Whether amicable or hostile, out-of-the-blue or a long-time-coming, divorce is difficult. It marks the end of something once thought to be permanent and no matter how relieved one might be to sign the papers, there will be grief and hard feelings. If one of your friends gets divorced, it’s tricky to know how to be there for them. They’re likely stressed. They might withdraw. What do you say? What do you do? Something to entertain: Send them a text message to check in, express solidarity, or to let them know them you’ll be there. When phrased well, such messages do a lot of good.
Reaching out to a friend is a great way to show solidarity, and help reshape potentially catastrophic thinking that can take place during divorce. “The right text can help your friend feel connected to someone,” says Dr. Raymond Raad, clinical psychiatrist and the founder of RIVIA Mind. “In addition, it may provide helpful ideas that your friend can use to articulate needs for support. If you aren’t sure exactly how to help your friend, this is a great way to find out.“
Checking in on struggling friends can also give both you and them a sense of much-needed control in an uncertain situation. “Friends who isolate or withdraw when stressed can be given options through text conversations or invitations,” says Jackie Tassiello, a board-certified art therapist who specializes in family treatment dealing with anxiety, depression, relationships, and life transitions says. “Open-ended questions, suggestions, or options can allow you to interact with them while giving them the sense they’re in control.”
So what should you say to a friend going through a divorce? Below you’ll find a dozen suggestions for framings that can help. Are these worded exactly how you should say them? Not at all. But the general sentiment is. And so long as you’re caring and empathetic in the messages — and maybe send a funny video or two during your exchnge — your friend will appreciate them.
1. “Let me know if you want to talk.”
One of your main goals? To sincerely offer help, without being pushy or invasive. An opener like this does the trick. “When someone is in the process of getting a divorce, speaking to friends can serve multiple purposes,” says Dr Raad. “First, it can help them feel connected to someone in a time of loneliness. It can also give them an opportunity to process their thoughts and emotions out loud.” Simply being available and engaged is one of the most helpful things you can offer a friend going through the trauma of divorce.
2. “What are you doing this weekend?”
A big consequence of divorce is isolation. Losing your spouse, Dr. Raad notes, often means losing your primary companion on weekends and evenings. “This is not easily replaced after a divorce,” he says, “So offering to spend time together can be immensely helpful when a friend feels lonely and forgotten.” By asking this question via text, you don’t put your friend on the spot when deciding if he’s up for it, but you let him know that you’re thinking about him and ready to hang out whenever he feels comfortable.
3. “Hey buddy. Are You Keeping Busy?”/ “Still playing golf?”
The minutiae of divorce will certainly keep your friend busy, but probably not in the most fulfilling ways. This question is designed to evoke thoughts of distraction, a new hobby, or ways to healthily bide time between paperwork and lawyer emails. “When experiencing a loss like a divorce, it’s important not to avoid thinking about it,” says Dr. Raad. “But, it’s also incredibly important not to dwell on it all the time. So encouraging your friend to spend some time keeping busy with hobbies, relaxation, or even work is a great way to help him manage the experience.”
4. “Is it okay if I check in with you every day, few days, week…?”
Your friend might be ready to spill his guts. Or he might need time before he’s even able to string a sentence together. Asking permission to check on him might lift part of the burden and give him something to look forward to. “Your friend might be experiencing anticipatory grief just knowing that this huge change is around the corner,” says Tassiello. “Setting up a time to text them might sound weird, but it’s a very caring move. It lets them know they’ll be consistently supported, and they don’t have to worry about being the one to actively keep you in the loop.”
5. “This sucks, but you’ll get through it.”
Why does this construction succe? Because it leads with empathy and follows up with encouragement — two things a friend on the brink of divorce surely needs. Be genuine, and try to remind your friend that what’s rough now may seem like a distant memory sooner than he thinks. “While divorce is difficult, most people can and do find happiness again in their lives,” says Dr. Raad. “Offering words of encouragement can help your friend know that you believe in them and that sadness doesn’t have to mean hopelessness.”
6. “How can I best support you?”
Be prepared for anything, or nothing, with this fairly open-ended text that shows your willingness to be a source of support however your friend may need. In fact, notes Tassiello, they might not have an answer to this question for a while. But knowing that someone is there and wants to help is a message of pure support. “Giving someone the opportunity to pick and choose how to receive support is important,” she says, “because it may not have occurred to them to ask for anything.” Keep this text on rotation, too, because situations change and your friend’s needs will too.
7. “I’m not going anywhere.”
Most likely, your friend is lacking something many of us cling to: certainty. Let him know that he can count on you now, and in the future. “This might sound basic,” says Tassiello. “But when someone is on the brink of divorce, they’re about to lose a lot. Knowing that you’re there now as well as down the road can be incredibly reassuring. It’s like sending your friend a virtual hug to reassure them you’ll be around.” If your friend is wondering who’s still going to be in his life after the dust settles, a text like this can be a real lifeline.
8. “Name one thing you need this week.”
Your role as a supporter doesn’t have to be limited to feelings and emotions. Help your friend out as a utility player by bringing dinner, helping with laundry, or helping clean up the house. “Married partners tend to fall into roles,” says Tassiello. “When divorce is imminent, it can be a bit of an identity crisis: the friend who never cooked is suddenly responsible for feeding themselves, and possibly their kids, pets, and plants, too.” Doing something their partner was in charge of or something you know your friend is going to stress over or struggle with can be incredibly supportive. Whether it’s picking up their teen from late night practice or taking their dog to the vet, your friend will still benefit from knowing that, while he may be single, he’s still on a team.
9. No pressure to come, but we’re still inviting you out.
Friends pick sides in a divorce. That loss of friends, friends-of-friends, and even family members is one of the most difficult parts. A message that you are still there for them is important. “Divorce isn’t just a loss of a partner,” says Tassiello “It’s the disruption of a whole social network your friend may have had most of his life. Letting him know he’ll be invited out and involved is as reassuring as it gets.” Show your friend that he still has a community to rely on, and that the safety net beneath him is wider than he may realize.
10. “You’re a great friend, man.”
Find a way to tell your friend what he means to you. The bluntness can be a glimmer of light reminding him that you’ll be there at the end of the tunnel. “Divorce means losing a big part of your identity,” says Tassiello. “Knowing that they’re loved and cherished and that they have an aspect of their life that’s solid, is healing for a person in pain. Remind your friend that his worth is intrinsic, and that the circumstances don’t equate with who he is.” Amazing people get divorced all the time, and the support of their friends helps them make it through.
11. “Have you considered therapy?”
Dealing with the feelings of divorce is a huge challenge for everyone. If your friend is unnerved by the prospect, reassure him that you support his need for counseling after the divorce, or even while the relationship is still in limbo. “If your friend’s divorce is not yet finalized, this might be a helpful suggestion that could potentially save the relationship,” says Dr. Raad. “So many couples neglect this option, but it’s very helpful for those who are struggling to maintain their connection.” If your friend has already signed the papers, maybe you can offer to help him research therapists as a way to bond and make sure he gets the help he needs.