No one goes into a marriage expecting to divorce. This life-altering process is overwhelming and can knock people off their feet. It is important that they have someone to lean on during this time.
There are many ways to offer comfort and support to someone getting a divorce. Let them know that you’re here for them, that they can ask for help if they need it, and that they are strong enough to get through it. Listen to them open-mindedly and without judgment. Be someone they know they can rely on.
Listed below are 17 messages and actions that you can do to show your support and care for someone going through a divorce. Oppositely, there are also some things you should not do, as you risk invalidating or further hurting them.
Things to Say to Someone Getting a Divorce
1. “You can do this.”
This simple statement achieves multiple things: acknowledges the difficulties of divorce, expresses support for the divorcee, and empowers them to overcome such difficulties. Sometimes, all a divorcee needs is a vote of confidence that they have whatever it takes to get through their current situation.
2. “I’m here for you.”
By saying these four words, you are also showing your support and understanding. The emotional baggage brought about by divorce is tough to carry all alone, in addition to all the legal and physical aspects.
3. “I’m one call or message away if you need me.”
Much like the previous statements, this can also show your support and willingness to be there for the divorcee. It lets them know how to reach you when they decide they need your help.
4. “You are loved and appreciated.”
Divorcees are prone to feeling unloved and unappreciated because of the process of divorce itself. It is essential that you reassure them of their worth and value to you and the people in their life.
5. “You are not a burden.”
Many people hesitate to ask for help because they do not want to inconvenience those around them. With that said, you must reassure the divorcee that your helping them is not a burden; you genuinely want to do it out of love and care for them.
6. “I understand why you feel that way.”
While the divorcee is processing their emotions, let them know that what they are feeling is valid. Furthermore, stress that there is no one right or wrong way to experience grief and loss.
Other Tips for Comforting Someone Going Through a Divorce
7. Don’t Act Differently
There is no doubt that divorce is a major change in one’s life and that it creates copious amounts of emotional stress. The divorcee’s life might be going through enough upheaval as it is, there is no need to act around them differently just because of the divorce.
Acknowledge that they may not be in the best headspace, but that does not mean you should treat them as if they are fragile and would break at any moment. Odds are that this sense of normalcy would be appreciated and would help ground them.
8. Just Listen
Sometimes, when things become overwhelming, people want to rant and vent. Divorce is a particularly exhausting process, and it is natural that divorcees feel drained through it. Let them talk to you about their feelings, reflections, and thoughts.
You may feel tempted to give them advice but remember to refrain from doing so unless they explicitly ask for it. Likewise, you may want to talk about a similar personal experience, but it might be best to save that for another conversation. For now, be there for them and make sure they feel heard by saying statements such as:
- “That sounds difficult.”
- “I hear you.”
- “Do you want to talk about it more?”
- “Thank you for trusting me with this.”
- “I got you.”
9. Validate Their Experiences
In showing that you are listening to the divorcee, it is also significant that you validate their experience. This shows your support and solidarity with them. By not invalidating their feelings, you are helping them heal and reflect. You can do this with statements such as:
- “That must have been really difficult to experience.”
- “Thank you for sharing this. You are so brave.”
- “If you want to talk more about (an experience) and how it made you feel, I’m here, okay?”
- “It looks like (an experience) made you feel (an emotion).”
- “(An experience) must have been tough on you and the kids, huh?”
10. Ask Them for What They Need
Everyone has their own way of coping and dealing with loss. Not all approaches will work effectively for every person. Even if you know someone really well, you should still ask what kind of help they currently need.
Others may prefer some time and space alone to reflect and heal, whereas others may need constant company to feed off their energy. Some may need assistance in daily chores and responsibilities, while some would prefer additional work to keep their minds off things.
Whatever it is that they say they need, make sure to respect it. The path to healing is theirs to navigate, and you are there to help them, not dictate to them what to do.
11. Don’t Force Them into Anything
Corollary to the tip above, it is important not to be pushy. If the divorcee is not ready to do something, such as going out to socialize or finding someone new to date, then do not force them to do so. As mentioned earlier, each person goes through feelings of loss and grief differently. It is essential that you let them decide what they are prepared for and what they are not.
12. Send a Short “Checking in” Message
With a short text message, you can let the divorcee know that you care for them, and you are there for them. By using a short text message, you show your support and concern, but in a way that is not forceful and condescending. Some examples of short messages include:
- “Just checking in on you. How are you feeling?”
- “How are you doing today?”
- “Divorce is tough and painful. I’m here if you need to rant.”
- “As someone who’s had a divorce myself, let me know if you have questions or need any advice.”
- “You’ll get through this.”
13. Be Specific When Offering Help
Even though you let the divorcees know that they can ask for help, they may feel uncomfortable doing so or not even know what they need help with. By specifying what kind of help you want to give, you are making it easier for them to accept the help. Here are some examples of specific offers that can help ease their struggles:
- “Can I cook your favorite food for you tonight? Let’s have dinner together!”
- “Do you need anything from the supermarket? I’d love to get you what you need and drop it off at your place.”
- “I have a lot of free time today and I would love to help you with some housework. I can clean the dishes and do your laundry if you’d like? You deserve a break every once in a while, and I’d be glad to help.”
- “I’m currently at a bookstore buying something for my friend. Is there anything in your reading list you’ve been meaning to get to but don’t have a copy of?”
- “My cat needs to go see the vet for his quarterly check-up. Does your dog need one, too? I can book an appointment for us if you’d like!”
