it all.
This difficult time may also trigger profound wounds, scars or other brokenness from your past. This may tempt you to worry that you’ll make the remaining areas of life and relationships worse because of the difficulty to know at times which direction is up. This is why renouncing the fears by leaning upon the realities you can count upon is so critically important at this moment.
“Lean upon immediate consolations but not reliefs”
Nothing can take away the sting of the moment, but some blessings you still have can not only make it bearable, but they also can renew your hope in the possibility that the best days of your life could still be ahead of you. You are already proving that now simply by taking time to be with me when there is more pulling at you in every painful direction than ever before.
First and foremost, you can make sure that you are not suffering any more pain than you have to, any pain beyond the suffering that you are already experiencing from externals which are beyond your control. What will always be in your control, however, will be your internal response to these uncontrollable externals?
I realize that it feels truly overwhelming right now, but an immediate, and necessary, response is not giving into the temptations to use things that may provide immediate, but temporary, relief but will also certainly make things even worse than they undeniably are. Things which ultimately make the sting worse in many ways.
I’m talking about temptations for such activities as overeating, overdrinking, misusing drugs and media, and holding onto toxic relationships that do not pick you up but keep you down and out. Also please beware of rushing into another romantic relationship the other may be well-intentioned, but now is your time for healing… in-part to ensure all relationships go as well as possible in the future.
If nothing else, please remember that the wrong decisions waste the most-valuable irreplaceable gift of time. I cannot stress this enough: please do not do anything rash, big, and abrupt for that matter; the most important thing to do in times of turmoil is patiently staying the course, that’s a spiritual approach that has worked for millions for nearly a thousand years!
Especially during this time (but always as often as possible) turn towards the real consolations you still have right now (& never have to lose): prayer, recreational activities, good foods, good books, good entertainment, exercise, hobbies, and true friends.
“Lean upon others”
One of the greatest consolations can be, now more than ever, the gifts found in others, the people in your life who will unconditionally love you, the people who want to do whatever they can for you always, but especially right now.
Maybe that help is with moving to a new physical address, or having a relaxing night out, or having an extra voice of counsel and reassurance, or having a shoulder to literally cry on available 24/7 … or having all of the above.
Don’t worry about imposing above the other priorities these great people may have. Loving you during this time as much as possible is their priority. Just knowing of this unconditional love can sustain you through anything, and everything.
“Lean upon the lessons learned”
True friends help ensure that, in spite of the past, you are striving to be your best in every way at every moment. The fact that “Hindsight is 20/20” should never be a reason to obsess over trying to make sense of everything, wallowing in self-pity, or beating yourself up. Although you can’t change the past, you can learn from its painful lessons in order to ensure the present and future go as well as possible.
One conclusion I’ve made from my mistakes and misfortunes is simply this: the worst things that happen to you can also become the best things that ever happen to you. This is the single most important thing I’ve learned and this lesson has never failed me once.
When tempted to make the same mistake again, I look back upon the time I made that mistake and the deep pain that resulted. I also resolve to never feel that type of sharp pain again. From this, I never repeat the same mistake. This whole process, when developed, only takes a moment to complete in the heat of any moment.
This is just one example. The priceless lessons which will spare you so much future grief are going to be unique to you, which is why I encourage you to have some form of a journal to write-down, organize, and connect your thoughts–which will lead to your gifted insights!
“Lean upon God”
Most importantly, realizing this is too difficult to handle on your own, I ask you to lean upon God like never before. It may have not always felt like it, and it may not always feel like it going forward, but God is always watching over and caring for each of us. Nothing or no one can change that reality.
God loves us, in spite of anything from the past, more than we can ever know. Regardless of the past, and because God loves you, God wants you to have the absolute best, happiest, most fulfilling life possible now and forever.
And the more we strive to live our unique, unrepeatable identity, the more this happiness can be realized, even though it feels at the moment to be impossible. But with God, all things are possible (Mt. 19:26). And I’m so happy, honored, and grateful to remind you of this reality at this moment.
One powerful way in which God can help is to bring about forgiveness–forgiveness of the other, forgiveness of yourself. Forgiveness does not mean that “everything’s instantly OK.” It does, in-part, mean that you are stopping the bleeding, that you are loving in a very profound way, and that you hope that everyone is on the path that they were always meant to be on.
Again, the past can’t be changed but forgiveness is critical for sparing everyone from unnecessary pain in the future. Withholding forgiveness in any way obstructs our vision from seeing which direction to take in each moment.
