Spent some time with one of my favorite aunts over the weekend, whose marriage of 18 years is ending. Had an interesting conversation about what it’s like to divorce in America. We agreed on a couple of things, chief among them being that even though divorce is frequent and common, folks who divorce are shunned in lonely silence.
Probably because no one knows how to talk about it.
Here’s a tip for you the next time you come across someone who’s going through one of their own: treat it like a death in the family. Even if the ex- is an asshole (someone once told me there are two sides to every divorce: Yours and the Asshole’s) the whole experience hurts like hell, because you’re losing more than just a partner. You’re losing community, your familiar place in the world, and your financial security can be unsettled as well.
A girlfriend of mine who lost a baby in utero and grieved terribly for him, once told me: “people think I don’t want to talk about it so they don’t bring it up – but it’s all I think about. I wish someone would bring it up.”
Try this when you run into your friend: “I was really sorry to hear about your divorce.”
Simple. Straightforward. Those who want to talk will talk. Those who don’t will look like they’re about to burst into tears – but if you deliver it with compassion they’re not going to fault you for it. Either way they’ll be relieved. And they'll feel a little less lonely.
I sure did.