I am a divorced person. In a previous post I expressed what I felt in the aftermath of my divorce. Now—out of my own experience and not out of some expertise—I offer some suggestions for helping those who have been through the valley of divorce.
Stick with us. Connect with us. Don’t leave us alone and isolated. If you were our friend before the divorce, stay our friend now. If we hung out together, continue to hang out with us. Invite us over; invite us to dinner, breakfast or lunch. Invite us for a day of recreation or for a walk. If you are a married couple, allow the same-sex part of the couple to spend some alone time with us. Hanging with a married couple as a divorced person can be rather uncomfortable—but not always.
Don’t Pry. Don’t inquire, listen. We will tell you what we want to tell you. Keep the questions to a minimum. Focus on presence and listening. Keep your curiosity in check. Recognize that pushing for disclosure of details is more about you than it is about helping us. Hear whatever we are willing to tell, let us take the initiative in disclosure and never pursue your curiosity with us.
Don’t Interpret. Whatever the circumstances, don’t offer an explanation for why God allowed this or why we did what we did or even what the ex did. Don’t condemn or judge; listen and encourage. When speaking focus on expressing your own feelings rather than managing our feelings. You are not present to “fix” anything—you can’t fix it. Rather, you are present to share our experience with us as we are willing to reveal it to you.
Bless us. The shame is practically unbearable. Shame assaults our self-image. We need someone to bless us for our authentic identity—to love us for who we are rather than judge us for what we have done. We need someone in our life who will say—“no matter what has happened or why, I love you and I will walk with you through every valley of this horror.” We need people who will never leave us or forsake us; we need people who will be the instrument of God’s own faithfulness. Remind us that God loves us through your presence and blessing.
Affirm us. We need to hear that though we have experienced the horror of divorce that we are not necessarily bad people who have always done bad things. We need to hear that we have value, gifts and talents. We need to hear that we are worthwhile persons who have a future and can do worthwhile things even though we are divorced. Affirm our good points and remind us that our divorce does not define us or our future.
Help us in deed rather than mere word. We need advice but only offer it when we ask for it unless you see something quit harmful coming down the pike that we don’t see. We need assistance—sometimes with kids, sometimes with finances, sometimes with jobs. Just as widows need help in various circumstances, often the divorced need similar kinds of help. The church seems more willing to help the widow rather than the divorced. This increases the stigma, shame and guilt. Come to our aid as the instruments of God’s own aid. Ask us what we need; do something for us without asking. Demonstrate God’s love to us as a way of reminding us that God loves us since we find it difficult to believe that God loves us when the one whom we married in love no longer does.
Much more could be said, but were one to love us in at least these ways, it would be truly transforming and comforting for us.
May God have mercy.