“Lean upon the signs which already surround you”
Road signs provide parameters that keep us from hurting ourselves and others on the road. Good signs are meant to do the same in each moment of life. Please keep your eyes open to the unexpected ways God is helping you through every moment. Through these signs, you will continue to strive to use each moment, each event, each situation, each encounter as a stepping stone to where you were always meant to be.
Please never dismiss anything just because it comes in the least expected way. Something you may have been tempted to dismiss as insignificant may be offering some of the most insightful help ever. For example, some of the deepest truest expressions of God’s love have come from children, words that have helped me help others.
There’s a great truth to the phrase “follow your gut.” Your gut can be a great compass moment to moment. If something doesn’t feel quite right, do not pursue it. If there seems to be tranquility about another option, pursue that.
This does not mean every choice will be the easiest. Quite the opposite is frequently the case. But once you make the right choice you will have this internal peace that will sustain, and empower, you through the actions that decision requires.
If you don’t always get it right, do not hesitate to pick yourself up and try again. The worst-case scenario is a constantly-refining vision regarding what not to do! The signs will always offer insight on how to respond each moment. (Mat 10:19)
Lean upon the hope of God’s future plans for you
By virtue of you still being here is proof that God is not done with you yet. I know that you know this, and I know this doesn’t take away the sting of the moment in part because we want everything made right in this present moment.
Yet God still has great, unique plans for you at this moment, and God never lets anything go to waste if you are open to God’s help. Hope that the best things are yet to come, as God reminds us directly that our hope will not be in vain (Rom 8:24). The future will sort itself out so long as you take care of what needs to be taken care of today.
Even though this may seem like the furthest impossibility (because you previously thought you were meant to be with this one person forever), God’s ultimate plans may include leading you to the person you were meant to belong to all along in marriage, the person who will also reciprocate and recognize the importance of leaning upon the vows throughout all of the challenges of life as the precise means of not merely surviving, but growing closer and more deeply in love than you had ever thought possible from your earliest memories of life.
“Lean upon your convictions”
This can all give you the conviction that things will be better than they had ever been before. I have never been wrong when blessed with that feeling of conviction. It will empower you to get through this. I promise you; conviction will not let you down.
I look forward to celebrating with you when you arrive at the peace, freedom, and happiness you never thought possible yet longed for throughout your life. In the meantime, I will be with you, supporting you, and praying for you as much as possible to help remind you that you will never be truly alone.
Licensed Clinical Social Worker | Author, “The Final 8th: Enlist Your Inner Selves to Accomplish Your Goals”
When there’s an uncoupling within a friend and family circle, many inner parts of ourselves respond to the vulnerability that divorce elicits because of loss and change radiate beyond those in the disbanding relationship.
Are you happier than you’ve ever been with your partner and have survivor’s guilt? Does the news provoke your own fears about the status of your relationship? It’s quite possible you have childhood memories of your parents divorcing, activating a kaleidoscope of emotions and fears when you hear the news. Your inner child may get triggered, wondering what will happen when people will have to pick sides.
Listen and be emphatic
Be gentle with yourself, but now is not the time to talk about yourself or share your long-simmering opinions. It’s never helpful to say “I told you so” and “You’re better off without that bum!”
Although an official breakup can be an emotional roller coaster even from a distance, bringing forth the parts of yourself that are empathic and able to actively listen offers your friend the comfort they need when they need it the most.
Of course, if the situation is unsafe, do lead with the superpowers of your pragmatic, take charge of alter egos, and be the friend that makes good things happen, even during troubling times.
Managing Director and Solicitor, PSR Solicitors
I would like to offer my advice in this regard, writing as someone who has been through a divorce, someone whose friends have been through divorces, and as a family lawyer who deals with divorces and associated subjects such as financial settlements.
The most important piece of advice is to listen to your friend.
People go through divorces for lots of reasons and the support they require differs depending on the situation.
Did your friend file for divorce?
Support them with their decision
The person filing for a divorce (the applicant) is usually the partner who feels happier with the decision, and sometimes they simply require reassurance they are ‘doing the right thing’.
As a friend here, it is your duty to support them. However, do not be afraid to disagree with them. Once the divorces go through, realistically there is no going back. They need to be sure that they are 100% committed to this course of action.
What are the reasons for the divorce?
Help them concentrate on the future
Sometimes people filing for divorce do so for reasons where they are not so in control.
For example, if your partner has been cheating on you, you may wish to be the one who files for divorce and move on with your life. Anyone going through this situation is going to be more upset and emotional and therefore is likely to require more ‘hand-holding’.
