Many people going through separation feel confused about what help they need from friends and family, whilst others find it hard to ask for help. It is difficult to see someone you care for going through upset and distress. You want to fix it for them but you can’t. Everyone is different but here are my suggestions for providing help to loved ones going through this difficult time in their life.
Listen but be careful not to push your agenda – Giving people the space to talk is very cathartic for them. Be prepared to lend an ear when they need you and be available for telephone chats. Have patience, you may hear the same comments, regrets or fears more than once, until your friend or relative is able to work through them. They will come to terms with everything in their own good time, and no one else’s.
Offer practical help – If your children play well with your friend’s children, arrange a play date, giving your friend some time on their own to catch their breath and have a break. A home-cooked meal also says you care.
Provide companionship – If your friend is the only adult in their house, be aware they may get lonely. Holidays and family birthdays can be a particularly difficult time. If you fear he or she is sitting at home alone, invite them out for something easy like supper or the cinema. Be considerate if they do not feel up to it on this occasion but always ask another time.
Keep in regular contact with them – Texts and emails show you care without being too intrusive when people do not feel like talking. Nothing beats picking up the telephone though if your friend needs to support.
Help with objectivity – In times of stress it is very difficult for anyone to think clearly to make important decisions. Be a sounding board for practical matters, and always keep discussions confidential.
Accompany your friend to important appointments – Provide valuable support by accompanying your friend to court, a doctor’s appointment or anywhere they need to go but are nervous about going. Offer to take notes for your friend who may be feeling a bit wobbly and may not feel able to absorb all the information.
Reassure them this difficult time will pass- It sounds obvious, but your friend is suffering and needs continuous, unconditional, positive support and understanding. He/she will survive this difficult time with the help and support of people around them. Reassure them things will get better.
Encourage professional support – It is important to be considerate to someone’s wishes if they want some space from the outside world. But keep an eye on your friend or relative, to ensure they are looking after their health. If you are concerned that they are struggling to cope, try to encourage them to seek professional help. They may need some extra help from their GP, who could refer them to a qualified counsellor or divorce coach. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking you are solely responsible for your friend; encourage others to keep eye on them too.
If you know someone who is considering separation or has just separated, please let them know there is help and support available at Rhiannon Ford Divorce Consultancy www.rhiannonford.co.uk.