Divorce is everywhere. Not a week passes that I don’t hear about someone calling quits on their marriage, be it a celebrity couple or someone within my social circle. I always feel a little sad when I hear about another marriage coming to an end. I often wonder what kind of pain the once happy couple is facing. Divorce can be complicated and heart-wrenching. No matter the circumstance there are so many details that must be dealt with. An untangling of two lives is occurring and even the strongest person will experience moments of weakness and utter lostness.
I have had a few close friends deal with divorce and, at first, I had no idea how to react. These were friends whose weddings I had been a part of. These were friends who professed to be followers of Christ. I felt conflicted. God hates divorce, doesn’t He? How could I live out this truth yet continue to be a support to my friends? The thing is, it’s not as complicated as it seems. There are some definite and concrete ways one can help their friend dealing with divorce.
1. Reach out and communicate your support. It’s as simple as a text or phone call. Check in and ask how they are doing. Let them know you are there if they need someone to talk to or a shoulder to cry on. One friend of mine said that once her husband moved out of their home she had this sudden realization, “Oh my gosh, I’m alone.” It’s heartbreaking. Remind your friend that they are not alone. Remind them that they are loved, not just by you but by God.
2. Offer resources to them. Maybe your church has a ministry for divorcees. Maybe you know of a counselor they can speak with. Maybe you know of an attorney who will be fair and sensitive to their needs. There is a website that many have found helpful, divorcecare.org. They offer daily encouragement for anyone dealing with the hurt of divorce or separation. There are even some practical resources you can offer to them. Maybe you are an accountant and you can help her file her taxes or adjust her budget. Maybe you can help by changing the oil in her car, mowing the grass, figuring out how to get new medical insurance, babysitting her kids. Think about all the little ways your friend may have relied on her husband and try to fill in those needs. How can you make the transition easier? Do that.
3. Listen. Sometimes when people come to us with their problems we want to fix them. We quickly start delving out advice and solutions. We demand to know every detail so we can figure out what to do about it. This can be overwhelming and extremely unhelpful for someone whose marriage has just come to an end. Instead of being quick to speak we should be quick to listen. Perhaps your friend just needs to vent and that’s okay. Listen, hug her, do not overreact or cause more distress.
4. Do not shame them. We know as Christians that divorce is far from ideal. We want to see marriages succeed and thrive. We, however, do not know what is going on in a relationship between a husband and wife. Christian couples especially are at risk of feeling shame, rejection, and loneliness. It is so easy for outsiders looking in to say that a couple should just “work harder” or “tough it out.” One woman who sought a divorce due to being in an abusive relationship said that even though she felt relief to get out of the unhealthy marriage she also immediately felt, “shame for disappointing my family, his family, and our friends. I felt completely and utterly alone. I felt judged.” She ended up switching churches because she could not handle the questions week after week asking why she wasn’t with her husband. We should not drive divorcees from our churches with judgmental questions and stares. Instead of shaming them we should show them unconditional love and support.
5. Don’t make it about you. Again, when a friend comes to you with the news that they are divorcing, do not overreact or make it about you in any way. One friend of mine says that when she told certain people about her divorce they quickly reacted with, “how come you never told me you were having problems? How could you have lied to me?” Your friend is dealing with a complicated and heartbreaking situation, the last thing they need to hear is how they have disappointed or hurt anyone else. It’s not about you so don’t make it about you.
6. Ask how you can pray for them. Don’t pry for unsavory details but genuinely ask your friend what her needs are so that you can pray for her. It’s always comforting when people are lifting up your needs to the Lord.
7. Do not gossip about the situation. It’s far too easy to go to mutual friends and say, “Did you hear that so-and-so is getting a divorce?” This is not helpful in any way, shape, or form. It is downright sinful. Do not make someone else’s pain your water cooler conversation. Period. If others are gossiping, shut it down. Do not participate in this activity.
8. Encourage them to get involved with church. A woman facing divorce might want to run away from the church. She does not want to feel judged for what is happening in her marriage, which is understandable. But encourage your friend to find a church or small group that will help her to build relationships. One woman who divorced while still in her 20s says that though she appreciated her married friends she felt the need to be around single people her age. Being a part of a young adults group at her church helped her in various ways. She was able to share wisdom and life experience with those who had not yet been married or were seeking to be married. It made her feel that even though she had gone through a bad divorce she was still able to help others. Instead of focusing on the pain of her separation she was able to focus on helping others get a good start to their marriages. She also appreciated just being around a diverse group of people who had no previous relationship with her or her ex-husband.
9. Physically be there for them. A call or text is nice, but sometimes your friend will need you to physically show up. Sometimes there is no replacement for feeling the actual presence of another human being. A recently divorced woman told me that when she went to meet with an attorney a good friend of her’s showed up and physically held her hand as she signed the divorce papers. She also gave her a small gift and a note which read, “Here’s to new beginnings. I pray God gives you strength and endurance. You’re a treasure and God sees your heart.” Which brings me to my next point.
10. Remind them of their worth in God. Divorced women often feel discarded. They may feel like “second-class citizens” because they have divorced their husbands. There is a stigma and they may feel that they have greatly disappointed God. Remind your friend that she is eternally loved by her Savior. Remind your friend that God will never leave or forsake her. Remind your friend that she has worth and value beyond what she could comprehend.
Divorce is a painful process. It is often said that dealing with a divorce is like dealing with a death. Your friend may be experiencing a wide range of emotions on any given day, form relief to anger to despair to shame. Be a friend by being encouraging, supportive, and most of all, loving. She is going to need someone to hold her hand, show her Christ’s love, and remind her that God is present through every trial.
Related Video: How do I show love and support for a friend going through a divorce?
Kristel Acevedo is a wife, mom, and writer living in Miami, FL. She’s an introvert who loves people and helping women find their freedom in Christ. You can keep up with her writing at her personal blog at www.KristelAcevedo.com. You can also find her at her favorite social media spot, Instagram and on Facebook and Twitter too.