There is no need to necessarily portray the adultress partner in an overly negative way as this can actually have long-term and far-reaching effects, especially if children are involved and the two parties have to maintain some sort of relationship over a number of years.
You should reassure them that what the other party has done is wrong, and what they are doing is the correct course of action, but don’t let it become all-consuming.
You can also help them concentrate on the future and although they may not be ready to consider dating straight away, it is important to point out the good things in life and the opportunities that will arise.
Is the divorce a shock to them?
Listen and try to respond to their needs
When people who are on the receiving end of being divorced (the respondent), sometimes it comes as a shock to them, other times they will have been expecting it.
Again, you must tailor your advice to the situation. It is never appropriate to use the phrase ‘I told you so’ as this has no positive effects at all.
They are likely to be upset, lacking in confidence, and unsure about the future. The most important thing to do is to listen – whatever they focus on and whatever their worst fears are, you must do your best to address them.
You must be prepared to spend some time and energy with them over the coming months. It can often be a shock, not just about the divorce but about the change in lifestyle.
They may be living somewhere else, there may be no-one at home when they return from work, they may have holidays booked, there are going to be memories and constant reminders of the relationship around.
Everyone is different and they will focus on different things. That is why I keep stressing the point to listen to your friend and try to respond to their needs.
Is the divorce a mutual agreement?
People regularly get divorced based upon a mutual agreement. This may be because the marriage has petered out and the love has gone. Or it may be because the children have left home and they both feel they need a new start at that stage of life.
Realistically, people in such situations will have thought long and hard over a number of months or years before arriving at this decision and it is likely that you have picked up on this, if not actually been told outright what was going through their minds.
In this situation, your support is not quite so important. I think all you can do is ensure that they have thought everything through before making that leap to being single again, but it is likely they are looking forward to it and possibly excited by a new chapter in their lives.
I hope that this will not only help you if your friend is going through a divorce but more importantly, your advice after reading this will help them.
Family Mediator | Managing Partner, Direct Mediation Services
Listening and being present is more important than saying anything, especially during the early stages of a divorce
Most people want to vent on someone about what has happened and that is usually a close friend. Over the weeks and months, there will probably be a huge range of emotions, as your friend will be going through the grief cycle. Everyone’s journey takes the time it takes – there are no shortcuts, so patience is required.
Ask your friend about the ideal relationship they would like to have in the future
During your many conversations, ask your friend to think about the relationship they would like to have with their ex in the future, especially if there are children involved. Co-parenting is a challenge, but it is made more difficult if there is a conflict between the parents.
Another question that could be asked is what kind of relationship their child, or children, would like to see between their parents. In reality, no child wants to see their parents fighting or hating each other because they love their parents.
Advise them to always think about their actions
My last few words would be to think about actions, because every action has a reaction. Do we want to escalate or de-escalate a situation? Would going to a lawyer help? Remember divorce lawyers make their money from conflict, not from finding an amicable solution! The longer arguments go on, the more money they make. Think about the true cost of conflict.
Entrepreneur | Revenue Strategist | Founder, The I’m Loving Me Project
No one enters into a marriage expecting to get a divorce. When a friend faces the reality that their “forever” is coming to an end, remember to be empathetic to them. Divorce is different for everyone. They might feel a sense of failure. We must be delicate when we provide advice to our friends.
Here are some nuggets you can give to a friend who is going through a divorce, even if you are single or happily married:
Give advice when asked
Do not create a wedge in your friendship by giving unsolicited advice to your friend. Listen more than talking. Everyone processes life traumas differently, and as a friend, you should provide them with space and support they need when they ask for it.
Encourage them to commit to healing their heart
This part takes time, honor how they process their situation and their journey. Offer your friend to do the things they love that they stopped doing. Sometimes going back to the essence of who they are is an excellent way to discover their new path. Remind them they are merely recalculating theirs, certainly not ending it.
Show them grace
Even the strongest person will feel like a failure during and after their divorce. It is important to inspire them by being gentle with themselves and taking time to assess their part in the relationship. Coach them about forgiving themselves first, because sometimes that’s the only process needed for their healing.
Behavioral Relationship Expert
There is no advice you want to give to your friend which makes them able to victimize themselves in their situation. If anything, you do not want to give unsolicited advice, no one wants it.
The only thing you can do is share your support and if asked for advice to be aware that you are not them, and to make sure you stay neutral. Your friend may want you to gang up on the ex, but that does not help them to heal.
You can even say, “I hear what you’re saying, I get it! I just want to support you and help however you want me to in being empowered. You are a strong person, etc…and a divorce is a life changing event.. And so, I am here to listen.”
