A friend asked me what helped and what didn’t when I was going through my “life transition.” I came up with the following. Hopefully it can help someone who’s wondering what to do.
For some people, divorce comes after years of problems. For me, it was almost like a bomb being dropped. The first several months, I was in shock. “Is this really my life?” I would ask myself numerous times every day. As I tried to reconcile my life’s expectations with my new reality, I went on auto-pilot. So many hands reached out in so many ways. I will be forever grateful for the prayers people offered on my behalf. Along with that, here are some things that were particularly helpful:
Don’t pry. Offers to talk were appreciated, but I didn’t even know entirely what was going on in the beginning. When you push for details, it comes off as nosy–like you care more about the event (and passing on the juicy details) than about the person going through the event.
Cards, flowers, emails, and food. It touched me deeply when I would receive a card in the mail. For me, going through a divorce made me feel completely alone, so when I received something it was a wonderful reminder that people cared. I remember one day in particular when a friend showed up on my doorstep with a beautiful bouquet of flowers and a sweet card. Another friend gave me a flower on Valentine’s Day–which was sweet, but almost had the opposite effect. Rather than feeling particularly loved, it drew extra attention to my single-ness. A better idea would be to remember a birthday, or to help the children of the newly-single person make something special for Mothers’ Day or Fathers’ Day. One of the best things I received was food. The transition from two adults sharing the workload to one, along with the emotional toll a divorce takes, makes the everyday chores in running a household even more burdensome. Treats and dinner were always welcome.
Take the kids. I tried very hard to be stable for my kids during the time of transition. Being able to send them to the neighbors’ to play (and stay for dinner, too!) helped me to have some space to grieve and process and cry. I remember one time in particular when my neighbor invited the kids over for a fire in their backyard. They left, and I was mopping the floor when a certain song came on that brought my warring emotions to the surface. I hung my head and wept, great gulping sobs–the ugly cry. I was grateful my kids weren’t there to see that. It scared me in its intensity; I’m sure my children would have been scarred for life to see it. The children weren’t scarred and I was able to vent my emotions and come closer to healing. Win-win!
Don’t forget your friendship. I appreciated so much the friends that still invited me to do things. I hadn’t realized so many of my activities were couple-related until I was no longer a part of one. Divorce isn’t contagious; single people still enjoy going out to dinner or to the movies with their married friends.
Be understanding. If your friend doesn’t share the details with you, there’s probably a reason. Don’t jump to conclusions as to what happened. If you feel like you need to know, ask. If your friend doesn’t want to give details, be okay with that. Divorce is messy and complicated and rarely can be boiled down into a sound byte.
Fill their love bucket. Above all else, divorce made me feel inadequate. I wondered why I wasn’t enough and what I had done wrong. Emails letting me know people noticed me, supported me, and were cheering for me boosted my confidence when it waned. Even though I knew my worth was not based on other people’s perception of me, my self-worth was at a very low level. A sincere compliment buoyed me when my spirits were low.
I’m sure there are many other things, but these were what helped get me through. I’m so grateful to have such good friends and family. Loving support is invaluable.