Saying the Right Things After a Big Divorce Announcement

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I ran into a childhood friend one weekend while my family and I were out and about. Because my kids were covered in ketchup and corn dogs, we briefly exchanged pleasantries and parted ways. In a flash, I realized that I hadn’t seen her and her husband in any photos recently. Sure enough, I quickly Facebooked her (when in doubt, turn to social media…) and while she didn’t provide any details on her profile page, I clicked on her husband’s  and his profile stated, “single.”

Strangely enough, I ran into her again that same week after not seeing her for years!—isn’t it weird how that works sometimes? She and I were able to have a more meaningful conversation, as both of us were unencumbered by children. She confirmed that she’d been divorced for a year.

So, of course, I didn’t know what to say. I just said, “I’m so sorry,” probably a very inappropriate amount of times. Geez!

So what do you say? Determined to arm myself with appropriate social graces, I did some research. Statistically speaking, someone I know will get divorced again, right?

Right. So, instead of charging full-on into a sticky topic such as your friend’s divorce and feeling like a blathering moron, here’s some good advice for your arsenal.

  1. Do say, “I’m sorry to hear about your divorce,” or something along those lines. Okay, so my natural instinct to say I was sorry was right. Why did it feel so wrong? Must have been my delivery. I mean, I think I was ready to burst into tears for her.
  2. Don’t ask, “What happened?” Gosh, I really, really wanted to ask, but how inappropriate, right? (Especially since I hadn’t seen her for years.) Divorces are so complex—and so many details are meant to be kept private.
  3. Don’t say: “I never thought you were a good match from the get-go.” Just don’t.
  4. Do say: “Let’s go out for coffee and catch up.” When so many people pull away from a newly divorced person (especially couples who only want to hang out with other couples) it can feel like grabbing onto a life preserver to have people offer to hang out and just be there.

In an extremely difficult time, I really, really wanted to be able to say and do the right thing. Adding positive support to such a tough transition is paramount, and not easy. But to do it correctly—as I think anyone would agree—is absolutely necessary. So, as I did not do number four on the spot, I have since reached out and asked if she would like to get together sometime soon. That’s what real friends, in tough times, are for.

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