Divorce and the Holidays: How to Help
While many of us are distracted by the excitement of Christmas parties and holiday celebrating, others are distracted by contemplating a separation or divorce in the New Year. January is “Divorce Month” — more people initiate and share news of their separations in this month than any other throughout the year. You can help your friend or loved ones in the following ways:
Acknowledge and Listen
Many people have been contemplating separation or divorce for a very long time before ever breathing a word out loud. The single best response to someone who shares their thoughts is to listen; resist the urge to solve their problems, offer solutions or provide advice you are not qualified to give. There is extraordinary validation found in the company of someone who not only hears you, but who is present and also listens intently to you. Acknowledge that you can see, hear and feel that this is a very difficult time for your friend; being seen in this way can be extremely comforting.
Sometimes those experiencing thoughts of separation or divorce are so caught up in their own heads with the stress and overwhelm that comes with relationship problems that they can’t think straight. It is often helpful to ask your friend questions such as when they started feeling this way, what they have tried so far that may help or what they think or hope will happen for them. Sometimes the prompting of genuinely curious questions from those we love helps us see things from different angles and open up spaces of thought that we didn’t know we had.
Know your Limits
As a separation and divorce coach, I teach my clients to be able to recognize the sound of “support” from the sound of “advice.” People making decisions about their separation and divorce should only rely on professionals who have experience, knowledge and training with this kind of significant life transition. Well-intended but uninformed “advice” from friends and family can often have negative unintended effects now and into the future. Avoid offering advice and instead offer support.
Don’t be afraid to recommend that your friend see a counsellor, therapist, social worker or psychologist. The hard and soft reasons behind why many people separate and divorce often have deep and complicated root structures. Be brave and encourage your friend to receive professional help that may either help to save their current relationship or help to transition them to a better relationship after separation, especially when co-parenting is involved.
Some people self-isolate during separations and divorces due to feelings of shame, blame and guilt. Others get isolated from friends who find it too awkward, personal or difficult to talk about. Set aside some specific time with your friend to talk directly with them. Try one or more of these suggestions: research some reliable professional resources, attend meetings or consults with them and take notes, or do some research of your own and provide your friend with some names of counsellors or therapists with expertise in the area of separation or divorce who can help.
If you or someone you love is contemplating, initiating or struggling with a separation or divorce, contact me.
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