Supporting your separated and divorcing friends in the time of social distancing

One of my most popular posts is this one – practical ways to help a separated or divorcing friend. The trouble is that in this time of social distancing, practical in person isn’t all that handy. Most of us are struggling with not being able to go out and see people in some way. I live in London and have started talking to my neighbours and people I pass on the street – most ‘un-London’ of me. I consider this a big plus to the situation, but still – I really miss seeing my friends. And when you’re without the relationship that has been your constant companion, however strained that relationship, loneliness can feel even more potent. Now multiply that by not being allowed to go and hang out with anyone So how can we help our friends in these situations? I’ve put together a few suggestions for anyone wondering how they can be supporting their friends from an appropriate two metre plus distance. 

Check in with them, regularly. 

This may seem like an obvious one. But as I just mentioned, loneliness is even more pronounced when being alone is forced upon you, and at the moment that will feel like it’s happening to your friend in a myriad of ways. Not only have they got to #stayhome, they may not be able to stay home with the person they love, or they’re getting used to being alone, or now they’re alone with their children single parenting. Knowing that someone has thought about you is incredibly affirming. It doesn’t have to be a long message and it doesn’t matter if it’s been a long time. ‘Hey, how’s it going? I was just thinking of you so thought I’d text.’ is completely sufficient. You don’t have to have any answers, profound words or sage advice to offer, just a listening ear and a friendly voice or virtual voice at the end of a line. Try and check in a few days a week if you can. You could even ask them if they’d like to message every day. Perhaps there are times of the day they’re finding hard and would appreciate a text or a chat at those times?

Remember anniversaries and difficult dates

Time is still marching on (how is it April?!) so remembering when their wedding anniversary or ex’s birthday is are thoughtful ways to show you care. You might not even mention them when you get in touch, just send a message on the day so that they have the opportunity to open up. For some anniversaries are a big deal, for others it doesn’t even register. But I know I appreciated it when a couple of people would text and remember it was my wedding anniversary. It still happened, and I found it a great comfort that they remembered me on that day. These days I tend to forget myself, but there’s no harm in dropping someone a catch up message anyway.

Pray for them

I was messaging someone close to me the other day who has had Covid-19 (they’re on the mend, thank you for asking). ‘I can’t seem to pray’, they wrote. This one I had covered. This person had prayed for me, ceaselessly, while I was separated and divorcing. In fact they continue to pray for me. So I responded with this small section of the Bible, exactly as they had shared with me:

“As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites were winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites were winning. When Moses’ hands grew tired, they took a stone and put it under him and he sat on it. Aaron and Hur held his hands up—one on one side, one on the other—so that his hands remained steady till sunset. So Joshua overcame the Amalekite army with the sword.” Exodus 17:11-13

Be your friend’s Aaron and Hur. Let them know you’ve got their arms and you’re holding them up by praying when they might feel unable to, or that their prayers are going unheard or unanswered. Knowing a friend is holding you in their heart and mind is precious.

Send them something

This one is an area of conflict for me, because while I want to support small businesses and independent restaurants I also don’t want anyone to have to be out unnecessarily because of me. However hang ups aside, sending your friend something is a great alternative to bringing something to them. Be it a takeaway, a box of goodies or a card, a thoughtful message is always appreciated. Again, it doesn’t need to be your most eloquent prose or your most inspired purchase, just something that lets your friend know they were in your thoughts.

Decluttering and DIY

This is the very epitomy of doing it yourself, but in this instance perhaps you could give your friend a ‘hand’ sorting through their wardrobe by observing the outfits on a video chat, or give them suggestions on picture placement. A friend has recently rearranged her living room following the end of a relationship. Giving support to the changes, achievements and small successes is helpful because their previous support network has gone. Celebrate the triumphs with them; who doesn’t love a sorted Tupperware cupboard? For the three minutes it stays sorted anyway…

Suggest Restored Lives

Meeting people who have the same experiences is so helpful. But of course meeting people is nigh on impossible at the moment. So Holy Trinity Brompton are running an online version of the Restored Lives course in the ‘South Kensingston’ location. The format is going to be an online talk and chat in small groups instead of in a building. This makes it cheaper (£20, but get in touch if it’s too much), you can be in your pyjamas and you don’t need to find a babysitter, ideal! Although it’s run by a church it’s not only for Christians. The course groups participants by whether or not they have children, and roughly what age those children are. This means you’ll be sharing with others in the same situation as you, hearing others’ experiences and learning from them too. I found it invaluable and would highly recommend it (and don’t receive anything for sharing this!). 

Meet them in the mundane

You might be feeling a bit Zoom or FaceTimed out lately, and if you are I don’t blame you – I’m the same. But there’s something different about not staring fixedly at either the other person or yourself on the screen. Instead, schedule in a call with your friend at a time you’re cooking dinner or eating tea. Now obviously you’re going to be busily prepping or stuffing your face eating delicately for the camera, but that adds to the authenticity of just doing life alongside one another. Chat when the mood takes you, go silent, potter around – just be in the mundanity of life together. It goes a long way to helping you feel that little bit less alone.

Check in with the children

If they’ve recently become a single parent (or even not that recently), offering to spend some time virtually with their children could really help out. Maybe you could read them a story, or listen to them read? Perhaps there’s a game you could play together over the airwaves? It doesn’t have to be anything fancy, but giving their parent 10 minutes of downtime will be invaluable. It might also be worth asking your friend if there’s a time of day they need the children entertaining, as having someone with them virtually while they focus on making dinner or having a short shower could make a big difference to their day. Parenting is exhausting with two people,yet being solo means there’s no chance of switching off.

Do things together, apart

Remember About A Boy? ‘Single Parents Alone Together’. That sort of sums this up. We’re alone, but we’re together in that. Now that we’re all in every evening we might be able to watch more things in real time. For instance, the Sewing Bee is starting up again soon (hurrah!), so why not watch along and text along with your friend? You could re-watch a box set that’s been released or a Netflix series together but apart. The point of it is that although you’re doing something alone, you’re doing that together.

Surviving Separation and Divorce

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