14. Speak Their Love Language
A person’s love language refers to how they receive love from others. Sometimes, verbally affirming your love for them is not enough. For instance, they may need physical manifestations of that love. Here are the five major love languages:
- Quality time – time spent doing something together. Acts under this love language include listening, discussing, and cuddling while showing your partner undivided attention.
- Acts of service – actions, small or big, that let your partner see how much you love and cherish them. Acts of service include running errands for them, accomplishing the chores, cooking meals, and packing their lunch.
- Physical touch – expressions of love through physical means, such as hugging, kissing, and holding hands. Physical touch is not always sexual.
- Words of affirmation – expressions of love through spoken and/or written words, appreciation, and praise. Examples are motivational messages, compliments, love letters, and saying “I love you.”
- Receiving gifts – love and affection expressed through gift-giving. People with this love language see the gift as a physical embodiment of the gift giver’s feelings. The price of the gift is not important; what matters is that it comes from the heart.
15. Include Them in Your Plans
Especially if the divorcee’s love language is quality time, schedule an activity that you can both look forward to. This gets them moving and provides an outlet for them to heal. Here are some ways you can do this:
- “The new Marvel movie just came out. Do you want to watch it with me?”
- “I heard the coffee shop near the school has a buy-one-take-one deal this Thursday. Want to check it out?”
- “There’s a clearance sale at the mall until the end of this month. I know you’ve been wanting new jackets; do you want to go look sometime?”
- “My friends and I have been planning a staycation somewhere in California. Do you want to go with us?”
Again, if the divorcee does not feel ready to go out yet, then you must respect that and not take it personally.
16. Look Out for Them
There are circumstances wherein coping mechanisms can take a turn for the worse and become toxic for the divorcee. As much as we should not force them into anything or dictate what they need, there may come a time that they would need a gentle reminder that their coping mechanism is unhealthy.
In the same vein, their ex-spouse may be overstepping boundaries [hyperlink to article on unhealthy boundaries with ex-wife, not yet posted] and the divorcee does not know how to keep them in check or is simply unaware. You may step in and help the divorcee realize this and come up with a resolution.
17. Help Them Adjust
The transition from being married to single again may be difficult for some people, especially for those with children. The divorcee may have to move out, reorganize their home, drastically change schedules to accommodate co-parenting, and so on. You can help make the adjustment period easier by offering some help, such as:
- “Do you need some help packing your things to move out? I can come over if you need an extra pair of hands!”
- “I can take your kids to the ice cream shop if you need some time for yourself. I’ve been craving mint chocolate, anyway!”
- “Do you need someone to watch your dog? I’d love to take care of him if that’s okay with you.”
- “I love your new place! Do you need some help cleaning up or decorating? I may have some unused paint that might look great in your living room!”
What Not to Say or Do to Someone Getting a Divorce
“We all saw it coming.”
This short statement packs a punch; it implies a multitude of negative things to the divorcee. For one, it implicitly says that the marriage itself was doomed from the beginning. Furthermore, the implication that the divorce could have been prevented might give the divorcee more emotional baggage. It might also make them feel powerless and resigned.
“I told you so.”
Similar to the previous statement, saying this to a divorcee implies that from the start, the marriage was bound to end in a divorce. This statement adds insult to injury, as it boils down to you telling the divorcee, “I’m right and you’re wrong.”
Talk Negatively About Their Ex-Partner
Again, every divorcee navigates their emotions and sentiments differently. You may find that your anger or resentment toward their ex-partner is not shared, at least not all the time.
Avoiding talking negatively about their ex-partner is especially important if they have kids, as it may influence them to choose sides. As such, co-parenting will be difficult to do successfully.
Most likely, you and the divorcee’s ex-partner are also friends. It is important not to pick sides and actively exclude the other. This may just end up contributing to their mutual resentment, as well as destroying your friendship.
However, you must keep in mind that there is a high likelihood of losing touch with one of them regardless. If that happens, make sure not to talk negatively about the other. If possible, do not share any anecdotes or conversations involving them as well.
“Divorce is normal. Around half of married couples get divorced eventually.”
Superficially, this statement can be viewed as helpful as your intention in saying it could be that the divorcee is not alone. However, this reduces their divorce, and all the emotions and hardships attached to it, to a mere statistic. It trivializes their baggage and struggles.
Give Unsolicited Advice or Opinion
As mentioned earlier, the best thing to do when the divorcee is telling their story is to just listen. Only offer your advice or your opinion when you are prompted to do so. Otherwise, you may make them feel alienated or invalidated.
You must keep your beliefs and biases in check. If divorce clashes with your religious beliefs, keep it to yourself and listen to the divorcee with an open mind. If you personally would not want a divorce, then that is for you to know.
Toxic positivity refers to a fixation on positive thinking, even if the situation is tragic and dreadful. People with toxic positivity believe that maintaining a positive and happy mindset is the only acceptable way. This can be seen in statements such as:
- “Look at the bright side!”
- “You’re better off without them.”
- “This is for the best.”
- “Everything happens for a reason.”
- “It will be okay.”
- “God works in mysterious ways.”
- “This is all part of God’s plan.”
The main problem with toxic positivity is that it invalidates feelings. It may stump healing as well; suppressing negative emotions for the sake of toxic positivity will only result in pent-up sadness and anger.
Corollary to this, toxic positivity puts a timeline or deadline on grief. It forces the divorcee to feel okay after a certain amount of time. It does not allow them to fully process and reflect on their emotions.
The most important thing to do when trying to comfort someone getting a divorce is to just listen without judgment. Let them tell their story and express their emotions. Do not force your advice, opinions, and plans onto them — healing is a personal process that should come from within. With that said, always be open to them if they come to you for help. Show them that they can trust you and they can rely on you.