How to Help People Going Through a Divorce

Navigating the death of a marriage.

Divorce is not something new to me. As I think back through my childhood, I clearly remember many of my friends’ parents getting divorced. In my mid-20s, two of my best friends, married for almost 10 years, split (as did each of their siblings, who were also friends of mine). Then two more friends … and two more.

I never thought my marriage would end. And while the news is still fairly fresh in the public eye, being separated and divorced is a reality I’ve been walking through for almost a year.

Because we chose to keep our private life private as we traveled that journey, only a small group of friends, people in our church, counselors and a few colleagues and pastors knew what we were going through. Reflecting over the last several months has awakened my analytical mind, and I’ve been intentionally processing how many of our relationships have changed, what’s added to the pain and what’s helped relieve it.

Some questions and comments I’ve frequently heard are:

“What advice do you have for friends going through a divorce?”

“Are there any resources you’ve found that have helped you, or that you’d recommend for me to help my friends?”

“I just don’t know what to do or what to say to them.”

“I don’t want to get in their business.”

Because these remarks occur on a daily basis, I thought it’d be best to share two thoughts with you—one on things that helped me and one on things that hurt.

Keep in mind, these are unique to me and every relationship is different, so please don’t assume I’m an expert by any stretch of the imagination.

WHAT TO DO:

Be there.

Just because you don’t know what to say doesn’t mean you shouldn’t say anything. In fact, most of the time it’s better you don’t say anything at all except to acknowledge what your friend is feeling is real (and is usually pretty rotten).

Here’s the catch: When a relationship is ending, especially a marriage, it physically feels as if your soul has been ripped out of your body. People going through this change will likely not have the strength to reach out to you. We will feel we’re a burden or that the only thing we have to talk about is how sad, angry, lonely or afraid we are. Most of us don’t want to be Debbie Downers, but we feel as if we epitomize that character in a season like this.

Not only do we not want to bring people down with us, we don’t have the strength to engage with others.

This is why it’s so important you reach out constantly to your friends. I’m an introvert and I tend to isolate myself when I’m going through a hard time. During the worst six months, I had friends texting, calling or emailing daily and at times willing to drive through snowstorms to pick me up and take me to the only open café in town with no agenda at all but to be with me. Sometimes we talked about the situation. Other times, we talked about music, or watched TV, or we didn’t even talk at all.

Knowing our friends are pursuing us helps remove the weight of loneliness that haunts us. And don’t worry; if you think you may be intruding or being overbearing, if we really need some time alone, we’ll let you know.

WHAT NOT TO DO:

Don’t disappear or blow Jesus smoke.

Don’t ignore the situation. If someone reaches out to you to even make you aware of what’s happening, even if you have nothing to say back, just say you’re sorry. That is enough.

When I sent an email out to an expanded (but still small) group of friends and acquaintances, about 90 percent of the 50 or so people responded. The 10 percent who didn’t were people I had traveled with, shared stages with, signed books with, who had endorsed my books or I endorsed theirs. After no response from the email, or from the blog post that followed, or any acknowledgment whatsoever that they even received the information, I reevaluated my relationship with them. Sadly, many of the friendships I thought were based on mutual respect weren’t. They were simply relationships of benefit and circumstance. Coming to that realization hurt, and I had to make changes in the way I view those relationships now.

There is a medical term called body dysmorphic disorder that essentially means you believe something about your body image that isn’t true. For example, many people who struggle with eating disorders literally see their bodies as being significantly larger than they are in reality. For me, this has translated into an emotional association. I realize I don’t have actual leprosy, but I often feel like a leper; that I’m contagious, or unclean. I feel people need to stay on the other side of the road. And when friends disappear, it adds to this misconception.

Please don’t disappear.

Also, don’t assume that “ministry” or cliché “Christianese” will stitch up our bleeding hearts. Be Jesus. Don’t just talk about Him.

I recently received an email from a pastor who shared about a friend currently in the middle of a divorce: “My prayer is that he will wake up to this hurting world around him and engage,” he wrote.

I can only hope this pastor’s heart is in the right place, however, I wrote him back and explained to him the last thing we can do when we are this broken is to jump back into the world and “wake up and engage” and care for others—especially when our own pain is so new.

You Might Also Like

This is one of the times the church needs to “reach in and engage with the people around them who are hurting,” not the other way around as this pastor indicated.

Please keep in mind I don’t think this implies people going through a divorce should expect to be waited on hand and foot and maintain a completely selfish existence. By making our health and recovery a priority, we will naturally emerge back into a place where we can serve out of abundance—not pressure.

THE BOTTOM LINE:

Be there for your friends. Grieve with them. Celebrate with them. Give them meals and hugs and hold them tightly. Don’t worry about having nothing to say. Pursue them. Pray for them. Love them. Constantly let them know you have their back.

Don’t fall off the face of the earth. Yes, it’s uncomfortable—for both us and you.

Anne Jackson is the author of Permission to Speak Freely: Essays and Art on Fear, Confession and Grace and Mad Church Disease: Overcoming the Burnout Epidemic and a frequent blogger.

