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I sat with a friend in front of a fire. I watched the embers glow – surging and settling like tiny little bellows. My friend held a glass of wine in her hand and lifted it to her mouth for a sip. She paused on the way and took a slight breath. She said:
“Divorce is like a death.”
Divorce is common. We all know the statistics – between 40-50% of marriages end in divorce.
Divorce is a painful and a defining moment. It is the unmaking of a world that was built in love between people who believed that they would be life partners.
It is never entered into lightly. In a best case scenario, partners agree that their union was a mistake.
This does not make their uncoupling easier.
The loss of this world – this intention – creates a lasting sorrow.
It also produces a goodly number of logistical challenges that need to be overcome as lives are rebuilt.
Writes Elizabeth Gilbert in Eat, Pray, Love:
“The only thing more unthinkable than leaving was staying; the only thing more impossible than staying was leaving. I didn’t want to destroy anything or anybody. I just wanted to slip quietly out the back door, without causing any fuss or consequences, and then not stop running until I reached Greenland.”
The fallout from divorce cannot be overstated. Divorce may produce a deficit of trust. Those who go through divorce often report that they have difficulty trusting – that they hesitate to commit to another relationship. They report the flight of friends.
They must restart their lives from the ground up. Recently divorced people need a place to live, deposit for rent, or mortgage down payment. They need pots and pans. It is your first apartment after college – again.
For those who have children, an already complex picture has an additional dimension.
Note that this is not an effort to introduce a thought of a divorce with and without children as being more or less painful. Rather, it introduces different starting points for offers of assistance.
For any divorce, begin at the point of compassion. A loss of love or a marriage, is, to varying degrees, stressful and devastating to both parties. Feelings of personal failure are common.
Remember that no third party can know a marriage.
Divorce is an expensive proposition. One household becomes two households.
For people who are divorcing without children, a new household will need to be set up. Kitchen items, linens, furniture. Even when possessions are divided in a divorce settlement, gaps emerge that must be addressed. In an economy that has been slow to restart since the great recession, savings accounts for many are variable to say the least.
In addition to addressing practical needs (a mattress), these gifts indicate encompassing support. This is valuable beyond words as many who divorce suffer the collateral losses of friendships upon which they had relied. Therefore, a hand extended in friendship offering aid, has both practical and emotional benefit.
Where there are children involved, add in the expenses of children generally. Are there psycho-social needs that must be met and are addressed by things like arts, sports and dance class? These extras add up fast and are sometimes the first things that must be cut from slim budgets. Is it possible to include kids in a back-to-school shop for clothes? School supplies?
Many who divorce know, in retrospect, that it was the right thing to do. Others are shattered, but are still able to reconstruct a happy life.
Many who divorce remember a sense of isolation and judgement.
Offering help without judgement is a gift beyond compare. So go forth with a bottle of wine or some tea. Take the time to listen. Know that this kindness and consideration will pay in spades.