How to Support Someone Grieving a Divorce

divorce/breakups Jan 14, 2024

We're excited to partner with Fresh Starts Registry this Divorce Month. This week's blog was written by the power duo behind Fresh Starts Registry: Olivia Dreizen Howell, CEO and co-founder, and Jenny Dreizen, COO and co-founder. 

Statistically speaking, either you, or someone you know will transition to divorce in the next year. Divorce, though an arduous legal process, is simply part of life - and we believe that divorce is liberation, and the most beautiful way to choose yourself and your path forward. So, with that being said, when someone close to you tells you that they’re getting divorced, how can you show up for them in that grieving period? Divorce is certainly chock full of grieving moments. You grieve your marriage, you grieve the transition for your family. You grieve the dreams you had for yourself and your partner. And the grief doesn’t go away, and that’s okay, we simply graph the grief into our hearts, and proceed forward, with the support from the people around us and the learnings from the experiences. 
Supporting someone through grieving a divorce begins the moment they tell you that they’re getting a divorce. Actually, truth be told, if you’re a confidant of theirs, it begins long before that moment, when they begin confiding in you, but for the purposes of this conversation, we’ll say it begins the moment they tell you the news. 

So, what do you say when someone tells you that they’re transitioning into divorce? Here’s a simple script to use: 

Congratulations on making such a brave decision. I know it wasn't easy, but you are worthy of every wonderful thing in this world. Divorce is a gift, and you are going to come out of this stronger and more powerful than ever before. I love you so much and I'm so damn proud of you. I'll check in soon to see how you're doing and know I'm always just a text away!

The interesting part about supporting someone grieving their divorce, is that supporting them has very little to do with them, and everything to do with the way you show up for them. And yet, at the same time…this has nothing to do with you. Wait, what? Let us explain! When you support someone grieving, it’s your job to show up with a non-judgemental heart and brainspace. It’s your job to offer a shame-free and empathetic ear. Let your friend express their feelings without interruption or criticism. Sometimes, simply the act of being heard is incredibly healing. But, that’s on you. You need to prepare yourself to show up without the cultural narrative that divorce is a stigma and shameful in your head. You need to show up without any agenda. See, in a way, it has everything to do with the way you show up and very little to do with them. And, on the flip side, this is actually not about you at all, so you need to check your ego at the door, and simply show up to listen, rub their back, and offer a cup of coffee. Your friend just wants to know that they’re not alone and that their brave decision to seek divorce is getting the support from their people.

So, when it comes to the conversations, we deploy the VASE Method, which is a method we created to have these tricky conversations! VASE = Validate, Acknowledge, Support and Express! You want to validate to them that this is a rough time, and acknowledge that you see how hard they’re working to get through this time, support them by reminding them that they’re not alone and you’re available to make phone calls or watch their kids, and of course, express your feelings for your friend: I’m so proud of you, you are so loved. 

And, of course, there’s always technical support for a friend grieving through divorce, too! Enduring the divorce process is like stepping into a whole new world, and it can be really jarring! So, it’s your time to support them by showing up as their pit crew and providing support in all the ways you can so they can focus on their grieving process. What does this look like? Google legal terms for them and explain them back to them in a way that makes sense (grieving can be so emotionally exhausting, and sometimes it’s hard to take in new info). FaceTime with their kids so that they can have a moment to cry. And of course, help them build their Hype Team of Experts! We have vetted Experts at Fresh Starts for all stages of the divorce process, so you can head over there to help them build that team. 

Divorce can be so isolating, and the grief that we encounter through divorce can be so heavy, and sometimes even makes us question our decisions. It’s so important to be there to support a friend grieving a divorce, because your support is the difference between their feeling empowered moving through the process, or feeling low and unable to move forward. Remember, show up, shame-free, with an open ear, don’t project your own thoughts of divorce onto them, and if all else fails, simply order Chinese food and watch old movies together - yes, that’s part of the grieving process, too!  

To connect with Fresh Starts Registry check out their Instagram & website!

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