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Letting Your Family & Friends Know How They Can Support You

We share with people who have earned the right to hear our story.

Brené Brown

“We’re going to need a bigger boat.” You may remember this famous line from the movie, Jaws. Going through a divorce is a big undertaking. You need help from your family and friends. 

But first you need to share what’s happening, which brings up two questions: who should you share with, and how much should you share?

A personal crisis, such as a divorce, provokes anxiety in most of us. And when we’re feeling anxious, we tend to undershare or overshare, especially in uncomfortable social situations. Being aware of your own tendency can help you avoid both.


Undersharing can translate as being in denial or avoiding your feelings. When you’re feeling vulnerable or judged, you hold back as a conscious or subconscious way to protect yourself. 


Oversharing is also normal. If you tend to overshare when you’re anxious, measure your words. You may even plan them ahead of time. This can help you avoid pushing away people you care for by not honoring their boundaries. 

Be you

The key to success in your personal relationships is to be yourself. Divorce can create challenges here. It can cause people to feel “not themselves.” Stay true to yourself and your values. And be aware that sharing personal information with a friend or family member in an attempt to garner pity isn’t you. Nor is unloading violent or raw emotions on someone who isn’t prepared to handle them. Be honest and be your authentic self. 

Be clear

To be authentic, you need to understand your needs and communicate them clearly to people in your life that you can trust, like your Power People. Most want to support you but don’t always know how. Since every divorce is unique and personal, it’s hard for well-intentioned people to know what to say or how to say it. Sharing your needs clearly will help you get the support you’re looking for. 


“Moving after my divorce meant that my youngest son had to leave the small private school that he'd attended since preschool. It was hard to share what was going on with his teacher, but when I finally did, she made the decision to allow him to continue in her class for the rest of the semester by mailing his assignments. If I had withdrawn him from school without telling her, it would have been much harder on him and on me. His teacher coming up with a solution to meet this need meant that I had the time I needed to prepare for homeschooling him later.”


Everyone is different

Chances are, you have several important people in your life, whether family members or friends, and each plays a different supporting role for you. Your grandmother might be good for a hot, home-cooked meal, while your mom might be helpful with financial advice. Your brother might be great for an outing to a local sporting event, while your dad might be able to help you find a new apartment. One friend might be a good listener who supplies you with caring emotional support, while another friend might make you laugh and help you see the absurdity of the situation. Each person is different. Treat them that way. Don’t expect everyone to react the same way when you communicate your needs. Recognize that supportive friends and family members will show up in the way that comes most naturally to them. 

Reach beyond family and friends

You may not be able to get the support you need from your friends and family. In that case, consider looking to the larger community for help through meet-ups, support groups, or a trained counselor. There’s a potential bonus here. Often, during divorce, you find new opportunities to make new friends. Are there other divorced people in your community whom you could invite over for tea or coffee, or out to catch a movie? Sometimes spending time with someone who has “been there” is the best balm.

Don’t take it personally

Not every family member or friend will be there for you. Some are better at helping in crisis situations than others. Some may be distracted by problems of their own. If you communicate a need, and there is no response from a particular person, don’t force it. Feel free to pull away from that person for a time so you can focus on you, heal, and move on. Don’t waste precious emotional energy wondering why a person isn’t doing a better job being supportive. Whatever the reason, the issue is theirs, not yours.

Too close to home

Sometimes people pull away because what you are going through touches their own vulnerabilities or insecurities. If a close friend is also having marital issues, they may pull away because your divorce hits too close to home. They may not be ready to see how much happier you are moving forward with a divorce, or how hard it is. Sometimes friends who feel a sense of loyalty to your ex don’t know how to be supportive to both of you at the same time. It can be easy to take things like this personally. Remember that it’s likely not about you.

Hey, it’s your call

Ultimately, you make the call on what to share with whom and when. Whether you’re a person who naturally shares a lot or a little, your communication style may change during a difficult situation like a divorce. Do what feels right. 

Be specific about your needs

How do you need help right now? Take some time to think about specific ways someone can help you with that need and how to put that need into words. Then, share your need with a trusted family member or friend. It might help to look at various facets of your life – family, career, wellness, legal, financial – so you get a clear picture of all the possible ways your loved ones can assist you. 

Take the next step

Avail Talking Tips

“I don’t have a lot of energy to reach out right now. My divorce is taking a lot out of me. I really appreciate when you text or call and let me know that you’re thinking of me. Sometimes knowing you care is all I need. Thanks for showing up for me in this way.”

“It’s hard for me when you assume I’m sad all the time, or that my divorce must be devastating for my kids. That’s honestly not helpful. It would be awesome if you could just ask how I’m doing and let me respond, because there’s lots of emotions for me and they change all the time.”

“I realize you might be feeling really sad about my divorce, about losing my ex from our family, and I get that you’re worried about our kids. I just want to be honest and say that I can’t take care of your feelings right now. I’m not in a place where I can help you process. It would help me a lot if you could talk to a counselor or a friend about your sadness and worry instead of me. I know you love me, and I love you, too.”

“I’m going through a big transition in my life right now and I can see that you are trying to be supportive but I get it, it’s hard to know the right thing to say. Here’s some things that would help me: Ask me how I’m doing. Ask me how I’m feeling and what I need from you right now. Send me a quick note or text and let me know you’re thinking of me and love me. Send me something funny because OMG divorce can be so absurd! We have to laugh sometimes!”



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