by Diana (Miami)
hey my name is Diana. I am 12 years old. I am writing this because my parents just got divorced, my mom, little brother, and me are going through rough times now since my dad has left. plus, my dad doesn’t give money to buy what is needed for us and the house, the only thing he cares about is his drugs and his girlfriend.
We are going to lose the house pretty soon and he doesn’t care. I will like if you can pray for my dad can get better and for my mom to have faith in god because she sometimes feels like killing herself because of the things she has had to go through with my dad.
Return to Prayers for Strength and Guidance
A few weeks ago, I was talking with a friend who had been divorced for many years. As I keep hearing of more people going through divorces, I asked her for some advice on how to help the people I know going through the situation.
The first thing that came to her mind saddened me. She said that other couples seem to have a great deal of trouble dealing with the split. In fact, couples in general seem to have difficulty with the newly single person in their midst. She said she rarely got invited to parties after her divorce, and even when she did, some of the couples only wanted to do “couple things,” which made her feel excluded.
Another friend going through a divorce stated that she often felt as though she had a giant “D” on her forehead, especially at church. I’ve heard other people say similar things. They don’t want to be “that poor divorced girl” or “that guy whose wife left him.”
Several of my other friends who have been through divorces and have children talk about the issues that arise from dealing with the other parent. The temptation they face is to insult the other parent or to want the children to know their own side of the story. This is damaging to the child, though, and my most wise friends have gone to great lengths to keep private any disagreements with their former spouses and any other issues, such as child support problems. Doing this often requires a great deal of sacrifice, especially on the part of the custodial parent, but my friends tell me it is worth it.
From all these situations I’ve learned that some of the best ways for me to minister to my friends who are going through a divorce or still dealing with issues from their divorce is to be there for them. Make them a part of the family. One Valentine’s, we invited a friend going through a divorce to join us. I made chili—not a romantic food at all! And we spent the evening talking with her, not just about her marriage, either.
I’ve also learned that while the temptation is to take my friend’s side and to bad mouth her former spouse, it is often best to be sympathetic while keeping most of my thoughts to myself. I made the mistake once of badmouthing someone’s significant other and she wound up getting back together with him. A listening ear is so much better than a flapping mouth …
Another time, we invited one friend to live with us while she was going through a divorce, so she could get back on her feet. She went to church with us and even joined my Bible study. I think she grew a lot during that time.
Often times during a hard situation, an individual’s response is to withdraw from the pain, as well as many other parts of life. I try to remember to check up on my wounded friends. I tell him or her we are praying and I do not get insulted when they have little energy to respond to my calls or my attempts to get together. But as a note of caution, when dealing with a male friend going through a divorce I make sure to reach out through my hubby and to include him in my efforts. One of the ways we have tried this is to email the friend through my husband’s email account. That way, any outreach comes from both of us, rather than just me.
It’d be great to hear some of the ways you all have encouraged and ministered to hurting friends. Please share your thoughts with us.
Divorce is not something new to me. As I think back through my childhood, I clearly remember many of my friends’ parents getting divorced. In my mid-20s, two of my best friends, married for almost 10 years, split (as did each of their siblings, who were also friends of mine). Then two more friends … and two more.
I never thought my marriage would end. And while the news is still fairly fresh in the public eye, being separated and divorced is a reality I’ve been walking through for almost a year.
Because we chose to keep our private life private as we traveled that journey, only a small group of friends, people in our church, counselors and a few colleagues and pastors knew what we were going through. Reflecting over the last several months has awakened my analytical mind, and I’ve been intentionally processing how many of our relationships have changed, what’s added to the pain and what’s helped relieve it.
Some questions and comments I’ve frequently heard are:
“What advice do you have for friends going through a divorce?”
“Are there any resources you’ve found that have helped you, or that you’d recommend for me to help my friends?”
“I just don’t know what to do or what to say to them.”
“I don’t want to get in their business.”
Because these remarks occur on a daily basis, I thought it’d be best to share two thoughts with you—one on things that helped me and one on things that hurt.
Keep in mind, these are unique to me and every relationship is different, so please don’t assume I’m an expert by any stretch of the imagination.
WHAT TO DO:
Just because you don’t know what to say doesn’t mean you shouldn’t say anything. In fact, most of the time it’s better you don’t say anything at all except to acknowledge what your friend is feeling is real (and is usually pretty rotten).
Here’s the catch: When a relationship is ending, especially a marriage, it physically feels as if your soul has been ripped out of your body. People going through this change will likely not have the strength to reach out to you. We will feel we’re a burden or that the only thing we have to talk about is how sad, angry, lonely or afraid we are. Most of us don’t want to be Debbie Downers, but we feel as if we epitomize that character in a season like this.
Not only do we not want to bring people down with us, we don’t have the strength to engage with others.
This is why it’s so important you reach out constantly to your friends. I’m an introvert and I tend to isolate myself when I’m going through a hard time. During the worst six months, I had friends texting, calling or emailing daily and at times willing to drive through snowstorms to pick me up and take me to the only open café in town with no agenda at all but to be with me. Sometimes we talked about the situation. Other times, we talked about music, or watched TV, or we didn’t even talk at all.
Knowing our friends are pursuing us helps remove the weight of loneliness that haunts us. And don’t worry; if you think you may be intruding or being overbearing, if we really need some time alone, we’ll let you know.
WHAT NOT TO DO:
Don’t disappear or blow Jesus smoke.
Don’t ignore the situation. If someone reaches out to you to even make you aware of what’s happening, even if you have nothing to say back, just say you’re sorry. That is enough.
