If you told me a few years ago I would know what it feels like to be going through a divorce, I would’ve told you, “No! That will never be me.” I was devoted and dedicated to my marriage and the spouse God gave me.
Fast forward to today—I know exactly how it feels.
First, let me give you a mental picture. Think of the greatest devastation you’ve ever experienced, the kind of situation that left you clinging to every breath and left you grasping fistfuls of Jesus, wondering how you could face another day. This is the pain of divorce, and it lasts a long, long time. For me, this pain was unlike anything else I have ever experienced; deeper, visceral. Like I was watching my heart be removed from my body and I was helpless to stop it.
While every divorce is unique, they are all painful. Some are particularly more devastating than others, but none are easy or pain free. That’s by design … God’s plan for marriage never included divorce. “What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate” (Mark 10:9).
Every marriage is different, and every divorce will be different. But one thing is the same—a bond God created for life has been severed, torn apart, and forever broken.
How to help a friend going through divorce
So how can you come alongside your friend and walk with them on this road? Let me tell you about some of the hands and feet of Jesus that showed up for me along the way. They are forever in my heart.
Listen, listen, listen. Did I mention listen? Don’t offer your opinion unless it’s asked, but provide your friend opportunities to share.
Sometimes that looks like just showing up with a coffee or inviting them to take a walk with you. Other times, it’s a regular phone call or even just a simple text of “Hey, how can I pray for you today?” There were moments I was unable to respond with anything more than a “thank you” or changing the topic off of myself. But knowing they cared enough to check in with me regularly was a huge blessing.
Often, the words I was said were jumbled and or all bunched together, but just the ability to get them out to another human was healing.
Above all else, while you listen don’t say, “It’s for the best,” or “It’s time to move on now.” Let them feel the pain and experience the struggle so they can heal. It’s never for the “best.” Yes, maybe divorce was necessary for safety, or maybe their spouse was the one that filed for divorce. But the best” would have been healing, redemption, and restoration. Sin happens and sometimes there is no other way but out, but it’s still not the BEST. Those words stung hard when I heard them, please spare your friends that pain.
2. Don’t ask a friend going through a divorce if they are OK.
They are not OK, not by a long shot. Asking this forces them to come up with an answer on the spot. Instead, ask them what they are planning for dinner. If they don’t know, offer to drop something off or invite them over. Or ask them if they want to join in your weekend plans, because they are living breath by breath and probably haven’t planned anything for the weekend.
I always appreciated the people who didn’t start every conversation with “How are you?” because I was not OK and they typically weren’t up for hearing the real answer.
3. Help them pack.
There is always a transition involved with going through a divorce. Maybe it’s packing up their things to relocate or maybe it’s packing up their former spouses items to move them out.
I’ll always appreciate the friends that helped me pack up my children’s and my things. I would have never gotten through it alone. I would probably have tossed it all in a dumpster and regretted it later. Anything to make the pain stop. Instead, all of my items were carefully packed, labeled, and loaded into a moving truck. The entire process was a blur to me, but the practical love shown still brings me to my knees with thankfulness.
Be this person for someone else, it will forever connect your hearts.
4. Don’t forget the kids.
If your friend is a parent to young kids, they are also in the middle of the fire. Offer to watch them, or invite them to join your family for a few adventures. Do this OFTEN. You might think you’re being annoying, but trust me, you’re not. You’re Jesus in action.
Remember, their parent or parents are living moment to moment in the beginning of going through a divorce and probably don’t have much to offer their kids right now. Offering to care for the kids is just as much a blessing to the kids as the parents, as it’s likely the kids emotional cups are running on empty.
If you want to take this one step further, ask your friend if you can text or message the children. This gives the kids one more safe person to check in with, and helps to balance the load on the single parent. My kids loved this, and I appreciated it immensely to know they had another adult investing in them. Bonus, my friends were able to help me monitor my child’s emotional health through this process.
