We can speculate as to why people drop you when you’re going through a divorce–they’re threatened, they liked your spouse better, they don’t have the energy to support you on your emotional roller coaster–but the reasons are really immaterial. The bottom line is some people will abandon you in your greatest time of need. This happens to absolutely everyone going through the dissolution of a marriage.
How to cope is the real question. See it as an opportunity to flex one of your emotional muscles: the loss muscle. Ideally, we get better at accepting loss as we mature, but most of us go kicking and screaming into this realm because it’s so painful. We don’t want more practice letting go. We want to hold on with all our might. Unfortunately, that only prolongs our pain; and, loss does equal pain.
As the Buddhists say, “The only way out is through.” Face the fact that you are not unique in this regard: everyone loses friends in a divorce. But, most people make new ones. Of course, if you sit home 24/7 you won’t meet people. Get out, join a group through meetup.com (it’s free and they have groups for every interest from yoga to board games); get active in your church, mosque, or synagogue; go to the gym or walk in your neighborhood; join a divorce support group; amp up your activity in a professional organization; or, just stay home and rant and rave until you’re ready to do some of these things. You may think that day will never come, but it will.
Perhaps, there’s an old college friend you haven’t spoken with in years. Call him or her and see if you still click. With so many people having been divorced you may find a kindred spirit.
Learn to ask for help. Most of us are excellent at lending a hand to someone else, but balk at appearing needy. Get over it. Use this time as a fantastic opportunity to allow others to help you. In the beginning, you will feel awkward and have cognitive dissonance about reaching out. Stay the course. It takes guts to ask for help, and to keep asking, but the more support you can get the easier your transition will be.
Be honest. People don’t have ESP and they can’t know how you’re feeling unless you tell them. As Randy Pausch said in his Last Lecture: “If I only had three words of advice I could ever give you they would be: Tell the truth. If I could add three more they would be: All the time.” The only way you have a chance of getting the loving help you crave is to be brutally honest with yourself and your closest friends. Putting up a brave front actually prevents people from knowing how much you’re suffering, and keeps them at arms length.
People who have never navigated these waters have no clue what you’re going through. Accept their ignorance. It’s not from lack of caring. They just have no concept of the extent of your grief. If you want their help you have to educate them. Let them see how devastating this is for you.
Copyright Nicole S. Urdang