It can be difficult sometimes to know how you can support a family member going through divorce. And if you’re the one who is going through the separation, it can also be hard to ask for the help you need.
I was especially dreading telling my mom, but I knew I had to. Here’s how it went:
“Hey honey, so nice to hear from you. It’s been a while.”
“Yeah, I know.”
“Is everything ok?”
“No, not really. I have something to tell you.”
And then I couldn’t go on. Tears started running down my face and I felt a huge lump in my throat. I didn’t want to cry in front of my mom, mostly because I know how worried she gets, and I didn’t want her to worry about me. But I needed to tell her that I had asked Marc for a divorce. And he didn’t take it well. I wasn’t well either.
I needed mom to know, to understand, to comfort me. And I knew I was going to need to tell her eventually anyway.
So I just took a deep breath and blurted out, “We’re getting divorced.”
And I started to cry violently, but at least the lump in my throat was gone. There, I’ve said it out loud. There was a certain relief in that.
“Oh honey, I’m sorry. You sound sad, how are you holding up?”
I don’t actually remember what I said next. I mostly remember how she was. The space that she provided for me was safe, loving, nurturing. The energy felt like a loving bear hug, a warm blanket, a soothing ointment. I didn’t know I needed it, but there she was, providing the best support that any family member going through divorce could get. I cried and she listened and I knew that dad was there too, quietly in the background, offering support in his own way.
I hated my divorce. I’ve been dreading it for some time, because in hindsight, I knew deep inside, months before, that it was imminent.
We’ve been having problems for years and I’ve been trying to resolve them, to change him, to change me, to mold us into something that we clearly were not. And in those last few months, I stopped trying. I stopped care-taking, I stopped fighting, I stopped putting in effort. I think of those days as a long meditation. I was the observer in my own life, constantly asking myself:
“If this is all there is, without any effort on my part to change it into something I’d like it to be, would it be enough?” And I would sit with this, waiting for an answer, from myself, from the universe.
But while this process was going on inside of me, I wasn’t sharing it with my family.
However supportive they’ve been over the years, and however aware I am of the benefits of sharing your worries with the people who are closest to you, I somehow just couldn’t. I knew that they would offer to help any family member going through divorce in any way they could, but somehow I couldn’t bring myself to ask.
I’ll say it again — I hated my divorce. I was so afraid of the pain, both the pain that I would inflict on him and the pain that I would have to deal with as I was recreating my life as a single woman. So afraid of the unknown. How will I ever recover? How will we split up our stuff? Where would we live? How will we survive without each other?
Getting divorced was harder than living through civil war in my teens, harder than immigrating to America on my own in my 20s, harder than building a 6-figure career in Manhattan real estate in my 30s. While I was keeping it to myself, it felt scary, overwhelming, sad. I felt like a failure.
But the minute I said it out loud to mom and felt her hold me through it with the gentlest of hands — energetically speaking — everything shifted. I had someone in my corner, someone who knew what was going on and they weren’t judging me. I already felt so much pain and shame that I couldn’t bear anyone else adding to it.
And this is why we keep quiet. This is why we hesitate to confide in anyone about what’s really going on. We already feel so many difficult emotions that we are terrified of someone else also not being supportive.
The thing is, nobody can help a family member going through a divorce… if that person doesn’t let their family offer them the support they need.
Knowing that I had my family in my corner made this incredibly difficult period survivable. When you are leaving a marriage, even a dysfunctional one, what hurts the most are the feelings of failure, loneliness, and uncertainty.
Your family can either alleviate those feelings or make them stronger. The most supportive way to help a family member through divorce is to provide a safe space of non-judgement, comfort and love. That’s what gets us through the dark nights and gives us strength to move forward.
If you are going through a divorce — turn to your family for support. Don’t be afraid of asking for a shoulder to lean on.
And if a family member is going through a divorce — be there for them. Even if you don’t know what to say, just make it known that you love them. It will mean the world to them.
Ana Weisberger is a Certified Life Coach and her mission is to help women create great relationships, primarily with themselves, then with their significant others.
She specializes in working with women who are struggling with dating patterns, or going through a divorce or breakup.
The core of her work lies in meditation, mindset shifts and manifestation techniques.
Ana holds a MA in Scandinavian Languages and Cultures from the University of Belgrade, Serbia. She immigrated to the US in 2005 and eventually became a successful real estate agent in New York City. After having gone through her own divorce, Ana gained an understating about what limiting beliefs were holding her back from being in a happy relationship and decided to pursue in career in life coaching, wanting to help other women who were struggling with the same.
Today, Ana helps women identify what they want and the blocks that they’ve been creating, then teaches them techniques to remove these blocks so that they can start creating the life that they truly desire, getting in touch with their desires and boldly going after them.
DISCLAIMER: The commentary, advice, and opinions from Gabrielle Hartley are for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice or mental health services. You should contact an attorney and/or mental health professional in your state to obtain advice with respect to any particular issue or problem.