You wouldn’t wish it on your worst enemy. So when it happens to a close friend (or in your own relationship), it is difficult to know how to navigate through the wreckage: Affairs. Divorce. Heartbreak. Breakups.
As I look back on my own experience with this, I have to say it really took an army of people, support, resources, books, etc., to help me stay sane and eventually get me back to “normal”. Below is a partial list of what my personal army of friends did for me. Oftentimes, it was the consistent small things they did that really brought light and hope into my day.
See also: The Heartbreak Survival Guide
So, if your friend, sister, cousin, or whoever, calls you in tears, telling you her marriage is over, there are ways you can be an encouragement and support during this time of her life. Trusted, safe, solid friends are one of the most important things your friend will need.
DO get her a gift basket. Invite yourself over or drop it off on the porch when she is home. Here are a few items you can include:
- Healthy snacks (stop at Trader Joes and pick up some trail mix, dried fruit, nuts, granola bars and specialty treats, because she probably isn’t eating or cooking much)
- Bottle of wine (no explanation needed on this one!)
- Melatonin (she is probably tossing and turning all night)
- Nail polish (go over on a Monday night for The Bachelor and pedis!)
- Kleenex (she will need lots of it)
- Journal (to process all of her roller coaster emotions!)
- Gift card (movies, restaurants, massage, etc.)
DO listen to her when she’s ready to talk. Set aside some time when you don’t have any other obligations or appointments to get to. Put your phone away. Just listen.
DON’T join her in bashing her spouse, or ex-boyfriend, no matter what he did. If he’s a cheater and she is calling him every name in the book, don’t join in. Even if she says it first and you totally agree that he is a mother f****** a******, keep it to yourself right now! Part of her wants you to join in on the trash talk, but she will actually respect and appreciate it more if you don’t. Plus, if they end up really working things out and you are still thinking it’s okay to bash him, it may make her uncomfortable and defensive when she tells you they are trying to make it work. Try to keep your personal judgments and opinions of him out of it and focus on her.
DO find an activity you can invite her to do with you, either weekly or on some consistent basis.
- Find a yoga or barre studio that is offering a monthly or new member special and sign both of you up.
- Schedule a weekly walk on the trail or at McKinley Park. Grab a coffee afterward and try a new place each time.
- Invite her to your church service or go with her to hers.
- Get together once a week for happy hour, or to make dinner and watch a movie.
DO invite all your mutual girlfriends for a night out or a get a small group together for a weekend getaway. Find a great deal on Groupon for the hotel, meals and other activities.
DON’T encourage a rebound, start trying to set her up, or even talk about dating! Rebounds seem life a fun and easy band-aid, but this girl has got a broken heart and that rebound is only going to temporarily mask the pain and reality of her situation. This is a time for her to focus on her own healing – not getting mixed up with another guy!
DO text or call to check in every now and then, especially at night. Even if she doesn’t respond, you reaching out won’t go unnoticed or unappreciated! She may not be ready to talk or be in the mood yet, but when is ready; she will know that she has someone to call.
DO ask her how she is handling all of this. It is easy to medicate our pain with all kinds of bad habits. Is she drinking a lot? Like a lot a lot?? Is she isolating herself? Overeating? Not eating at all? Is she talking about not wanting to live anymore?
She may not just offer up this information, but she may appreciate being asked and the opportunity to talk about it.
DO ask her specifically how you can be there for her. It may be something random like keeping her company at a family function or packing up all the wedding pictures at her house. This kind of hard stuff loses some its sting when a friend is by your side.
DON’T rush her. Let her cry. This process will be brutal. She will need time and freedom to let her emotions take their course. She may seem like she’s going crazy. That’s because she is!! But it is only temporary. If your friend is aware of how strong, beautiful and amazing she is, she will get through this and be back to her usual self.
Obviously there are a lot of ideas here and it’s way too much for one person to do! Ideally, you and your trusted circle of friends (who she has already confided in) can all be a part of this process for her. None of these are meant to “fix” her. They are simply ways to be there for your friend and show her she is loved and not alone.