Jake Fagan

Emotional T-Rex Arms

If you’ve never been through a divorce, even your closest friends and family enduring such calamity can feel unapproachable. But the formula for doing so is dead simple. 

It’s not that people are indifferent or uncaring to those walking through separation or divorce. Most people want to help – they just don’t know how. Their little baby T-Rex arms just can’t get around the bigness of the situation. The never-married single person and the un-divorced married person can’t relate to what in-progress divorcees are going through. Logically, they can suss it out and relate on some level. Empathy is, of course, a thing that can happen independent of personal experience. However, many freeze like deer in the headlights when they see the freshly separated and others will avoid them entirely. Church folks will often hang their hat on the notorious “I’ll be praying for you.” Barf. 

People are usually well-intentioned and some negligible percentage may actually drop to their knees as promised. I don’t want to trivialize the importance of prayer – doing so is necessary and admirable for us Christian folk. Most often, however, the prayerful declaration is a cop out. An empty space-filler. A how-can-I-escape-this-awkward-conversation-while-still-sounding-supportive-and-churchy. It is the most loathsome of the weak sauce that could be served to a person suffering a divorce.

To those never-married singles and the un-divorced married: I get it. Separation and divorce scenarios are the pinnacle of social awkwardness. There is not a playbook. You are faced with a mountain of complexity. The stigma, the ugliness, the what-could-I-possibly-do, the whose-side-should-I-take, the how-does-God-feel-about-this, the why-couldn’t-they-suck-it-up-and-work-it-out, the how-do-I-even-feel-about-divorce, and on and on and on.

The good news is that there is a remarkably simple answer to every separating and divorcing person you encounter: be present. Recognize that whatever the circumstances, the person standing before you is bleeding out. Listen. Give them a hug. Invite them out to lunch or coffee. Be there for them – even if you have absolutely no idea what to say. Let them do the talking. Pray with them. Call them. Text them. Don’t be weird. Repeat.

More on this topic

This is the third post in an n-post series on divorce: Floodwater | Nose Blind | Emotional T-Rex Arms | To the Divorcing Human

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