Divorce hurts. And it’s not just the reality of a marriage ending that can sting, but sometimes it’s the words or actions of well-meaning loved ones that are walking an unfamiliar path along with you. As I see more and more friends and family experiencing divorce and separation I’m reminded of one thing. The role of those on the outside looking in can be a key factor in how fast and how completely a person in the throes of divorce can heal. I also realize that the pain felt by those from the outside can be just as intense.
So, as a friend or family member of a person experiencing divorce or separation how do you handle it from the outside looking in? I’m glad you asked.
- Don’t make the divorce or separation the center of conversations. There’s more to talk about than that, and most who have experienced divorce want to talk about something other than the loss of their marriage or their ex spouse. (Those who like to dwell on it consistently might need to be steered away from those conversations to counseling anyway.)
- Don’t ask your loved one if he or she will get married again. They didn’t think they would get divorced so how would they know if they were going to have to get married again? That may be a painful or embarrassing question for them.
- Don’t ask your loved one if he or she will reunite with their (former) spouse. Again, they didn’t know reuniting would have ever been an option when they said “I Do”. That too may be a painful or embarrassing question for them.
- Respect the present. If your loved one has moved on in his or her life then talk about reconciliation with an ex spouse or constant mention of them can be considered insensitive or disrespectful of where they are in life now.
- Don’t speak negatively. Steer clear of speaking negatively of the ex spouse or giving reports of his or her whereabouts, goings on, etc. to your loved ones or around children.
- Don’t forget the children. Help bring as much joy and normalcy to the lives of children experiencing divorce and separation. Include them in family functions. Talk to them about their feelings. Help fill in the gap of who, or what might be missing.
- Help out. Regardless of divorce or separation housework, homework, bill paying, social and extra-curricular activities, church attendance, etc. still go on. Purposely look for ways you can lend a helping hand to your loved one.
- You get help. If you are indirectly experiencing pain from the divorce or separation of a loved one don’t hesitate to talk to someone yourself. Becoming bitter, depressed or angry, financial strain, being resentful, growing cynical and having fatigue know no boundaries. They can attack the people on the outside just as much as those on the inside. Talk to professional or Christian counselors about what you may be experiencing as a result of what your loved one is enduring and how it’s affecting your life.
- Don’t forget to pray. Prayer is quick, easy and free and should be offered to and for ALL parties involved in divorce and separation.