Tag Archives: support

7 Ways To Support Loved Ones Going Through Separation/ Divorce

Separation/ divorce is a period of great life upheaval and emotional turmoil. It’s heartbreaking to watch loved ones suffer through it, and it can be stressful trying to figure out how you can help, and what you should or should not say or do. But it doesn’t have to be stressful. The best way to help your loved ones is actually pretty simple: it all boils down to empathy.

7 Ways To Support Loved Ones Going Through Separation/ Divorce:

1.) Realize You Don’t  Have To Choose A Side:

It takes two people to make a relationship, and it also takes two people to cause a relationship to end.  Whatever the story may appear to be from the outside looking in, chances are the reality is much different. You truly never know, nor do you need to. The details of everything really aren’t your business. Being a supportive friend is your business though. If you loved both spouses before their split, it’s okay to love them both after. Losing a husband/ wife is painful enough, they really don’t need, or deserve to lose their friends too.

2.) Let It Be All About Them:

When experiencing great life upheaval and loss, what a person needs more than anything else is to be heard. To tell their story to a fully engrossed, empathetic, nonjudgemental listener. A listener who keeps the story focused on their friend, without constant interruption, or interjections of anecdotes of their own relationship troubles. This can be tough to do, but if you are able to do it, you will be giving your loved one a rare gift indeed.

3.) Try Not To Take Their Distance Personally:

If your loved one withdraws during their time of separation and loss, please try not to take it personally. Perhaps seeing you would cause them too many emotions they aren’t ready to face just yet.  Perhaps most of the time spent with you in the past was with their spouse, and the memories are still too raw and painful. Whatever the reason, if your loved one seems to be avoiding you, they probably are doing it to protect themselves during an extremely vulnerable time.  They still love you. They still think of you often. They still need you, and they will come around in time, I promise. Please just be patient and give them that time.

4.) Remember Every Situation Is Unique:

When confiding in someone, nothing is worse than being met with a “been there, done that” sort of attitude. Yes, hearts have been breaking since humans first walked the earth. Yes, separation/divorce has happened millions of times before, maybe even to you. This is the first time it is happening to your loved one though. Every headache, every heartache is very unique to them.  Please be sure to dignify their experience, to honour their feelings, rather than diminish them by reminding them how common their situation is. Your loved one is aware they are not the only person to ever go through this. Reminding them is unnecessary, and sure doesn’t make them hurt any less. Please honour their feelings. Treat their suffering as something as individual as they are, rather than with stereotypes and generalizations.

5.) Remember They Are Mourning A Loss As Real As Death:

Experiencing separation/divorce is very similar to experiencing a death. It’s death of day to day life as you know it. It’s death of a future you had planned and taken comfort in. It’s loss of arms that held you, a partner you thought would be there unconditionally. It’s loss of materials, family members, time with children, family traditions and inside jokes. Years of once pleasant memories become torturous. A social status you took pride and comfort in vanishes, and is replaced with potential judgement and loneliness.  Despite separation / divorce being a choice, it’s still a huge loss that causes very real grief. The fact that it’s a choice can also make it even harder, when feelings of guilt and self doubt creep in.  Help your loved one by acknowledging how huge heir suffering is. What they are going through is a really big deal.  As serious as death is. Remind them of this, and offer your sympathy often.

6.) Offer Advice Only When It’s Requested:

If your loved one is looking for advice during their separation/ divorce, they will ask for it. Even then, it’s very likely they won’t do what you say, unless deep down they have already made the decision to do it on their own anyway. Giving unsolicited advice (unless of course, you feel their safety is at risk) to your loved one during a time of such turmoil is likely to make them feel misunderstood and disrespected. Instead, you can encourage them when you think they are doing the right thing, and be there to offer a hug when they realize they have made (very importantly, their own) mistakes, which will teach them far deeper life lessons than following your advice ever could.

7.) Give An Abundance Of Encouragement and Praise:

It’s very easy for those going through separation/ divorce to feel like they have failed somehow. Remind your loved one that the real failure would have been to continue on living life feeling miserable, resentful and hopeless. To admit something just can’t work any more, and resolve to make extremely difficult changes in the hope of long term happiness is very brave. To face the emotional and financial consequences of separation, and dive all alone  into a new life that is completely unknown takes guts. Never stop reminding your loved one of this. They have not failed. They have taken control of the one life they get to live on this earth. They are carving a new path. Praise and encourage your loved one every step of the way. Be their greatest fan. Most importantly, be you. Their life has completely transformed. That doesn’t mean your relationship with them has to.

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Thank you for reading.

Be Brave, and Talk

How To Support Someone Suffering An Eating Disorder (from someone who has made it down the long, hard road to recovery.)

