Divorce is one of the most stressful times in a person's life, and knowing how to be a good friend to someone going through a divorce can be hard, especially if you live far away.
Saying "I wish there were something I could do," or "let me know if you need anything," is very kind, but in reality a person going through divorce is totally overwhelmed and they need most everything - especially if they have kids. Plus, they're so emotionally exhausted that even figuring out what they need help with is a monumental task.
Here's a list of ways you can help your divorcing friend take care of herself and her kids, so you can really support her (or him) through divorce:
1. Hope-Filled Greeting Card (or Something Funny)
I'm a huge fan of Emily McDowell - I have one of her art prints and love how totally real she is about life. I love this divorce greeting card, which offers hope in a really dark time. You can also go the direction of humor, which is always welcome.
2. Help with Dinners
In the midst of a really stressful time, figuring out how to feed yourself and your kids day after day can be totally overwhelming. A gift card to a food delivery service like Munchery takes a really annoying task off your friend's to do list. If you're local, you can also make extra of your meals or prepare an extra casserole or two to drop by.
Divorce can also be a financially precarious situation. My aunt gave me a gift card to a local grocery store, which was totally unexpected and really helped when I was running out of money.
3. Gift Card for a Massage Place
Self-care almost always goes on the back burner when you're going through a divorce, and an hour of "me time" is priceless. A gift card to a local massage place is really kind and thoughtful.
4. Divorce Books for Your Friend & the Kids
Just like every relationship is different, every divorce is different. Some people have an amicable split, and others are dealing with the horrors of divorcing someone abusive or manipulative. In either case there's a lot to process, and good books about divorce and the divorce process can be very helpful. Here's a list of the best books for both parents and kids going through divorce. Add one or two to your care package.
Distractions - especially good movies and books that are hilarious or uplifting - are great for after the kids are asleep. An Amazon gift card for books or a subscription to Netflix would be much appreciated for zone-out time. Even better? Pair your gift with a list of suggestions for where to start, because a divorced person's brain will probably have a hard time figuring out what to watch. This exhaustive list of the 50 Funniest Movies of All Time is a great place to start for movies.
6. Something to Ease the Guilt of How Divorce Will Affect Her Kids
Most parents going through divorce are barely keeping their heads above water, and the guilt of what the divorce will do to their kids is devastating. On top of that, transitions like divorce are really hard on kids and often cause fear and bad behavior, making life even harder for the parents. One of these divorce custody calendars or routine charts will help the kids, and in turn help your friend. Sometimes it's hard to know what to do to help kids through the transition, and tools like this are really helpful.
7. House Cleaning Groupon or Gift Card
Nobody likes cleaning the house on a good day, let alone when you've got a million other things to do. But a clean house can go a long way for your state of mind. If you're not local, a place like Merry Maids offers gift cards and has locations all over the place (or search Yelp for a trusted local provider).
8. Entertainment for the kids
Every day is about survival, and sometimes that means excessive screen time for the kids. Toys for the kids, movies, or an iTunes gift card — anything that will give Mom or Dad a break for a minute — will be much appreciated.
9. Child care
We love our kids, and sometimes taking care of them is so tiring, especially if they've been acting out (which is likely, since divorce is a scary time for kids). If you're local, offer to take the kids somewhere fun for an afternoon, so your friend can relax for an hour or two. There are also a lot of things that need to be done during a divorce that kids aren't invited to, like mediation or court, so offering to take the kids or pick them up from school on important days would be a godsend.
10. Your support.
Divorce can be a lonely and isolating time. Friends and family get uncomfortable with divorce, don't know what to do, or flat-out judge. Knowing someone cares is indispensable, so if you want to be a really good friend, just check in with texts or phone calls so your friend knows you're thinking of her. That being said, being a sounding board can be exhausting, so make sure you take care of yourself too - and make sure you suggest your friend find a therapist (because that's not your job).
Divorce is one of the most stressful things a person can go through, and watching your friends or family members go through it can make you feel helpless. Any of the items on this list will help, and your friend will be so grateful. Thank you for being so caring - your friend is lucky to have you.