How to Support a Friend Who Is Going Through a Divorce
A few weeks ago, I had stopped by a friend’s house to pick up a unicorn cake (<- yep, this is my life). We chatted business, industry stuff and just catching up on life in general. We are both super busy and when we have the time to catch up, our “catching up” is hours of holding our bags and keys, ready to go, but still non-stop chatting. You know how that is.
My friend, let’s call her Laura, told me about how her close friend was going through a divorce. Laura gave me some of the ins and outs of the situation that she knew about. I thought to myself how sad that was…how hard that must be from a friend’s standpoint… and then Laura surprised me. She said, “I figured you’d be the person to ask; how can I support my friend during this time? What do I say? How do I be a good friend?” Side note, Laura is happily married.
Holy cow. These questions hit my heart pretty hard. Having gone through a divorce recently, I was being put on the spot and all kinds of emotions started coming up. Part of me wanted to throw up at the thought of putting attention to thoughtfully answering the question. The other part of me wanted to raise my head high and push through the conversation. I did the later. I was surprised by the question; but at the same time, flattered that she was confiding in me on such a serious issue.
Being an attorney, I like to think that I’m quick at responding when put on the spot. And, in all honesty, I’m great at bullshitting my way through things when needed. I sat there for a second and it came to me. This wasn’t bullshitting, nor was this in any way trying to avoid the conversation – and I was shocked at how genuine my response felt to my heart, because it was something I had never considered and the question had obviously never come up before.
I told her what I wish someone had told my friends during my divorce. We don’t all know how to be good friends when someone is grieving, and most forget that divorce is nothing short of a death – you are in the midst of losing your marriage, your partner, and what you consider your day to day normal life. When someone is grieving, you check in on them; you hold them; you love them; you let them know that you are there for them when they need to talk or cry. But, with a divorce, I do think there is another aspect that friends need to remember:
I told Laura that as a friend, she needs to encourage her friend to protect herself. Protecting oneself during a divorce could be anything from self-care to protecting financial assets. Just a friendly reminder to your friend that your friend is in fact an individual; because that seems to get lost in the midst of a divorce. It is so hard, while being in the middle of the grieving process, and between lawyers, and family conflicts, and work-life balance, to remember that the divorce will one day end, and that you are no longer attached to your partner.
At the start of my divorce, there were two people who really looked out for me in this manner: my father and one of my best friends (who also happens to be an attorney). When I wasn’t thinking rationally – because who does when your life is falling apart - they were there to do think rationally for me. I don’t know what situation I would be in today if it weren’t for their advice and reality-checks.
I think Laura might have been surprised by my response; I’m not quite sure. It seems basic but is so very important, and not something we immediately think to do. We love our friends and we want to support them in the best way possible, however, when you haven’t been through such a situation yourself, it is so incredibly hard to put yourself in their shoes.