She runs frantically back and forth in the basement. She hopes she is being vigorous enough. The 3 big bowls of cereal she just ate must be burned away. A cramp pierces her side, she presses on angrily.  She despises the bloated feeling in her stomach. She hates herself for being so disgusting, bingeing like that on sugary cereal. She must have taken in at least 1000 calories. She feels the fat filling into her cheeks, visualizes the double chin that must be forming.  She speeds up, swings her arms harder, lifts her knees higher. She glances at the clock. 45 minutes to go. At least. No music plays as she does this desperate exercise. This is not for her enjoyment . This is for her punishment. Her motivation doesn’t come from a desire for health. It comes from fear. Fear of gaining weight. Fear of losing control. And anger. Anger that she lost control by eating all of that cereal.

She won’t be eating anything else for the next 2 days.

The cramps in her side get sharper. She cries out in pain, but doesn’t stop. She must finish this 2 hours of calorie burning. She hates her body for trying to stop her. The cramp twists up toward her rib cage. She speeds up in frustration. Tears stream down her face. She hurts. She is thirsty. She is soaked with sweat. She is exhausted. She is desperate. Desperate to maintain control. She was doing so well, for so long. But she got too hungry. She gave in. And now her disorder has control of her.

5 Ways To Support Someone Suffering / Recovering From An Eating Disorder:

1.) Be There: Help them break the habit of secrecy.

When someone has an eating disorder, they are extremely secretive with their behaviours. Counting calories, any eating they do, bingeing, purging behaviours all happen when they are alone.  They might hoard and hide food, dispose of it in sneaky ways. You can try to help break through the secrecy by offering to be there. Offer to eat meals with them, offer to go with them on calm after dinner walks. It’s really important to offer without forcing the issue. Putting pressure on will drive them further into their secretive behaviour. Ask how they are doing often.  Try opening up to them about something in life you are struggling with, and it might help encourage them to start talking. If you are lucky enough to get them talking, listen without judgement. Eating disorders come with feelings of self loathing and shame. Compliment them on their bravery in opening up, and just listen.

2.) Invite Them Out Often: Help reduce their isolation.

Eating disorders are very isolating. Sufferers often turn down social invites to spend time obsessing, compulsively exercising, recovering from binge eating episodes. Try to reduce this isolation by inviting them out often. Keep on inviting them no matter how many times they reject you. Dont give up on them. Try organizing team sport events with friends, or invite them for a yoga class. The exercise might appeal to them, and is much healthier than the compulsive exercise they do alone.

3.) Choose Topics Of Conversation Wisely: Avoid perpetuating their obsession.

Someone who suffers with an eating disorder is haunted by and obsessed with food, calories, and body image. When they are with you, you can help them be a little less preoccupied by avoiding ALL discussion of these topics. Ignore any comments they make about their body, redirect the conversation. Even telling them you think they are “too skinny” is a bad idea, because it can motivate them. It’s like positive reinforcement.  Refuse to feed into their obsession. This means no talk of dieting, “fattening” foods, body weight and size, even if you are talking about yourself.

4.) Help Them Feel A Sense Of Control

Someone suffering with an eating disorder longs for control over their lives. Eating disorder behaviour is an attempt to gain control over their body, but ironically the eating disorder ends up controlling them. Even though you are concerned and just want them to eat, never try to force food on them, or tempt them with food. This will only increase their desire for control, and make them very unlikely to admit they are suffering. It’s also very important to avoid investigating them, or accusing them of abnormal behaviour. These things will only drive them further into isolation and secrecy. Instead, encourage them to be honest by saying you are there for them whenever they might be ready to talk. Say you are concerned and ask them what you can do to help. This turns some control over to them, and might help them feel more ready to talk. Ultimately, the decision to seek help is entirely up to the sufferer. You will never be able to talk them into it. What you can do is offer to go with them, to be there for them when they decide on their own to open up and seek help.

5.) Have Realistic Expectations: Be aware of how serious the fight for recovery will be.

Realize that recovery from an eating disorder is not a matter of simply deciding one day to eat normally. Getting better is a long, hard, physically and emotionally painful fight. Eating disorders are very powerful addictions and it is almost impossible or overcome them without professional help. You can help your loved ones by making sure you have realistic expectations. Take it one day at a time. It will take them a long time to recover, and there could be many relapses on the way. Praise their brave efforts, let them know you believe in them. Be there, to listen , to hug, to show empathy. Never give up on them, and hopefully they will never give up on themselves.

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Thank you for reading.

Be Brave, and Talk

Holidays Aren’t Happy For Everyone…And That Should Be Okay

Waking before dawn, sneaking into your siblings’ room to whisper excitedly about what special treasures you might soon find hidden downstairs.

Snuggling on the couch with a full belly, surrounded by the comforting sound of loved ones’ laughter.

Photographs flashing.

Wine glasses clinking.

