When you see someone you love struggling with the pain of divorce, it’s natural to want to help them get over their pain. Yet knowing how to help someone dealing with grief after divorce isn’t something that anyone naturally knows how to do. That’s because, unlike when someone is grieving the death of a loved one, we are without cultural norms for how we grieve the death of a marriage.
However, there are some clues to knowing how to help someone dealing with grief over divorce in our understanding of grieving a death.
You can expect anyone who is divorced or divorcing to be operating at less than their best – just as if they had suffered the loss of a loved one. Knowing that they may not have the energy or presence of mind to take care of some of the basic necessities, this is one area in which you can offer to help them.
They may need help with meals. They may need help with getting their children to and from school. They may need help doing yardwork or housework. These are all little services we automatically think of doing or offering to help with when a friend loses a loved one to death. These are also the little services we can offer to help our friends and family who are grieving the death of their marriage.
Just as we can sit and listen to our friends and family talk about their sadness in losing a loved one as a way of showing we care. You can support your friend or family member dealing with grief after divorce by listening to them talk about their sadness and confusion about losing everything they thought their life was and all the dreams they had for the future with their ex.
Think about the rituals you and your family have for supporting someone who is grieving a death. How can you translate those rituals to support your friend or family member as they grieve the end of their marriage?
Another way to discover how to help someone dealing with grief after divorce is to think about what they will have to do to truly move on with their life.
Some of the strategies that people dealing with grief after a divorce are encouraged to employ include:
- Accept that your marriage is over.
- Consider professional, expert help.
- Create a support system.
- Don’t intellectualize your divorce.
- Let the grieving begin.
- Look for the lessons in your feelings.
- Let go of negative emotions.
- Rise above blame.
- Take great care of yourself.
- Don’t fill the void with another relationship.
- Envision a new future.
When you look at this list of strategies, what comes to mind? How might you support your friend or family member as they work through these strategies?
Perhaps you can let them know that you’re there for them. By doing so, you are helping them create a support system by volunteering to be part of it.
Perhaps you could let them know that you’re OK with them feeling however they feel. That they don’t need to pretend everything is OK when they’re around you.
Perhaps you could, when they are ready, encourage them to begin dreaming of how they would like their life to be in the future. And then that might allow you to encourage them as they begin reaching for their new dreams.
When you first think about how to help someone dealing with grief after divorce, it can be confusing because it’s natural to initially assume that grief after divorce is completely different from grief after a death. However, grief is grief.
And when you know that your friend or family member is hurting and needs your support to work through their pain and create a new version of their life, you can use the ideas above as a guide to offer your help and show your love.
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