How to (Really) Help Someone Going Through Divorce

Mette Harrison, a novelist who also works in the financial sector, was caught off guard in 2020 when her husband, to whom she had been married for 30 years, asked for the divorce. A mother of six children, she calculated that she had also lost half her friends between those who stopped calling her and those who passed judgment on the breaking off.

According to a 2013 longitudinal study led by Brown University scholar Rose McDermott, If people in your close social network get divorced, the risk of your marriage ending increases considerably. This may partly explain why those in a marital crisis they are abandoned by the closest and dearest people. But the disappearance of loved ones can also be due to simply they don’t know how to help.

In addition to losing his marriage, losing friends was too much, said Harrison, now 51. But when those who hadn’t turned away from her offered help, she too was taken aback. “I didn’t know what I needed, even when someone asked me”he pointed.

A friend offered him a bed until Harrison found an apartment; another of hers helped her make a candid assessment of her financial situation. A third friend sent text messages every day for a year, a simple exchange that Harrison says helped calm her panic in the first few months. Her older brother, Mark Ivie, arranged a monthly payment for the rental and the mealplus an Amazon wish list, which he shared with other family members.

“Without your help, I would not have been able to get ahead”says Harrison.

From big gestures to small acts of kindness, experts say there are many ways to help who are seen overcome by shame, shock and panic economical of a separation or divorce.

If people in your close social network get divorced, the risk of your marriage ending increases. Photo: illustration Shutterstock.

If people in your close social network get divorced, the risk of your marriage ending increases. Photo: illustration Shutterstock.

Listen… over and over

Although it’s often taken for granted that those going through a breakup need space, Ashley Mead, a New York-based psychotherapist who specializes in divorces, it is recommended not to lose the connection. But the right kind of listening requires finesse.

“The divorced are losing the person they have been most connected to in their life,” Mead said in an email. “They are often desperate and feel terrible shame.”

“Get closer,” added Mead, who recommends refraining from offering advice, suggestions or any hint of “I told you so.” If you don’t know what to say, try this: “I know I can’t fix things, but I’m here for you”advise.

“We have a tendency to want to fix bad things that happen to our friends, but trying to lift someone’s spirits is usually a form of soothe our own discomfort And it doesn’t help those who try to assuage difficult feelings.

Erika Anne Englund, a divorce mediator in Sacramento, California, says you have to “be the kind of listener that helps others come to their own conclusions: make sure your friend has a place to blow off steam, cry, laugh, and think out loud.”

Don’t stop inviting your divorced friends to meetings just because they are lonely and call them for the holidays even years after the divorce finished,” Englund said.

When Amy Armstrong, a family therapist from Columbus, Ohio, stopped by her divorcefind friends capable of listen without turning your story into a drama -or in a gossip- was fundamental. “An understanding person helps you see yourself in a happy next chapter, not someone who pushes you to complain or stay in victim mode,” she said.

"Divorcees are losing the person with whom they have been most connected in their life". Photo: illustration Shutterstock.

“The divorced are losing the person with whom they have been most connected in their life.” Photo: illustration Shutterstock.

Stéphane Jutras, who lives in Canada and hosts the “Divorced Dad Diaries” podcast, divorce in 2018. When she brought up the subject with her friends, she noticed that they turned more open to sharing intimate issues and to talk about previously hidden relationship problems. “As I shared, they felt safe to talk about their marital problems,” Jutras said.

When looking for a support team, Susan Pease Gadoua, a therapist in Sonoma County, California, who also runs support groups for divorcees, recommends reaching out to people who aren’t afraid of strong feelings or the time it can take. process them. “People have two to four months of bandwidth to deal with other people’s painbut recovering from divorce in less than six months is rare“, He says.

For those who question their conversational skills, good listening doesn’t require nonstop talking. Watching a movie together can be very comforting, as can talking on a walk. “No name calling, no cheerleading, no problem solving,” says Abby Medcalf, a Berkeley, California, psychologist and founder of the “Relationships Made Easy” podcast.

“Connect with the feeling, not with the situation”, Medcalf said. “Ask them what makes them sad, angry or afraid the most.”

“Later, listen carefully“, He said.

"People have two to four months of bandwidth to deal with other people's pain, but recovering from divorce in less than six months is rare". Photo: illustration Shutterstock.

“People have two to four months of bandwidth to deal with other people’s grief, but recovering from divorce in less than six months is rare.” Photo: illustration Shutterstock.

Offer a hand or just validate

The divorce it often means that pooling the car, paying the bills, and many other demands of daily life now fall on one set of shoulders, not two.

“The divorce It is a great transformation of life. help with little things it can have a lasting impact,” says Mandy Walker, a divorce mediator and coach from Boulder, Colorado.

Looking for creative ways to offer support? Think about what abilities they may have. Can you babysit one night a week? Can you proofread a resume? Do you know anything about car repair? Do you know how to do home repairs? If they can’t offer their own skills, putting together a list of people who know how to fix things can be helpful.

The feelings of pain and loss after a separation or divorce are a normal part of the healing process. Divorce recovery follows a timeline, Medcalf said, and keeping an eye out for progressive changes in feelings can be helpful if a divorced friend or family member is too distraught to see improvements. “The most generous thing you can do is put aside your own fear of strong feelings and lift people out of despair,” he said.

When Shawna Hein, 37, finalized her divorce in 2020, she said it was the friends who didn’t impose their feelings on the situation that saved her. “I loved it when I announced that I was getting divorced and they said, ‘Great,'” said Hein, an Ad Hoc designer who lives in Nevada City, California. “For me that was an acknowledgment that he was brave and that life was going to get better.

Pease said that “divorce language revolves around failure, but sometimes it’s a victory that can help people make needed change. Allowing negative feelings along for the ride paves the way for positive feelings later on.”

"Divorce is a major life transformation. Helping out in small ways can have a lasting impact.". Photo: illustration Shutterstock.

“Divorce is a huge life transformation. Helping with little things can have a lasting impact.” Photo: illustration Shutterstock.

Money can help… more than you think

The economic impact of almost all divorces is very strong; studies show that earnings can decline, especially for women. The details of food payment for spouse and children it takes months and sometimes years to resolve. And even if an agreement is reached, there is no guarantee of those payments.

According to a 2018 U.S. Census report, fewer than half of custodial parents who are owed child support receive what they’ve been awarded, and there are few solutions for most in those situations.

Sydney Petite left her marriage in July 2018 with three children, including 3-month-old twins. She now she has sole possession of her and was granted the maintenance from her ex-husband, but received no payment for almost three years.

“I learned – clumsily and quickly – to ask for help”said Petite, 30, who runs a public relations firm in Mobile, Alabama. A friend lent her money to hire a lawyer, a private school offered to waive her eldest son’s fees, and a nanny hired to help with the kids agreed not to get paid until Petite managed to fix her financial situation.

Since her divorce, this mother who previously did not work outside the home has repaid all her loans. “I am where I am today because of unexpected support,” she says.

Other avenues of support can be getting a group of friends together to pay for a consultation with a lawyer or arranging for meal deliveries. “It can take years to get back on a stable financial footing,” said Alex Beattie, co-founder of Divide and Thrive, a downloadable financial tool for divorcees. “Bringing a few meals or movie tickets can lift someone’s spirits without costing us much.”

By Louise Rafkin, for The New York Times. Translation: Elisa Carnelli.

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How to (Really) Help Someone Going Through Divorce