I recently opened social media to be met with the news that one of the beloved authors I follow is going through a divorce. Her post made me sad and brought back so many personal memories of my own divorce.
She asked people — real and “social” — to be kind to her and her children as they begin their journey down this hard and difficult path. As I read her post, it reminded me of the friends who showed genuine love and care. It also brought back the sadness of people — no longer in my life — who made their own quick and final judgments and avoided me as though I had a virus that might spread to their marriage. Others just simply disappeared.
As the first in my family and friend group to experience this type of personal tragedy, I have since had loved ones say they wished there had been some kind of road map to help them know how to support me. This begs the question, “What does it look like to support someone who is going through a divorce?”
From my own experience, here are a few ideas:
1. Check your own heart and decide if you can show up without judgment or offering advice or “shoulds.” If you can, then show up and be ready for anything. There were days I asked my best friend to meet me for a walk, and I vented and cried for 45 minutes straight. There were other times I just needed her to sit with me in silence.
2. If you feel like you can’t physically or emotionally be present with the person, that’s OK, too. It may actually be better that you send a short text, a card in the mail, a box of Kleenex outside their office door or just a hug in passing that lets the other person know you care. Those gestures do not go unnoticed.
3. Bring comfort food. This is the time to bring your friend the cheesiest, most unhealthy casserole you can possibly make or buy. They need it. Plus, it’s something they won’t have to think about doing and can reheat for the kids.
4. Offer to watch the kids for an hour or two so your friend or family member can nap, cry or go to the grocery store alone. I have a wonderful friend who had a sixth sense about when I might need a break, and her door was always open for my son to come over and play so I could have a few minutes to catch my breath.
5. Generously offer a free pass to your friend or family member who is going through a divorce. Allow them to skip the things that they “should” be attending. This may not be the time for the person to attend that big family wedding that could be triggering. It may take a lot of weight off of her shoulders to hear that she’s welcome but not obligated to attend.
6. Understand that divorce can be a long road. There are still days — many years removed — where I need this same kind of love and care from the people in my life.
For the person experiencing the divorce, pay the kindness forward when the dust has settled. When you see someone hurting, remember what helped you and be that friend who shows up however you can.
Jessica Janssen Wolford is a mom and stepmom raising three kiddos with her husband, Eric, in Elkhorn. You can read more about her experiences on her blog, “A Step in the Right Direction.” You can also follow her on Instagram at @jessicaljanssenwolford.