By RoiAnn Phillips
There are shelves and shelves of books on birth, death, illness, marriage, loss and the stages of grief, describing what you might expect, how to cope, and how to support friends and family. What I have not yet discovered – and mind you, I’m a newly divorced mom, so I haven’t been searching long – are guideposts for friends and family members who are close to divorce.
How do you activate your village in the middle of a divorce? I find it’s hard to put into words what I need while I’m grieving.
This past week, I moved out of our family home and into my own place, and I opened a new bank account. Meanwhile, my ex got a new puppy, who is quite likely the new love of our daughter’s life.
Thankfully, I have a community of family and friends-who-are-family, who check-in with me regularly and field my crisis calls and S.O.S. texts with love, kindness, strength and clarity. Sometimes they even know what I need before I do.
So I thought: If I share some of how my village has shown up for me, and some of what I’ve asked them to do, will it resonate with someone else who’s struggling to activate their village? Maybe.
Here are a few ideas for supporting friends and family through the grief of divorce, from a newly single mom in the thick of it:
- Invite me to dinner. Or coffee. Or lunch. I may turn you down. I may turn you down five times in a row. As much as I need your support, it’s exhausting to socialize right now. It’s not personal. Please don’t stop asking.
- It’s okay to invite me without my kid, but understand that – at least for awhile – I will turn you down during my parenting time. I only have the kid half-time now, and I hate to separate from her. This is not unhealthy. This is not enmeshed. This is my reaction to the crisis of our upturned life. On the other hand, if she makes plans with her own friends, you can trust me to let her go. I will, in fact, encourage her to go. I’m not a monster. I just miss her when she’s not with me.
- If you stop by for coffee right after I move and I ask you to bring your own sugar because I don’t have any yet, please hand me the sugar with grace and humor. I promise I’ll offer it back to you once I’ve poured your coffee.
- Please listen to me without judgment – even if what I say tomorrow completely contradicts what I said today. Please accept this, and don’t worry that I’ve taken on a permanent character flaw, flip-flopping on my opinions. I haven’t. If I was consistent before, I’ll be consistent again. Until then, please just listen.
- If you can’t listen, that’s okay. Not everyone can. I still love you.
- Are you close to my daughter? Take her to a movie, or to lunch, or to your house. Understand this is NOT helpful to all divorcing moms; I may be in the minority here. We have so little time with our kids now, comparatively, and I miss my daughter every single second we’re not under the same roof – even sometimes during the school day, which isn’t something I’ve felt with such force since kindergarten. For me, though, it’s still helpful when you take her on a date. I rely on you to be present for my daughter in this time of upheaval. She needs your love, consistency and support. Heck, she needs to be able to talk about me, and her Mama, with someone who loves her – an adult who isn’t me, and isn’t Mama. She also needs to just be a kid, and forget her parents are in the midst of a divorce! I can’t give her that, but you can.
- Take the dog for half an hour because you know she’s been neglected in the chaos. Run her. Play with her. Give her your full attention.
- Send me movie suggestions for popcorn nights with the kid.
- Remind me I am good enough – right now – for my daughter. Promise me I’ll make it through.
- See my grief for what it is: Don’t expect me to rush through it. I’m already putting that pressure on myself. What I need from you is grace.
It’s still hard for me to seek or accept support sometimes, but I can’t imagine how I’d make it through alone. Divorce is humbling and my gratitude is vast.
Thank you to my village – this means you, too – thank you for showing up. <3
Did something here resonate? Is there something you would add? Connect with me on Twitter: @OPgrrl
RoiAnn Phillips blogs about co-parenting, adoption and other things at Are You the Babysitter, http://areyouthebabysitter.wordpress.com