On the day of posting it is Valentine’s Day – the day of love. In the absence of romantic love, it is reassuring to remember there are many other forms of love in the world, and practical help and support is a great way to show your friends you love them. This day-to-day love, support and help was a bedrock of getting through my separation and divorce. So here are ten ways to practically support a separated or divorcing friend.
It can be incredibly hard to know what to say in divorce (and if you’d like some ideas, click here), but a simple ‘I was just thinking about you’ means a lot. Writing a card, an email or phoning them brings a boost to a damaged self-esteem. Try to text or message regularly even by putting a reminder into your phone. It sounds a little clinical, but life is undeniably busy and choosing to actively remember someone in the midst of that means a great deal. Receiving a daily text message to say someone was thinking of you is invaluable when the one person you might want to be thinking of you isn’t.
Remember their anniversaries
There are bound to be painful dates. Some will be obvious, Valentine’s Day and Christmas – seasons of love, family and friends. Some will be less obvious, the day they got together, their wedding anniversary, particular dates that while insignificant to the wider world have a huge impact on the heart of the brokenhearted. Remembering these dates means you can drop them a line on these days even if you don’t mention the reason why. By messaging, calling or writing to them, the doors are opened for conversation if they want it. Again, the calendar reminder feature comes in handy: pop a note in, and transfer it year after year.
Pray with them
As Christians we can often use the phrase ‘I’ll pray for you’ without thinking. We intend to, and do, pray for the person and this is great. But there’s also something valuable in hearing someone pray aloud for you. Call them to pray over the phone, or arrange to meet them periodically to pray for their marriage and other things in their life. They may be able to pray for you too, a mutually beneficial scenario. ” For where two or three are gathered in My name (meeting together as My followers), I am there among them.” Matthew 18:20
Put this verse into action and meet to pray.
Not the proving deep ones to begin with, but the practical ones: are you eating? Are you sleeping? How’re you managing with the washing up? Basic, functional needs are hard to entertain, so check they’re actually functioning. Are there places they sleep better? Can you come over and help them clean the house before settling down for a take away? Asking the questions means you have a basis for offering practical help.
Make them a meal
Whenever a new baby is born, the meal plan rota is quickly filled in and ‘no washing up necessary’ dishes are delivered with regularity. Sometimes we do the same when someone is ill or dies. It’s an instant, practical task that definitely helps. But how often does your church do this for someone whose marriage is in difficulty? When your world has fallen apart, the last thing you’re thinking about is food. Planning, preparing and cleaning up a meal is a set of events an emotional and physically exhausted doesn’t need, which is precisely why we do this for new parents, the sick, and the newly bereaved.
Don’t feel constrained to a meal rota though…if it’s your colleague going through the break up, why not offer to make them a packed lunch each day for a month as you’re making your own? If it’s someone you see at church on Sunday evening, pop a meal in their car boot at the end of the service to be reheated on Monday.
Do their DIY
Or ‘don’t let them do it themselves’. While I like to think of myself as strong, feisty and independent, there are and have been plenty of times I’ve wanted to depend on someone else; except that someone else wasn’t there.
The moment I left the house to discover a flat tyre, Tim popped round, changed it and took my old one, which his wife had replaced the following day before he returned to swap said tyres once again. When water was pouring into the downstairs, people came over to help me pop out the bath panel and figure out exactly where it was coming from.
Doing it yourself when you’re not used to doing it yourself, or don’t know how to is hard. If you have a skill, offer to share it.
Help with housework
I found keeping a life together by myself was a struggle I regularly lost. Washing basket: overflowing. Washing up: piled precariously high. I mean if I’m brutally honest this hasn’t changed a whole lot but now that’s for different reasons. Help with cleaning, daily chores and the occasional spring/winter-clean made the whole experience much more bearable, even if they simply sat there and chatted to me. Feeling on top of something is not a feeling to be sniffed at when the whole world feels on top of you.
Be on hand for decision making
There used to be two people making decisions, and now there is one. From what to have for tea to choosing new bathroom tiles – it’s helpful to have someone to bounce ideas off. Offer your listening ear and comments when they’re needed, which they probably will be. Give your opinion, because it’s helpful to share ideas and then ask them questions about their choice to help them come to their own conclusion. If they are making decisions about where to live, what to keep and how to proceed, offer to be there for it; they can always say no, but knowing someone cares enough to give up time to share the burden is strengthening.
When you’ve been part of a pair, walking into somewhere alone is incredibly daunting, especially if people knew your ex-spouse and want to know where they are. Having someone beside you deflects the awkward questions people like to spring at the recently separated and divorced.So give your friend a ring beforehand or drop them a line to arrange a meeting place, suggesting you enter the meeting, party or wine bar together.
Drive them home
I truly missed having someone else to drive the car… it may seem inconsequential in the big scheme of marriage – and it was – but it was also a deeply practical loss. Whenever I went out I had to drive, and couldn’t have a more than one drink. If I was going further afield I was in that car alone for a long while, all the driving down to me. So if you go out, offer to drive your friend home so they can enjoy a drink. Alternatively, suggest they come and stay over at yours, and you can drop them back in the morning.
And you could always buy them this…