Although your friends and family are an important part of your life, you may find that they’re ill equipped to support you through your loss. I found that even though my friends and family were well meaning, they didn’t know what to say to me and I often didn’t feel better around them.
Before you chuck up this well-meaning lot, remember that although they’re trying hard, they’re just not equipped or trained to help you. Society has conditioned them to deal with loss in a particular way. It’s not their fault. They love you very much and they hate to see you suffering. They’ll try to take the pain away and will do whatever they can in the moment to achieve this.
Whenever I hung out my friends they would try to distract me from the pain I was feeling or unknowingly invalidate my emotions and my right to feel lousy. I’d leave feeling superficially better but also feeling as if I’d moved two steps backwards. I soon realised that I’d have to get divorce support elsewhere. Bear these in mind about some of your friends and family (you’ll probably recognise some of the points below.)
They may say weird or inappropriate things
We’ve all been there; the awkward moment where you say something you wish you didn’t say. Family and friends often succumb to some old clichés in their struggle to try and make things better. They are all attempts to move you out of your emotional state but these statements are often damaging to your overall healing.
What friends and family might say when you divorce
Common phrases my clients have heard include:
• “Thank goodness this happened before you had children.”
• “God will never give you more than you can handle.”
• “You’ll find someone else.”
• “There’s someone special out there for you.”
• “It’s better to have loved and lost than not to have loved at all.”
• “Be grateful you were once married and knew love.”
• “Now you are free to relive your teenage dreams of being single.”
These are awful platitudes designed to make you feel better. But they don’t!
You cannot fix matters of the heart with intellectualisations of the mind. These statements do not encourage your healing.
They have no idea what to say, so sometimes they change the subject
When I was young I attended my best friend’s mum’s funeral. I felt so awkward. I was standing next to my friend and her face was a picture of despair and grief. We’d been playing dolls a week earlier and now I had no idea what to say. I stared at my shoes. I couldn’t wait to get out of the church and away from the coffin and her pain.
I looked at her and cracked a joke, trying to lighten the atmosphere. She didn’t look up. She simply turned and walked away. You’ve probably experienced this with one or two of your friends. When you talk about your divorce, they change the subject, pretend not to hear you, or crack a joke. They do this because they love you, they want to make things better for you, but they have no idea what to do. Understand their ineptitude.
Some want to revel in the drama
Some family and friends love the drama of your situation. They will ask to know everything about it so that they can revel in the excitement and intrigue of your divorce as a distraction from their own lives. Be wary of these people because getting into the drama of your divorce will not help you.
They don’t want to talk about divorce
After a while you’ll realise that some of your friends and family simply don’t want to talk about your divorce and will encourage you to do things to get over it so that hanging out with you is fun again. The bottom line is – you need to talk. You need to be heard. You do not need fixing. There is nothing wrong with you or the fact that you’re emotional or struggling.
They are afraid of catching this disease called divorce
I remember coming home after a night out with a girlfriend, feeling awful and deflated, like an insect that had been squashed and scraped across a pavement. I had just recounted my divorce story (okay, it was the second time) but halfway through, she looked out the window, absorbed in her own world. I was shocked. Had
I said something wrong? Was I boring her? Was she disinterested? She then changed the subject.
My conversation with myself about divorce
While I sat listening to her rattling on about some issue at work, the conversation in my head went something like this:
• “It’s okay for everyone that I feel the pain, but I cannot appear to be floundering.”
• “I am expected to discuss the divorce with my friends only once (don’t overdo it as no one wants to hang around with a basket case).”
• “I mustn’t mope around because it’s not healthy. It also makes people feel awkward.”
• “But while falling apart I can’t seem too happy either. That would brand me as insensitive or immature.”
I realised that I was alone in my divorce. I had caught the disease called divorce and this made me persona-non-grata. When I mentioned my ex husband’s indiscretions, I knew she was wondering about her own husband. I could see that all she wanted to do was go home to check that they were okay. (Months later she admitted this was the case.) I excused myself and gave her the opportunity to do that. I know my friend felt awkward. She wanted to help but didn’t know what to say. I remember the same feelings of inadequacy at my friend’s mother’s funeral.
Give the people in your life a Weirdness Pass which is a ticket allowing your loved ones to say weird or inappropriate things while you’re dealing with your divorce. They don’t know any better and no one trained them on how to deal with the situation. Remember not to take on board anything that they say. Remain aware of what they are saying, and of the myths and possible generalisations in their comments, to guard against becoming embroiled in their intellectualisations.
Till next time, when we will find out what your divorce healing cycle might look like!
Sending you a big hug!
Photo credit: Stuart Miles