5. Help your friend prioritize self-care and soul care.
Have you ever heard of “pregnancy brain”? Well, “divorce brain” is a thing, too. We aren’t thinking clearly and can’t remember to do basic things like schedule a hair appointment before the split ends rage or take care of those calloused feet before the summer sandal season.
Offer to watch their kids or handle a school pick-up so they can take care of their personal needs. If they say no … persist. They’ll thank you for it later. Don’t let them pass up basic self-care.
For soul care, offer to memorize Scripture with your friend. Send them daily verses via text to encourage. These were life-giving to me as fuel to make it through the day.
In my first year of going through a divorce, my therapist shared a daily scripture encouragement calendar with me. It was amazingly providential as so often the daily verses seemed to align with exactly what I needed to hear that day. Verses of promise, safety, love, care, and protection. Oh, the Father’s timing is always perfect.
And of course, pray. The sweet words of many friends, “Can I pray with you?” or “How can I best pray?” were heard so often at the end of a phone call, in a text, or before we parted ways. They meant it, and I felt it. There is nothing quite like the prayer of many saints covering you.
6. Feed them.
In the first few months of going through a divorce, I made the same kid-friendly meal on repeat almost daily: tots, over-easy eggs, and burgers sans buns. (Sounds strange, but this was my kids’ favorite meal. We had chickens, so eggs abounded.) I could make this meal without thinking about it, and I did … too much.
To this day, my kids still can’t eat it. Sorry kids!
Spare your friend’s kids and set up a meal train. It doesn’t have to be daily, but a schedule of knowing the days you don’t have to worry about food is a lifesaver. Plus, your friend might actually eat if they don’t have to prepare it. #SelfCare. Yeah, we need all the help in that space.
7. Offer practical blessings.
For the first year or so, your friend probably won’t notice the flower beds are dead and the lawn needed to be mowed last week. Or that the ring around the tub might now have reached “pressure washing required” status.
This was me. I had trees down over fences, a gate falling off the hinge, and just a hot mess everywhere. My sister organized a “work day” at my house and gathered up volunteers to help me get back on top of home maintenance. It was such an unexpected blessing.
Consider getting a crew together to help with basic maintenance around their house. See if you can help fill those gaps in the short run, or consider taking up a collection between friends to help pay for a handyman or cleaning service if that would be a better fit. This is the literal meaning of the “Hands and Feet of Jesus” and, wow, it will be so meaningful to them.
8. Understand that holidays hurt.
Holidays have memories and traditions all their own, and now many of them have been erased in the fire of divorce. Family gatherings will be different or nonexistent. Kids might be with their other parent.
The first few holiday seasons while going through a divorce will be exceptionally hard. Start early and help them come up with new traditions or modifications on the old ones. They might want to join your family in the first year, and if you can, let them! Depression is a monster during the holidays. So even if they decline your invitation, make sure you at least drop in to check on them with a peppermint mocha and a hug.
9. Let them be needy.
Be prepared for your friend to be needy, very needy. Coffee dates and more coffee dates, and did I mention coffee dates? If it’s not coffee, find whatever it is he or she can do to unplug, unwind, and share their heart with you. That might be going for a walk, working out together, working in the garden together, or maybe it’s helping them clean their house. But it’s probably mostly coffee.
We’re needy in the beginning—there’s suddenly a giant hole in our lives. Eventually we figure it out, but we’ll probably test the boundaries of friendship in those early days of trying to get our footing in this new life.
“The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34:18 ).
10. Remember their anniversary.
They won’t want you to bring it up by name, and they don’t want to celebrate. But remember the day—you know they sure do. Be there so they don’t get stuck inside their own head. Plan something, keep their mind busy. Don’t you dare let your friend spend that day alone for the first year or two.
This list is really just the beginning of how God showed up through friends and family during my darkest moments. I’m still walking through them in many ways, but I know I’m not alone. I’m forever grateful to those who chose to walk alongside me and my children.
As you think about your friend who’s going through a divorce, I encourage you to get involved, and above all else, pray. Pray to the God of all comfort and who is able to do exceedingly more than all you ask or imagine.
“Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us” (Ephesians 3:20).
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