When someone’s spouse/partner dies after a 17-year relationship, it is much easier for people to go up and pay their respects to the widow and say “I’m so sorry for your loss.” But when you are getting a divorce… well, nobody says that. Why? Honestly, I believe it is because they have no idea WHAT to say. A death is something they can understand and process quickly. They see how long your relationship has been and realize the devastation it must be to suddenly be without them. But what about a divorce after a 17-year relationship? Well, clearly something serious went on in the relationship and they have no idea WHAT happened so they don’t want to say anything. I mean, I am the first person I know who has been divorced amongst my circle of friends/family and I didn’t even know what I wanted to hear.
Let me tell you what I found NOT helpful… Those people who thought they were helping by bashing/criticizing my ex-husband. I know they really meant well and that they were trying to build me up and convey they support me. But it was doing exactly the opposite. I felt like by them criticizing him, it was criticizing my choices and me because I chose to love him. They clearly did not mean for it to come across this way and they never said this, but I receive every criticism as if to say, “How STUPID could YOU be? You really are a Dumbass.”
Let me tell you what WAS helpful…. I was extremely blessed to be surrounded by so many angels. Yes of course my family and friends but then there were the unexpected angels at my work. My Teammates surrounded me, protected me, and rescued me from whatever I needed. They knew I was devastated and never asked a single question about what happened. They were there for ME. They could not fix the situation but they did all that they could wherever I fell down they picked up.
For the purpose of this article I want to mention one particular moment that stands out in my mind.
I had been devastated for months already, pretty much crying every day at my desk at one point or another. One day a colleague from another team (for whom I was not very close to) approached me in the kitchen and gently put his hand on my shoulder. He said, “I noticed you have been upset for a while. I don’t know what is going on but I just wanted to say I’m so sorry for whatever you are going through.” And then gave me a hug. It was such a simple gesture that said to me, “I see you and I care for you.” It really touched my heart. I realized that nobody really needed to say any more than that.
Prior to my divorce, I was totally one of those people that when I saw someone upset I tried to understand what happened down to the nitty-gritty detail so I can help by giving advice. I realize now that people do not want your advice (unless they specifically ask) and what is MOST helpful is to tell them how much you care and give a gentle loving response.