How to support a friend or family member going through divorce

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It is very difficult to watch a friend or a family member move through a separation and an eventual divorce. The situation can be even more complicated when you have a relationship with both people involved, such as a brother and sister-in-law. But regardless of the circumstances and your personal relationship with both parties, there is a way to be present and supportive of those who need you.

While it might feel like you need to be available at all times of the day and night, it is very necessary that you offer your assistance and support in a way that does not deplete you too. If you allow the situation to overwhelm you and your own self-care, you will not be of any help to those who need you. So first, it is important to offer your concern and support with appropriate boundaries. Setting reasonable boundaries might include not being available during your work hours or when you need to care for your own children or spouse.

Once good boundaries are established there are a variety of ways you can aid someone who is struggling, emotionally. Initially, it is important to know if the person needs to seek some professional guidance. You might not be capable of handling all of the issues they are dealing with and therefore offering to help them find the professional assistance they need, can be a good start. Some professionals who might be able to help include;

  • Psychologist/Therapist
  • Clergyperson
  • Accountant
  • Solicitor
  • Financial Planner

Some of these professionals can assist with the personal and emotional needs of a person going through a divorce. But it is also very likely that the person will also need pragmatic advice that you might not be qualified to provide to them. Offering suggestions for reputable professionals can help ease the stress both emotionally and practically.

The next support suggestions are more personal and can be provided by you based on how close of a relationship you have with the person who is going through the divorce. Therefore, it is important to respond in a way that matches the level of intimacy you share with them.

  • Empathy; if you have been in the same situation your own experience can be very helpful. Consider what you need most and ask the person if they need the same type of caring.
  • Compassion; it is important to remember that they might not be at their best for a while to come, so patience and understanding, if they are stressed, sad, or overwhelmed, can be very helpful.
  • Listen; oftentimes a struggling person really just needs someone to listen and respond with kindness.
  • Advice; while advice can be helpful, keep in mind that it might be difficult for a person going through a divorce to hear and respond and act on advice, even if it is a very logical and sound suggestion.
  • Fun; everyone needs to have a release and time when they are not consumed by their fears and concerns. Offering to take someone to a movie or shopping or out for a meal, can offer a wonderful respite from their situation. And even if the conversation turns to the details or concerns of the divorce, at least your time out will provide a fresh atmosphere for them.
  • Patience; it is very likely that your friend or family member will tell you the same stories or share the same concerns, repeatedly. Allow them to vent and eventually their ability to discuss other things will return.

Lastly, and the most difficult to accomplish, is if you are close to both persons involved. In this case, you might find yourself listening to both sides of a difficult story. In this situation, it is important to remember to do the following;

  • Confidences; if you have been told something in confidence, do not share the information with the other party
  • Neutrality; if you are close to both people, they will both want your loyalty. While they may speak negatively about each other, it will always be best if you do not speak negatively about either one of them to the other
  • Positivity; let both people know that regardless of what is happening between them, you regard them both positively, as people
  • Fault/Perspective; it can be very difficult not to get caught up in discussing who is at fault for the divorce. However, it is also important to try and provide some balance and perspective to both people.

Such situations are always sad and difficult for both spouses and their families and friends. Therefore, when faced with trying to provide support and care for the loss they are experiencing, it is important to be present and do your very best to offer assistance and kindness, while also taking care to set reasonable boundaries that will keep you healthy and appropriately available for their needs.

In the event that you find yourself in need of assistance, please contact the law offices of Owen Hodge Lawyers. At Owen Hodge, we are always happy to assist clients in understanding the full ramifications of any and all of your legal needs. Please feel free to call us at your earliest convenience to schedule a consultation at 1800 770 780.



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