How to Best Help Someone Going Through a Divorce

By |2017-09-29T15:15:32+00:00September 14th, 2017|Divorce|0 Comments

When someone is going through a divorce, it’s generally a very tough time for them as they are likely experiencing many emotional and psychological challenges. This person will need someone to turn to during their time of need. Oftentimes, a person can be so severely traumatized by a divorce that turning to the wrong people or to the wrong things becomes a temptation, such as drugs and alcohol, or to other people who do not offer the best support for nurturing needs. With emotional and psychological issues such as abandonment, jealousy, anger, feelings of rejection, and a host of other emotional issues, it’s important for a person to be nurtured by people who can offer the support needed to get on the path to recovery.

Several individuals who have gone through a divorce  explain the best ways to help someone else who is going through a similar time.  In doing so, it’s best not to tell a person what action to take, according to psychologist Melanie Schilling.  She also adds that even though the answer may seem clear to you, it’s important to avoid telling a person what you think he/she should do, but rather make sure this person has all the information they need to make the best decision possible.

Be Mindful About the Difference Between a Breakup and a Divorce

Many people go through break ups and divorces; however, they are distinctly different. When someone goes through a divorce, there may be emotional challenges similar to going through a breakup, however when going through a divorce there are legal issues that are involved. When speaking with a family member or friend who is in such a position, do not treat the divorce as a mere break up, but consider some of the legalities that must be faced, as well and how someone who is going through a divorce is impacted emotionally, financially, and legally.

Avoid Prying and Be Sensitive to Cues

While it could be one’s intent to offer moral support, it’s also important to respect a friend or family member’s privacy. Avoid prying and probing for information that hasn’t willingly been shared with you.

To that end, avoid assuming you know exactly why this person is getting a divorce in the first place. There could be many different factors that led up to the divorce, or there could be one specific incident. In any case, avoid prying and judging; rather be supportive by being a great sounding board and listening to what said friend has to say.

Be Careful Not to Judge

Whatever the reason for the divorce may be, it’s important to be trustworthy with the information that is shared with you. A friend may be experiencing feelings of embarrassment, guilt, and shame. In this case, that’s the time for reassurance and supportive, uplifting words.

Invite This Person to Different Social Circles and New Events

Keep in mind that when someone goes through a divorce, some of the friends and acquaintances of this person may also be friends and acquaintances with the former spouse.  Going to different events, and running in new social circles allows a person to recover privately, without being bombarded by old friends and acquaintances who are shared with the former spouse.

Help Lay a New Foundation and Discover a New Norm

Although new opportunities lie ahead, it is important to help some going through a divorce establish a new norm by laying a foundation that consists of things that support a new life. This may take time, as this person rediscovering and defining one’s self as an individual. Now is the time to create new traditions and a new lifestyle without the former spouse.

Avoid Encouraging a Person to Start Dating Too Soon

Many people believe that a new relationship is needed soon after going through a divorce. Although a person might enjoy a new relationship, it is not what is needed right now—not right after going through a divorce. There will likely be significant emotional and psychological areas that require healing and restoration first so that when entering into a new relationship, he/she will be emotionally healthy and whole—ready to embrace someone new. At this point the person will also be in a position to offer 100%, and give their best rather than say 50% due to a broken heart, anger, rage, jealousy, and other emotional challenges that haven’t been given time to recover from.

Avoid Speaking Badly About the Ex as Means to Offer Support

As tempting as it may be, it is best to be supportive by acting as a sounding board and making oneself available when needed, rather than using the opportunity to speak badly about a former spouse. Words should be chosen wisely, and should include words that will restore and build a person up without adding to the feelings or emotions that contribute to ill feelings towards the ex-spouse. Remember—the goal is to help with the recovery process, not deepen wounds.

Be a Good Listener

Sometimes people who are going through a divorce simply need to talk through the pain and can find it to be very therapeutic. This is a time in life when the person needs someone to just listen, without cutting him/her off or interrupting. There are likely challenges articulating what this person is feeling inside and he/she may need to rehash the same scenario over and over again before being able to truly express feelings.

Be Sensitive to the Current Emotional State

A family member or friend who is going through a divorce may be acting in ways that cause him/her to feel sad or depressed. It’s important to notice whether this person I  struggling with the recovery process and in need of help from a professional expert to assist in processing feelings.

Be Consistent

When offering support, it’s important to be consistent, and there for the family member or friend as often as possible. There is nothing worse than going through a divorce only to find that people once thought of as reliable for talking to are starting to avoid or turn their backs on the person who needs them most. This can create more distress to the current emotional state than the divorce alone.

When helping people who are going through a divorce, remember that they could display various emotional reactions at different times. According to Kathleen O’Connell Corcoran, Ph.D, making a decision to end a marriage can be a very traumatic experience. It can also be chaotic, with contradictory emotions, not to mention the different feelings, attitudes, and reactions based upon which party is the initiator, and which is the receiver of the decision to file for a divorce. Being attentive and sensitive to the trauma that they are experiencing could be just the support they need to begin the road to recovery.  Even if the recovery process involves getting grief or other forms of counseling, being a part of the overall process can prove to be much more of an anchor in their life than one could ever realize.

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