To support a friend going through a divorce/ break up, you don’t have to be an empat. Your friend is going through a loss, whether you are blindsided or performing a private victory dance at their end. You can see the good in the relationship, but you want to be there for your friend until they reach your wisdom. Here are some ways to support your friend who is in pain.
- Let them vent!
Sometimes, the best thing you can do is nothing. Do your best to leave space for your friend during the initial stages of a breakup.
You just need to listen well when someone is venting. Active listening is about repeating and rephrasing what your friend has to say. This shows that you are able to understand their feelings and can listen on a deeper level. If you do decide to chime in, try to validate your friend’s feelings rather than offering any kind of analysis or solutions.
- Avoid cliches
No matter how open your friend is to you, using a cliche as a response can be impersonal and inaccurate. You should not say, “You’re going through this,” without supporting your claims with specifics. You can remind your friend of what makes them unique and why they are going to get through it.
These classic offenders will only diminish your friend’s feelings:
- “Everything happens for reasons.”
- “There are many other guys/girls.”
- “You deserve more.”
- Anything that is related to “The One.” We are not going to be discussing the mythic One.
- Ask them what they want
As mentioned, not everyone is able to empathize well. Ask your friend questions to find out how you can help them right now. You might not be able to discern whether offering distraction is a comfort or insulting. Here are some ideas to help you think about the future if you become stuck in the moment.
- What can I do right now for you?
- Would [favorite movie/snack/activity] help right now, or is it not a good time?
- Is it OK to bring up [something specific] about their relationship?
- It would be helpful to know what I felt during my breakup.
- Keep the silver linings!
Psychology Today’s Dr. Suzanne Lachman said, “Remember that their grieving process does not follow your timeline. Guiding, pushing, and cajoling will not speed up the process, depending on the severity of the breakup. Try to avoid pointing out the many positives that come with being single, which, as a single person are quite tepid anyways. After hearing “Hey, being single rocks!” no one has ever been healed.”
You don’t have to be sad like your friend. Instead, channel your positivity and validate what they are saying at the moment. You can do this by putting your positive energy into validating what they are saying in the moment.
Never underestimate the power of a simple “that suckers!”
- Do not lead the ex-bashing
We know what you think about your friend’s ex. It is perfectly reasonable and right. It’s not necessary for your friend to learn this information immediately.
It is very common for friends to secretly hate their partner. This can make it harder for you to grieve and, even worse, cause you to lose your friendship. You might end up asking your friend why you didn’t say anything, whether they are dumb for being with that person, or whatever else their grief-stricken thoughts wander to. Negative comments about your ex can have a negative impact on the friendship you have with them.
However, you should not believe that your ex is dangerous or that the relationship is causing harm. If this is the case, it may be time to have tough love. You can recognize when your friend needs to be safe more than their feelings.
- Do some little things
Grief is overwhelming for your friend. You can show your support by helping with the little things. You could help if you are a friend by ordering food delivery or going grocery shopping with your ex.
- Know your limits
Your role should not be to fix your friend. Be kind to yourself and realize that you won’t be able to do everything that will get your friend back on track. It can be difficult to watch your friend struggle but it is possible to do so. You might want to set boundaries if you notice yourself treated less as a friend than as a therapist.
Your most important role in being a friend is to simply be there. As long as you are present, you don’t have to be perfect.