When I sent an email out to an expanded (but still small) group of friends and acquaintances, about 90 percent of the 50 or so people responded. The 10 percent who didn’t were people I had traveled with, shared stages with, signed books with, who had endorsed my books or I endorsed theirs. After no response from the email, or from the blog post that followed, or any acknowledgment whatsoever that they even received the information, I reevaluated my relationship with them. Sadly, many of the friendships I thought were based on mutual respect weren’t. They were simply relationships of benefit and circumstance. Coming to that realization hurt, and I had to make changes in the way I view those relationships now.
There is a medical term called body dysmorphic disorder that essentially means you believe something about your body image that isn’t true. For example, many people who struggle with eating disorders literally see their bodies as being significantly larger than they are in reality. For me, this has translated into an emotional association. I realize I don’t have actual leprosy, but I often feel like a leper; that I’m contagious, or unclean. I feel people need to stay on the other side of the road. And when friends disappear, it adds to this misconception.
Please don’t disappear.
Also, don’t assume that “ministry” or cliché “Christianese” will stitch up our bleeding hearts. Be Jesus. Don’t just talk about Him.
I recently received an email from a pastor who shared about a friend currently in the middle of a divorce: “My prayer is that he will wake up to this hurting world around him and engage,” he wrote.
I can only hope this pastor’s heart is in the right place, however, I wrote him back and explained to him the last thing we can do when we are this broken is to jump back into the world and “wake up and engage” and care for others—especially when our own pain is so new.
This is one of the times the church needs to “reach in and engage with the people around them who are hurting,” not the other way around as this pastor indicated.
Please keep in mind I don’t think this implies people going through a divorce should expect to be waited on hand and foot and maintain a completely selfish existence. By making our health and recovery a priority, we will naturally emerge back into a place where we can serve out of abundance—not pressure.
THE BOTTOM LINE:
Be there for your friends. Grieve with them. Celebrate with them. Give them meals and hugs and hold them tightly. Don’t worry about having nothing to say. Pursue them. Pray for them. Love them. Constantly let them know you have their back.
Don’t fall off the face of the earth. Yes, it’s uncomfortable—for both us and you.
Anne Jackson is the author of Permission to Speak Freely: Essays and Art on Fear, Confession and Grace and Mad Church Disease: Overcoming the Burnout Epidemic and a frequent blogger.
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If you’ve ever had a friend or colleague go through a divorce, you’ve probably found yourself searching for the right thing to say. The problem, though? Your well-intentioned response might be received as hurtful rather than encouraging.
To help, we’ve reached out to relationship experts to help better frame these difficult conversations. They’ve shared with us the things you should never, ever say to a friend going through a divorce, as well as some better responses. Here’s their expert advice.
1. “I know exactly what you’re going through.”
Sure, you may have gone through a divorce yourself, but it’s important to realize you and your friend each have different situations, exes and emotions, says Christina Hibbert, Psy.D., clinical psychologist and author of “Who Am I Without You?” When you say this, it can make the other person’s experience feel minimized or discounted, Hibbert explains.
Say this instead: Hibbert suggests saying something such as “I understand what you are saying” or “I can empathize with what you’re experiencing, and it is so hard.” You can also remind your friend you are there for him or her.
2. “Move on, there are other fish in the sea.”
Trying to force someone to move on before they’ve had a chance to feel, understand and grieve the loss of their marriage is always a bad idea, Hibbert says.
“There is much healing that needs to take place before a new relationship has a chance of working out, including working on damaged self-esteem,” Hibbert says. “These things take time—as much time as your friend needs.”
Do this instead: Simply allow your friend to be where he or she is, and simply be there for him or her, Hibbert says.
Photo by Johnny Chen on Unsplash
3. “Well, you weren’t happy anyway.”
It doesn’t matter whether your friend was happy or not in the marriage, says Ebony Butler, PhD, a psychologist and wellness expert. Many people still experience grief during and after divorce.
Say this instead: Butler suggests asking your friend if there is anything in the situation that they find peace with. You can also ask your friend how he or she is doing with the changes, she says.
4. “Just pray about it.”
Many people assume that those going through divorce haven’t prayed about their relationship prior to the point of divorce, Butler says.
“Sometimes, people have prayed so much, and the divorce still happened,” she says. Also, your friend may not share your religious or spiritual beliefs.
Do this instead: Offer to help your friend feel better or get to a better mental space. Don’t assume religious or spiritual advice is important to them, Butler says. If you sense it is, though, ask first before offering any religious advice.
Photo by Ben White on Unsplash
5. “I never liked that jerk anyway”
Never verbally trash your friend’s spouse, whether they deserve it or not, advises Robyn King, a Licensed Mental Health Counselor. That includes saying other things like “he’s such a loser” or “good riddance.”
“Even though it sounds like you’re supporting and being loyal to your friend, you’re actually disrespecting the person your friend is married to,” King says. “She can say whatever she wants, but you must bite your tongue because these kinds of of put-downs can come back to bite you later, should your friend and her spouse reconcile.”
Do this instead: Listen to your friend without judgment, says King. Validate how she’s feeling. You can do this with expressions like “It’s normal to feel that way.”
King also suggests asking your friend what she needs from you. Maybe that’s just listening, or perhaps it’s helping—which could be in the form of problem-solving, finding a counselor or running some errands for her.
Photo by Crew on Unsplash
6. “You have to go through the stages of grief.”
People may grieve a marriage while they are still in it, and plan accordingly, points out Nicki Nance, PhD, a licensed psychotherapist and an associate professor of human services and psychology at Beacon College in Leesburg, Fla.
“By the time they file for a divorce, they are well into acceptance,” Nance says.
Do this instead: Be a friend, not a counselor, Nance suggests. “Accept whatever feeling they are expressing in the moment, and assure them that they are normal, no matter how crazy they feel.”
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