~ DECEMBER 2021~ It goes without saying that divorce is one of the most difficult things a person can go through. And when a friend or loved one is going through a divorce, it can feel like there’s only so much you can do or say to support them.
To find out how to best be there for someone going through a divorce, we asked therapist and relationship expert Ken Page, LCSW, for his best tips. Here’s what he had to say:
1. Honor their journey.
The path to healing after a divorce isn’t linear, and Page says one of the best things you can do as a friend is honor their healing journey. “Your friend may be fine one day, grieving the next, waking up in the middle of the night crying the night after, and feeling ready to date the following day,” he explains to mbg.
Handling this kind of loss has many layers, including pain, but also learning and growth, he says. “Be the friend who normalizes all of their ups and downs, helping them to see that the psyche in the heart and the body metabolize this kind of pain in ways that transcends our understanding.”
2. Honor their needs.
Along with honoring their journey, Page says you’ll also want to honor their requests. And that includes when they need silence, when they need connection, when they want to share details, and when they don’t feel ready, he notes.
“Ask them what they need and try to give it to them,” he says. “Invite them to social gatherings whether they come or not—this is especially true during the holidays.”
3. Lift them up.
There’s never a bad time to give your friends a confidence boost, but a friend going through a divorce may be particularly in need of some positive reinforcement. Along with general compliments and admiration, Page says you can also remind them of all of the good qualities they exhibited in the relationship, like how hard they tried and all the effort they made. Remind them that all the love they gave in the relationship they can now give to themselves.
4. Hold space for them.
Sometimes simply feeling seen and understood is all people really want when they’re hurting, and extending empathy is a great way to do that. This can be particularly true if your friend’s behavior played a role in the divorce.
“Sometimes we know that the relationship ended in some significant part because of our friend,” Page explains. Perhaps they cheated, pushed their spouse away, or weren’t addressing their own problems. Whatever the case, “Hold that in your heart and don’t go there until they’re ready and until they ask you,” Page says, adding, “You can ask a gentle question or two, but then let it be. They will pursue it if they are ready.”
5. Encourage them to engage when they’re ready.
And finally, encouragement ranging from event invitations to coffee dates to weekend getaways can serve as a great reminder that your friend is loved and not alone.
“Do fun things with them. Support them in journeys like meditation, yoga classes, and anything that’s healing and soothing to the heart and soul,” Page says. “The more they feel connected to the heart and the exuberance of life, the better it will be for them.”
He also adds that anyone going through divorce can see great benefits from therapy and healing techniques like tapping (EFT) or EMDR. You can gently encourage your friend to consider giving therapy or coaching a try.
And of course, you’ll still want to remember to honor their needs if they want space, privacy, or rest, so keep that in mind as you offer them support and encouragement.
The bottom line.
No one likes to see their friends going through a hard time, and it can be tricky to navigate supporting them while not pushing too hard. While healing from a divorce takes time, holding space and honoring your friend’s journey while offering resources and encouragement can help make the process that much easier for them