It is easy to make assumptions about divorce before actually experiencing one yourself. We hear stories all of the time about people on their 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th divorce and it is so easy to scoff at them and make judgments about what kind of person or spouse they must be. The truth is that we all make mistakes on the journey to finding ourselves and the person we will love forever. Some of us are hopeless romantics, to our own detriment. We so deeply believe in love and happily ever after that against our better judgment and our screaming intuition, we agree to marry again and again. When those marriages fail we experience pain beyond comprehension. As we endure this traumatic event, it is important for the people around us to realize that we need support and that we are probably going to be different for a while.
I Am Experiencing Debilitating Sadness
On the outside it may appear that everything is fine, but unless someone is experiencing extreme depression, you probably won’t be able to physically see the pain that your friend is carrying around as their divorce proceeds. Imagine spending years making a home and a life with someone. Think of all of the time and devotion you put into sharing your deepest secrets, fears and dreams with one person, only to have them abruptly leave your life. The person you have put all of your effort and energy into, the person you have depended on the most is all of a sudden out of your life and there is no getting them back. Divorce is especially painful because you know that the person you loved the most is now out making their own life without you and you no longer are a part of their story. It is devastatingly painful!
During my first divorce I had severe depression. It took every ounce of strength I had to get out of bed each day to go to work. I cried all of the time. I would excuse myself to the bathroom at work, just so that I could cry throughout the day. On the days that I didn’t work I would lay in bed crying until it was time to sleep for the night again. That divorce felt like the end of the world to me. My friends and family could see the pain I was in. Although I still lost friends, my support system, overall was pretty strong through that terrible time in my life.
Unlike my first divorce, while undergoing my second divorce my pain wasn’t as obvious. Just because I had made the decision to divorce my ex, did not mean that I was totally fine. Although I knew with certainty that I was making the right decision in divorcing this man who was completely wrong for me romantically, he had become my best friend and that friendship was incredibly hard to let go of. Once again, my life had been turned upside down and I had no idea what would become of me or if I would ever be successful in a relationship. My friends and family saw the happy, free front that I put on and I was quite convincing that I was doing great. Thy didn’t see how much strength it had taken me to finally say goodbye to this person who had been such an important part of my life and they didn’t notice me picking up the crumbs of my life and trying to piece them back together again.
We Are Going to Be Selfish
One of my biggest regrets during that second divorce was forgetting about some of the people around me. I can now see that I dealt with my pain in an unhealthy way and was completely selfish in my actions. I was so focused on what I was going through and trying to move on with my life that I failed to realize that I was leaving some of my closest friends on the sidelines. I wanted to have fun, laugh, and drink and anyone who wasn’t on board with that was left in the dust. While I did become super close with one friend and spent every weekend partying with her, I forgot that my other friends needed me too.
I was so blinded by the collapse of my world, that I missed seeing that one of my closest friends was confronting the worst depression of her life. Thankfully, she was strong enough to make it through that time and we are still close friends, but it truly does hurt my heart that I wasn’t more aware of how I was causing her additional pain through my selfish actions. I should have called more and I should have included her in my weekends out, but I was so wrapped up in my own struggle that I simply didn’t know that I was enhancing hers. I am now left with the knowledge that I allowed my grief to overshadow someone I love dearly and for that I am deeply sorry!
It is important to know that people who are undergoing a divorce are not always in their right mindset. In my experiences, I wasn’t myself during either divorce. Depression, fear, anxiety, pain, and confusion set me on destructive paths both times and temporarily transformed me into someone I couldn’t recognize. It takes time to get through divorce. My first took me years to recover from, while the second divorce only took a couple of months (probably because I felt it was over long before I filed). As a friend, it is ok to create distance or even decide to end your friendship if you truly believe that is what is best for you, but do know that your friend will eventually snap back into reality and will hopefully see the error of their ways.
My Life is Drastically Changing
So many things change when we get divorced. Not only does that person lose someone they once planned to spend their life with, they also may lose their home, job, children, friends, family, financial stability, sense of self and belongings. Divorce isn’t a normal break-up, it is extremely complicated and completely disrupts the status quo. Whether your friend appears to have their shit together or not, remember that the rug has just been pulled out from beneath them and they are standing on unstable ground. They are completely uncertain of what their future holds and may be scared of what is to come.
As expected when anyone undergoes a traumatic blow to their life, your friend may be a mess of emotions. One minute they may be laughing, the next crying, and the next breaking things out of pure anger. Mood swings are common and understandable under these circumstances. It may be difficult to deal with your friend’s constant string of emotions and complaints, but please try to have some empathy for their situation.
It can be exhausting to stand by a friend who is going through a divorce, but know that this is all temporary. The anger will fade, the tears will stop, and the selfishness will be realized. When the dust settles and they have finally figured out how to piece life back together and move on, you will be happy that you were there as a shoulder to cry on.
As a divorcée, I can tell you that I really needed those people who put up with my depression, fear, and selfishness during those years of my life. The friends who stood by my side, made me laugh through the tears, gave me a place to stay when I didn’t have a home, and stayed in my life while I was acting like an idiot, are friends that I truly treasure. Those are the friendships that I can see lasting a lifetime, because they have already seen me at my worst and loved me anyway. If you can make it through your friend’s worst moments, know that they will be there for you during yours as well.