Separation is one of the hardest events one could potentially go through and, depending on the circumstances, one could be dealt a huge blow that is challenging to get through.
What does this mean?
Some come to a mutual agreement to separate, which usually is a little less of an emotional roller coaster (but still very sad). Others experience cheating, domestic violence and many other scenarios that are on the other end of the spectrum in terms of the roller coaster highs and lows!
Some people are lucky enough to have support from people who have already travelled down the separation or divorce path.
Some have support from family and friends that are there for them, however they may not necessarily understand the emotions or scenarios that maybe going on in your separation journey.
From experience, and now having many friends who have also gone through the process, the journey is about many things!
However, no matter how I look at it, for me it was mourning the loss of someone I thought I knew, someone I thought was part of a team we committed to. Being betrayed by someone in a cruel way takes a lot to get through or to get over. Having the ‘right’ support (this is subjective and different for everyone), can be crucial in getting through the process and potentially diffuse/soften the impact emotionally.
So, here are a few tips for those supporting a friend or a loved one through the separation and divorce process.
10 tips when supporting a friend through a separation
1. Be available
Answering SOS calls from a friend or family member who is going through a separation, especially in the early days, is needed! So please answer that phone call!
2. Be patient
3. Be a good listener
Be ready to have the same conversations over and over again. For the person going through it, this is a time for “processing” things for themselves!
“Listening is often the only thing needed to help someone” – unknown
4. Attempt not to react to what is said right away
There are times your friend may need you to make their ex the villain, in order to process their separation. Try balancing agreeing with them at times with a more realistic perspective because, let’s face it, isn’t that why you are friends? You set things straight.
5. Do your best if both parties confide in you
This can be challenging and you might feel like you have to choose sides. In reality, that may be where you end up, especially if you have an allegiance with one over the other.
6. Try not to judge
Well not all the time anyway!
7. Offer practical help
Consider offering to look after the kids (if there are any) while your friend gets some time for themselves. Perhaps make a meal and drop it over or offer to mow the lawn.
Offer introductions to single friends. This will help them create a new circle of friends to go out with or try new things with when their married/partnered friends are less available. If they are ready to date, perhaps introduce a ‘potential’!
8. Don’t take it personally (as ‘Maya’ said it)
If your friend is going through a separation (especially in the early days) and doesn’t make the effort to connect with you, do not take it personally! Some days they will be trying to cope with just getting out of bed, so calling and keeping in touch with you may not be their highest priority.
9. Be attentive to the unsaid messages
I was lucky enough to have a sister-friend (Ms M) who would turn up, even at midnight on a work night, knowing that I could not move because my young kids were asleep and no one else was home.
Ms M came over in PJs and Uggs just before midnight with hot apple pies and ice cream to cheer me up because it was a bad night on the separation roller coaster! These acts of kindness provided support and love during a time that was excruciating!
10. Be open to learning
Supporting your friend may teach you things unexpectedly and help your own relationship!