Odds are, one day you will have a friend who is going through a tough divorce. Sometimes divorces are amicable between the spouses. Unfortunately, more frequently divorces are nasty as we saw in two divorce movie classics: Kramer v. Kramer and War of the Roses.
When divorce turns nasty, the emotional toll on the individuals involved and their families can be catastrophic, health threatening, life-altering, and debilitating. And when divorce hits this level, it’s absolutely critical for friends to be there to support their friends through the divorce process’s inevitable emotional ups and downs.
Here are 5 ways I recommend you support your friend through their nasty divorce.
#1 Take Sides
Don’t be afraid to throw radical support behind your friend. You have history with your friend. You have forged a relationship that has survived the good and bad times of BOTH of your lives. Most likely, they have supported you in the tough times of your own life. Right now, you have the opportunity to give in abundance one of the benefits of forging lasting friendships, that is unconditional support.
Whether their own actions have contributed to the divorce, it may not be time to do an analysis based on logic. Please know, at some point, you will want to tell it like it is and help your friend see their contribution or part to the situation, but use your best judgment to determine when they are ready to take ownership of their part. Show your friend that you love them without limitations–no matter what. Tell her/him that you will always be there to support them. Tell them that you are on their side. Show your understanding for why they say what they say and why they did what they did…. For now, don’t be afraid to take your friend’s side, even when and if that means breaking ties with the other spouse. Being a loyal friend is honorable.
# 2 Be Consistently Present
Your friend needs to feel connected with the outside world. Divorce can isolate the most outgoing of individuals. Family members (generally in-laws) that were once full of love can become full of hate. Friends that you thought were close suddenly feel so far away. It’s critical for you to consistently check-in verbally and physically every week; the more the better.
When you’re present, this tells your friend that you care about them, at a time when they may feel like their world is falling apart. Most times they will not reach out to you (or anyone). Take the affirmative step of reaching out to your divorcing friend, don’t wait for them to reach out to you.
#3 Limit the “Parade of Horribles”
In divorce it’s easy for those going through the divorce to focus on the pain, the heartache, anger, and everything that the former spouse “did to them”. I call this the “Parade of Horribles”. Do not let your friend relegate their whole life to only be about vignette of their divorce. Don’t let them continually focus on the details of what went wrong and who wronged who. Doing so is exhausting both mentally and physically, and my experience tells me that such focus on who did what will result in the unhealthy loss of sleep for your friend.
Instead, help them to focus on their own self-worth, the present, and the bright future as a newly single person. Their life is so much more than this brief chapter of their stories.
#4 Remind them to Engage in Self Care and Smile
In a divorce, remind your friend that there is nothing more important than taking care of themselves. Your friend needs to know this. One of the best ways they can focus on themselves is through self care. I mean both physical and mental self care. Both are important. Smile at your friend often, and remind them to smile or even better to laugh.
If you see them physically letting themselves go, take them to the spa, the gym, or to their stylist. Their physical appearance plays a large role in their self confidence and mental outlook regarding their future. Remind them that, “this too shall pass”.
Emotional health is also critical. I always encourage individuals in divorce to find a therapist, divorce coach, or life coach and attend regular sessions. Professionals are skilled in helping your friend overcome the emotional toll that divorce can have on their life. Encourage your friend to seek the help of a trained professional.
#5 Be Patient
This may be the most important point in supporting a friend through divorce. Your patience will be tested. Why? Because you have chosen to “be there” and to walk this walk with them. You are like Simon of Cyrene, helping Jesus carry his cross.
And as they led [Jesus] away, they seized one Simon of Cyrene, who was coming in from the country, and laid on him the cross, to carry it behind Jesus.
You, maybe unlike Simon of Cyrene, are a willing partner in this experience with them. That’s what friends do. But, because you are more “clear eyed” than they are, sometimes you won’t be able to understand why your friend is acting the way that they are. The Parade of Horribles, the late night phone calls, and the occasional anger can all take a toll on the both of you. Remain patient and continue to stand by and stand with your friend. As we all have heard, love is patient.
When you’re patient, although your friend may not acknowledge or know it in the moment, it is appreciated and can make all the difference in the world.
A divorce is a life-altering chapter in any one’s life story. A friend undergoing a nasty divorce will need your support and guidance to escape “The Parade of Horribles”. As a true friend, you are uniquely positioned to help your friend escape the vortex of the unpredictable tornado called divorce. Remember……
#1. Take Sides
#2. Be Consistently Present
#3. Limit the Parade of Horribles
#4. Remind Your Friend to Engage in Self Care
#5. Be Patient
Mia Poppe, Esq.,
 Columbia Pictures, Kramer vs. Kramer (1979).
 Twentieth Century Fox, The War of the Roses (1989).