Processing a divorce is often one of the worst trials for a human being and unfortunately, it is very common. Although the rates have been falling in recent years, 11,853 divorces were recorded in Flanders alone in 2020. On top of that, about 5,000 legal cohabitants also gave up.
As a close friend of someone involved in divorce proceedings, you often feel helpless. What should you say and do to provide constructive support? These are some tips.
1. Respect the healing process
The path to recovery is one of ups and downs. The processing of something as drastic as divorce is not linear and as a friend of someone going through it, you better take that into account. It’s a process with a lot of mood swings: one day your friend feels completely okay, the next day it’s just doom and gloom, and the next day they might already be considering dating again.
Dealing with such a loss and getting back on top of it is simply a layered process. Pain and sadness are a very substantial layer in this process, but learning from the mistakes made and coming out stronger is just as much.
You can help your friend by respecting those ups and downs, normalizing them, and making it clear over and over again that they are inherent in such a recovery process.
2. Respect the needs of your friend
The needs of your friend also go in all directions: sometimes there will be a need for silence and peace, sometimes they will want to talk about it and share details with you, other times they will need a feeling of comfort or connection. Ask your friend what they need at the time and keep it in mind.
3. Motivate your friend
Boosting your friends’ confidence once in a while when necessary, that’s what friends are for. But a friend who is divorcing can use such positive vibes more than ever. A heartfelt general compliment always does it, but in this case, it is also important to remind the person of the good qualities that he/she showed in the relationship that ended up not working. For example, you can bring up how hard he/she has tried to keep the relationship on the right track again and again. How much love he/she has given and how much energy he/she has brought in… love and energy that he or she can now spend on himself.
4. Encourage to pick up the thread again as soon as they are ready
Let your friend clearly feel that they are loved and not alone. Try to lure your friend out of their shell and involve them in cozy get-togethers, larger social events, or a weekend out. Invite them as much as possible, even if you fear that they will not show up in the end, and certainly do so during the holidays. Do fun things together and encourage the person to make time for relaxing or therapeutic pursuits such as yoga or meditation. In certain cases, therapy can also be a lifeline.