Top Comments

88,612

FemmeFuel commented…

Love this line: "...dont assume that ministry or clich Christianese will stitch up our bleeding hearts. Be Jesus. Dont just talk about Him."

Thanks, Anne, for showing us how to navigate these waters. Divorce is becoming increasingly common in my circle of friends, and you gave me a glimpse on how to be a true friend during this season of heartbreak.

--JM
http://femmefuel.com/

CSD

3

CSD commented…

This excellent article is about how to support someone going through a divorce not how to be opportunistic and wound with your judgements. Saying your piece about how wrong and sinful he/she is for divorcing is just an excuse to enact the righteousness-by-comparison deception you live by. The people who are going through divorce are well aware of why divorce is sinful and they are well aware of the extreme pain, so verbally pouncing on them will only serve to hurt them further. Go against your normal reaction and instead, reach out in love to that suffering Christian because truly that is what they desperately need during this terribly long, emotional-exhausting haul they are facing.

84 Comments

Usman Kebiru

2

Usman Kebiru commented…

TESTIMONY
I know of Dr. Usman he has the magical powers, skill and experience to cast any spell on your behalf. It could be anything regarding your RELATIONSHIPS WITH PEOPLE, YOUR LOVE LIFE, YOUR FINANCIAL SITUATION, FUTURE EVENTS, CURE FOR DEADLY SICKNESSES. While a lot of people view fate and destiny as unchangeable, his powers can change the course of that destiny. So just ask and you will be given.
Contact: DR USMAN KEBIRU
E-mail: drusmantemple@hotmail.com
Like his page: web.f667acebook.com/DR-USMAN-Kebiru-754852264646

Dionne Kate

1

Dionne Kate commented…

I want to testify to the Goodness of Dr.AGBAZARA TEMPLE, he brought back my Husband back to me within 48hours after he casted the spell, my husband left me and my 2 kids for another woman but now all the thanks goes to Dr.Agbazara for bringing him back to me if you are in any type of problem in your relationships or in your marriage contact AGBAZARA TEMPLE on his email address for help: (agbazara@gmail.com) or call 2348182620374.

From USA

Vanesa Parker

1

Vanesa Parker commented…

HOW I GOT MY HUSBAND BACK AFTER DIVORCE

I want to say a big thanks to the man who is behind my smiles today by reuniting me and my Husband after he divorced me, Dr Osato who is a very powerful spell caster brought my husband back to me and made him beg me to forgive him for everything he did to me, i really missed him so much and always loved him. Am happy to have him back in my life and all my appreciations goes to Dr Osato for helping me and bringing my husband back to my life with his great powers. My friends out there who are going through marriage problems and divorce issues i assure you that you can get your lover back to your life with the help of Dr Osato. You can reach him on: (relationshipspell@hotmail.com) or (relationshipspell@gmail.com) He has the best solution to marriage issues his website http://relationshipspellhelp.webs.com

Mccarthy Adrian

3

Mccarthy Adrian commented…

I'm McCarthy Adrian from United Kingdom .I never believed in Spells or Magic until I met this special spell caster called Dr Ukoko ... I have great joy in me as i am writing this testimony about the great man called Dr Ukoko When my Girlfriend left me i never taught that i will be able to get her back after all she has put me through, But i am so happy that after the interference of Dr. Ukoko i was able to get my Girlfriend back after 48hours and i can proudly to say, that who ever need help in getting there lover back should contact Dr.Ukoko on these contact email below: drukokostemple@outlook.com , So I will recommend you to contact Dr Ukoko temple , once you are in need of magic spell ,he brought back Ex lover ,broken marriages , he cure cancer and other sickness, he also cast a spell to stop divorce so on .. he is sincere and real spell caster to help you out email if you need his help at email: ( drukokostemple@outlook.com ) his cell number +2348138613784

Melissa Aaron

1

Melissa Aaron commented…

How My Relationship was restored by a great and powelful spell caster Dr Oguma (ogumalovespell@hotmail.com)

I am Melissa Aaron from United State, I am so proud and happy to be out here sharing this remarkable, awesome and extraordinary review of your work Dr Oguma. I just can't believe this now my ex lover is really back to me today, my love Karrie was on his knees with tears on his eyes begging me to take him back and he was feeling regretful and sorry for leaving me and for causing me pains after he left me which was 3 year ago.On a faithful day i was browsing looking for solution on-line, i saw so many testimonial about Dr Oguma on how he helped so many people to restore relationship and resolve marriage issues,After reading all these, I decided to give it a try. I contacted him via email and explained my problem to him. In just 24 hours, my ex lover came back to me. We resolved our issues, and we are even happier than ever. Dr Oguma he his a gifted man and i will not stop publishing him because he is a wonderful man. Thank you very much for all you have been doing for the world by putting smile on the face of many broken family by making their family stand whole and strong again. If you have a problem and you are looking for a real and genuine spell caster, Try him anytime, he is the answer to your . You can reach him on this email: ogumalovespell@hotmail.com

Please log in or register to comment

Log In