Helping Someone Dealing With Separation and Divorce

It's amazing how often people flinch when I explain I am a divorce coach/consultant. Some even respond as if I am saying, "Hi, I'm an undertaker."
This post was published on the now-closed HuffPost Contributor platform. Contributors control their own work and posted freely to our site. If you need to flag this entry as abusive, send us an email.

It's amazing how often people flinch when I explain I am a divorce coach/consultant. Some even respond as if I am saying, "Hi, I'm an undertaker."

That observation was underscored when, upon being introduced to someone at a networking event, I said, "I understand you are a divorce attorney." He winced and quietly replied, "We don't use the "D" word. We call ourselves family law attorneys."

Why is "divorce" such a loaded word? True, it's devastating and claims roughly half of all marriages. However, I assure you it is not fatal or contagious. The afflicted among us promise we will not pass it along. So, the next time you find yourself with someone caught in its trauma give him/her a much needed hug.

Think how you'd respond if s/he was newly widowed and show the same compassion.
Knowing how to help someone in crisis is often difficult. With that in mind, I'm sharing some tips below to help you comfort someone touched by the challenges. Of course, you can always send chocolates...

  • Listen, and then listen, and listen again. It is the greatest gift you can give. Just as when a partner is lost to death, there is the need to tell and retell the story. To make wise decisions your friend needs to do this. It is the first step to recovery and an important way for your friend to separate the emotional pieces from the legal and business aspects of dissolving a marriage.

  • Be patient and supportive. My friend's greatest comfort during her divorce was friends saying: "When you hate him, we hate him. When you love him we love him." She promised to do the same for me. I treasured her words because it gave me the freedom to explore both separation and reconciliation, without jeopardizing our friendship. Many couples reconcile several times before making the final decision to divorce. If your friend is on the fence give him/her a copy of the book Too Good To Leave, Too Bad To Stay by Mira Kirshenbaum. Many of my clients have found it helpful.
  • Your friend needs you, but you need to take the initiative. S/he is in crisis, and probably too paralyzed to ask for help or companionship. Rather than telling your friend "call me if you want to do something" contact him/her and say "I'll be by at 7pm Friday to pick you up and treat you to dinner." Then do it, even if your friend sits in silence or sobs the entire time. S/he will return home knowing you care.
  • Learn about the divorce process. It's overwhelming, especially when emotions are running wild. As a rational friend you can be a great guide. There are many ways to divorce. As a divorce financial analyst, puts it: "There's the easy way or the hard way. The cheap way or the expensive way. The easy way is the cheapest."
  • Please, do not tell your friend to hire the meanest attorney possible to take his/her spouse "to the cleaners." The system doesn't work that way. As my own attorney kept telling me, "divorce is not about justice". It is about splitting the marital assets, debts, and time with children. When conflict drives up the attorney bills assets deplete quickly and your friend could end up with very little, even in the case of abuse, adultery, and more.
  • Plan to do something with your friend the first few times s/he sends the kids to visit their other parent. Adjusting to this, and holidays without kids, is often one of the most painful aspects of divorce.
  • Remember, divorce is not contagious. It just might be the catalyst you need to work on making your marriage better. Finding an Imago therapist or enrolling in a PAIRS program could help you and your spouse revive a very happy marriage.
  • If you have any tips to share please comment below. You just might have the key to making someone's day a bit better. Thanks!

    This article first appeared on

    Before You Go