Wishing time would pass just a little more slowly, so you could take it all in, relish it, savour it.

Holidays come and go quickly, as all special occasions seem to. But for some, this coming and going can’t happen fast enough.

Waking before dawn, your stomach sinking with dread as you remember the day ahead will be filled with forced smiles, the hiding of shaking hands, and drinks taken in secret.

Clutching your blankets, breathing deep to hold back the nausea, as you long for the comfort of your lost loved one’s laughter.

Photograph avoiding.

Wine glass refilling.

Wishing time could just skip over this day, so you wouldn’t have to put on an act, so you could avoid the guilt, escape the pain.

Holidays come and go quickly, as all special occasions seem to. But there are people out there who would rather the holidays didn’t come at all.

Perhaps it’s because they grieve a great loss which only gets highlighted when the holidays arrive. But they endure it with a smile so they don’t make anyone else uncomfortable.

Perhaps they suffer anxiety in silence and feel overwhelmed and exhausted by pretending they’re okay throughout the flurry of family activity.

Perhaps they suffer depression, and attend holiday events out of obligation. Expectations to enjoy and be happy force their face into a smile, but inside their feelings of guilt and self loathing only grow.

Whatever the reason, wouldn’t it be nice if those who are unhappy come holiday time didn’t have to pretend?

Of course we have the best of intentions when we expect and encourage full, enthusiastic participation in holiday events, when we wish everyone a “Merry Christmas”,  we certainly don’t mean to make anyone feel bad.

We just need a little more awareness.

We just need a little more acceptance.

We just need a little more openness and honesty.

Although we’ve made progress, our society still feels rather uncomfortable being open about things that aren’t sunshine and roses, and this is especially true at holiday time.  And what do we do when we’re uncomfortable? We judge, we avoid, we ignore. This makes things much harder than they have to be for people who are grieving or suffering mental illness.

Pretending is exhausting. Pretending is lonely. Pretending makes you feel ashamed of your reality.

Let’s take the pressure off holiday happiness.

Let’s ask honest questions about how loved ones are feeling.

Let’s extend invitations that are truly optional, and come with alternative plans for later.

Let’s acknowledge our loved ones’ struggles with respect and empathy.

Although we can’t make things all better, we sure can make the holidays easier by being real. Not everyone loves holidays. And that is okay.

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Thank you for reading.

Be Brave, and Talk

I Promise to Keep Trying You

You checked up on me on Facebook the other day.

A trace of a smile crossed your lips when you saw the picture I posted of my multicoloured, food-splattered kitchen wall. Gotta love the “terrible twos.” A pang of jealousy caught your breath for just a second as you scrolled through my camping trip album, and realized our old roommate from college had joined me. You considered taking a trip down memory lane, clicking on my “College Days” album, but instead you logged out.

The desk top was cool on your forehead as you stared down at your floral print pyjama pants. You stayed like that for a long time.

Somewhere in your chest, in your gut, floating around your mind, clouds of feeling were gathering. You were a safe distance away though, and took comfort in the fog. You were okay with feeling nothing, doing nothing, being nothing. You gulped down your wine to make sure you’d be able to sleep, and dragged yourself to bed.

I gave you a call the other day. You saw my name on the call display, and you almost picked up. Your uncertainty held you back though.
Maybe it was even fear.
You feared you would stumble over words, sound awkward, say the wrong thing. You feared your children would start fighting in the background, and I would think you’re a bad mom. Because my children never do that. No, never.

You feared, because parts of you are broken. You believe yourself to be unworthy of my love, because so much of the time, you have trouble loving yourself.

I do love you, though. And I miss you. I know you miss me too.

I was passing through your town the other day. I stopped by and knocked on your door. I probably should have called first. You caught a glimpse of me through the window, crouched down and hid, frozen in your anxiety. You didn’t want to let me see your mascara streaked cheeks. You didn’t want me to know your kids were watching T.V. Your cat’s litter box needed cleaning, and you were afraid I would notice.
Somehow, missing the chance to give me a hug seemed like a better option than showing me your vulnerability, your less than perfect self, your struggle. I turned and walked slowly back to my car. I knew you were in there. A frown furrowed my brow, and a weight rested on my heart as I reluctantly drove away.

As time ticks on, you will get closer to a day that brings you joy. After countless hours slip away from you, in blurs of confusion and fatigue, you will get to a place where you smile again. One of these days when I call, you’ll take a deep breath, be brave, and answer the phone. Maybe you will even confide in me about the battle you’ve been fighting.
Until that time arrives, I promise to keep trying you.

I will send you a text to remind you I’m your friend.

I will like your status updates, I will call and leave messages.

You are my amazing, strong, beautiful, dear friend.

When you are ready, I will be right here.

I will never give up on you.

Even if it takes ten years, I promise to keep trying you.

Thank you for reading!