It is not so much what you say as to what you don’t say, Often when someone is going through something we have a hard time just letting them feel their feelings and go through all the stages of loss. The biggest favor is to let them but to be supportive.
Relationship Consultant | Breakup Specialist, Ex-Boyfriend Recovery
Helping a friend get through a divorce can be a really difficult position as you need to keep in mind even if they want the break up or not they are going to go through the stages of grief all the same.
The best things you can do to support a friend going through a divorce would be:
Let them talk to you if they want to, venting, crying, complaining, whatever it is they need to do let them do it, and listen without judgment.
Do not give an opinion
No matter what the circumstances are, avoid giving an opinion or advice on how they are supposed to get through this or how they should be dealing with things. Also, avoid slamming their ex too.
Be realistic if they want their ex back or if they want to move on. Either way, be their truthful realistic friend that can keep them dealing with the situation with a stable mindset.
Take them out
If it’s for drinks or a meal, do something active. Get them out of the house and do not let him sit in sorrow. They are allowed time alone but make sure you also make them do things that they used to enjoy doing
Give them their space
People can forget that letting a person be alone to deal with their emotions and teach themselves to self soothe, learn how to be alone is such a key part of getting through a divorce.
Relationship Expert, Dating Pilot
Be mindful of what they are going through
To best help a friend or a loved one going through a divorce, you must first be empathetic and mindful of what they are going through. By empathizing and being mindful of the affects that divorce will bring, you will be better able to assess how you can support your friend.
Offer support without placing judgment or criticism
The saying “actions speak louder than words” has never been truer when supporting a friend going through a divorce. However, there are things that you can say that will demonstrate your support, such as, “I’m sorry you’re going through this. What can I do to help?”, “If you want to talk to someone, I’m am here for you”, “I will be with you through every step, you are not alone”.
These types of statements offer support without placing judgment, criticism, etc. which in turn can make the friend going through a divorce more inclined to accept your support.
Divorce will also place additional stressors, such as, dealing with court and processing the life changes that divorce will bring. This is where the presence of a supporting friend is highly needed, as new or daily tasks will be extra hard to endure.
Offer help with daily tasks
For this reason, offering your help with things such as packing, picking the kids up from school, cooking dinner, filling out forms, cleaning, etc. will be of great help to a friend going through a divorce.
You can say, “I’d be more than happy to stop by and help with….” and offer support in whatever area your friend needs help with. This kind of statement puts the pressure of the friend feeling like they are a bother, making them more inclined to accept the help.
Chef | Founder, Chef’s Guide to Divorce
“Do not let your ego get the best of you”
It’s a common mistake and it will happen from time to time. But in order to move forward, you have to focus on living your life in peace. This means dropping the ego and being graceful with yourself and your ex-partner throughout the process.
I would then say that food can be your ally, not your enemy. During my divorce, I realized that breakups in general can go one of three ways. Ben and Jerry’s, Sauteed Kale, or it’s happy hour all day. I allowed myself all three, but only when I was in a good headspace.
I made sure to have fun and celebrate my wins in ways that were positive and uplifting. I hosted dinner parties which ensured I wasn’t eating alone. I tried to eat healthier snacks when I was tempted and didn’t drink alcohol, or instead, made craft cocktail recipes when I was upset.
Finally, I know it can be hard for some of us to imagine feeling gratitude about certain aspects of a divorce, but there is something freeing about shifting your energy from anger to gratitude. It’s a daily exercise, but helpful in the process of forgiveness for both you and your ex-partner.
There are positives that come out of divorce. Be open to finding yourself and seeing yourself in a new way. You have a chance to start grounding within. While this forces you to take responsibility for your own life, you are simultaneously given the blessing of taking charge of your own actions and future. Don’t be attached to the outcome, surrender to the process, and enjoy yourself.
Another reminder is that it is also ok to feel whatever you’re feeling. Your pain won’t go away right away but just remember that it will pass.
“Don’t try to stuff your feelings down and be strong”
As someone who went through a divorce years ago, I would say expect it to hurt and allow all emotions to come out.
Focus instead on ‘being human’. Regardless if the divorce was amicable or not, there is a mental, spiritual, emotional, and physical separation that occurs and will take some time for you to adjust and heal.
Take really good care of yourself. Pamper yourself, even if you don’t feel like it. Be around people who support you and make you feel good. Watch great movies about life after divorce like Under the Tuscan Sun and believe that life will get better and there is another chapter that will happen for you. Over time, the divorce chapter will just be a footnote in your life. There will be real love and success for you again.