How to support someone going through separation or divorce
Many people going through separation can feel confused about what help they need from friends and family, whilst others find it hard to ask for help. It is difficult to see someone you care for going through upset and distress. You want to fix it for them, but unfortunately you can’t. Everyone is different but here are my suggestions for providing help to loved ones going through this difficult time in their life.
Listen when they talk.
Giving people the space to talk is very cathartic for them. Be prepared to lend an ear when they need you and focus on listening rather than trying to solve the problem for them. Have patience, you may hear the same comments, regrets or fears more than once, until your friend or relative is able to work through them. They will come to terms with everything in their own good time, and no one else’s.
Ask them what help they would find useful.
Another great way of supporting someone going through separation or divorce, is to ask them how you can best help them. It can be easy to jump to the conclusion that you know what your friend would find helpful. But rather than guessing wrong, it is better to ask your friend “how can I help?”. This gives them the control to decide what help they would find most useful, and you’ll then better understand what type of help will benefit them.
Offer practical help.
Offering practical help can be a great way to support your friend. Here are some suggestions:
- Preparing some home-cooked meals.
- Helping to run errands.
- Offering babysitting and school run duties.
- Carrying out small urgent DIY jobs in their house.
All these would help save your friend time, freeing them up to have a break or space to attend important appointments.
If your friend is the only adult in their house, be aware they may get lonely. Holidays and family birthdays can be a particularly difficult time. If you fear he or she is sitting at home alone, invite them out for something easy like supper or the cinema. Be considerate if they do not feel up to it on this occasion but always ask another time.
Keep in regular contact with them.
Regular check-ins by texts or email show you care without being too intrusive when the person might not feel like talking. Nothing beats picking up the telephone though if your friend needs support.
Sending cards and small gifts are also a lovely way of showing them you care, particularly if you are not living close by, but want to show support, and something arriving in the post is inevitably going to cheer them up.
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Help with objectivity.
In times of stress, it is very difficult for anyone to think clearly to make important decisions. Be a sounding board for practical matters, and always keep discussions confidential. Do be careful though, not to push your own agenda or think you know exactly how they feel. They need to make their own decisions, in their own time.
Accompany them to important appointments.
Provide valuable support by accompanying your friend to appointments and meetings. Perhaps you could offer to take notes for your friend during the meeting, as they may be feeling a bit wobbly and not able to absorb all the information.
Reassure them this difficult time will pass.
It sounds obvious, but your friend is suffering and needs continuous, unconditional, positive support and understanding. He/she will survive this difficult time with the help and support of people around them. Reassure them things will get better and support them to take positive steps forward.
Encourage them to seek professional support.
It is important to be considerate to someone’s wishes if they want some space from the outside world. But keep an eye on your friend or relative, to ensure they are looking after their health. If you are concerned that they are struggling to cope, try to encourage them to seek professional help. They may need help from their GP, a counsellor or divorce consultant or coach. Legal advice from a family law specialist solicitor is also vital to help them understand their legal options.
Rhiannon Ford is a divorce lawyer operating in the UK. Her divorce consultancy provides helpful advice and guides for anyone thinking about or going through divorce.
As a divorce consultant, I provide specialist help and guidance for people going through divorce and separation. Click on this link to find out about my services – www.rhiannonford.co.uk
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