I have to start this post with a disclaimer: I hate divorce.
Hate, hate, hate, with blood-boiling passion.
So that's why I have to begin this post with this little bit of background story, because Heaven forbid that anyone read this and take it to mean that I'm condoning divorce. Because I'm not. Gosh.
And call me a hypocrite all you wish, because I AM divorced (and remarried), but I very rarely think someone else should be, unless there's adultery or abuse or some Biblical reason WHY you're flushing your family down the toilet and shattering the very foundation of your kids' lives. And if you haven't even lifted one finger to TRY to make it work when your marriage gets less than easy, do NOT come crying to me.
That said... sometimes there ARE reasons WHY I'm a huge proponent of women getting the heck out of there, and it's never just because you need to 'find yourself' or because you found a more exciting boyfriend and your husband is boring ***which is the most common reason I've heard lately*** or because 'divorced' is the new 'single' or some such garbage like that.
And if you find yourself trapped in a marriage in which there IS serial adultery or abuse (emotional, physical, or otherwise), you will find no bigger, more loyal support than yours truly, because I LIVED that for twelve long, miserable years, years in which I tried and tried to be married to a man who hated me and then finally realized he had mentally left me long before for whores he found on Craig's List, and filing the paperwork was a mere formality. And I know all too well that leaving is sometimes darn near impossible when you've been a stay-at-home mom for nine years and have little ones who need to eat, and you canNOT see a way out in which you all survive, much less keep your kids and your dignity. And because I have BEEN THERE I have HUGE compassion for women trapped in that hell. And because I have BEEN THERE I vow before God and all of you that if I ever win the lottery, I will start a ministry helping women get OUT of that kind of bondage, because I don't believe Jesus died so we could keep living in bondage of ANY kind.
So when a friend emailed me a few months ago with a story about a friend of hers that sounded way too much like my own, it squeezed at my heart and I wanted to help.
I sent my best words of advice and encouragement and was thrilled when my friend let me know that her friend had left and found a place of her own. Thrilled, because that's the hardest step to take. If you can leave, and find a place of your own, that's the hardest part.
My friend asked me what she could do that would best help her friend, and I thought for a while and came up with these six items, all based on what I needed when I went through my own divorce, and what helped me the most:
1. Help her pack. Packing was gut-wrenching for me, because I had twelve years of memories stored away in that house. The house that was my dream house, the house where I thought my kids would have their wedding portraits made. That house. It was a big house, and I had to get rid of 2/3 of everything I owned in order to fit myself and my girls into our new apartment. My friend Megan came over and was able to be ruthless about sorting through which of the stuff was necessary and which of the stuff didn't need to come with me. When you're in the midst of it, tossing broken crayons and Chuck E. Cheese tokens can bring on a flood of tears, and you NEED a friend who isn't emotionally involved to be the voice of reason when you're having a meltdown about how your kids have lost EVERYTHING; do they have to lose their broken crayons TOO? And to tell you toTAKE THOSE TOOLS, yes, I know they're his and you don't want anything that re minds you of HIM, but you will NEED a drill and a hammer at your new place... Seriously. Because divorce takes away your ability to think logically about anything, at least for a time. Packing up to leave a marriage is hard in ways you can't begin to imagine unless you've had to lose 2/3 of everything you once thought was important.
2. Help her find an attorney. A mean one. The MEANEST, nastiest, most ruthless, cut-throat attorney there IS. Because I was all, "We're Christians and we can have a nice, friendly, Christian divorce," and, well, THERE IS NO SUCH THING. My one divorced friend gave me this advice, and sadly, I ignored it. You know, because I wanted a Christian lady attorney who would handle this divorce the Christian way. My intentions were good. But this idiot woman left me in a financial bind from which I have yet to recover. BECAUSE to most men, it's all about the money, he does NOT care about what's in your best interest NOR THAT OF THE KIDS, and he will STEAL from you and not think twice about it. Of course, I'm stereotyping; maybe there ARE some nice ex-husbands out there, but I have yet to see one. And furthermore, I kept feeling SORRY for the jackass that flushed my family down the toilet because he wanted more quality time with Craig's List, and kept having moments of weakness in which I told myself that I would be proud of the Christian way I handled myself, and the way in which I gave up my rights, and the way in which I turned the other cheek and let him win. And you know what? I AM proud of MYSELF, but my attorney should have been ruthless FOR ME and I did not have that, and it will affect my life and my kids' lives for years to come. So... be your friend's backbone when she's feeling weak, and YOU be the bulldog FOR her.
3. Help her with her kids. Being a single mom is HARD. Being a single mom who has just returned to working full time after being a SAHM is TORTURE. It's exhausting, all of it. Especially when you have two rushed, hurried, chaotic hours between arriving home and getting the kids into bed, which you have to do alone. You need EVERY (rushed, hurried, chaotic) minute you get, and it's never enough. And you NEVER get a minute to even take a bath and unwind, and you'll be doing your grocery shopping on your lunch hour so you don't have to give up those valuable kid-hours in the evenings to do it. ANYTHING you can do to help a single mama with the kids will be WONDERFUL. Offer to take them to your house for an evening so she can have a night out, or a Saturday morning so she can buy groceries without dragging them to the grocery store. Offer to come over and help with supper and homework. Offer to pick the kids up and take them to a movie with YOUR family, because many times single mamas don't have the funds to do movies anymore. NOTICE what your kids have or get to do that hers do not, and share. The kids are worried and scared and have NO idea what divorce will mean for them, and they NEED extra love and attention. There is NOTHING better you can do to make a mama happy than to show love to her kids.
4. Go to court with her. Court is more terrifying than I can put into words, and you have to spill the dirty laundry of your life out to a room full of strangers who are all staring at you and judging you harshly, and I cannot express enough how much more COMFORTED I felt just knowing I had friends there. Just sit there, with her, before, during, and after, and then take her for coffee or lunch afterward. But the BEING THERE, during court, is HUGE. Be there. And actually, if you can gather up extra friends to come with you to support your friend, do that. Having people on YOUR side, in YOUR corner, is HUGE moral support. Take a day off work if you have to, and be there.
5. Take meals. Being suddenly single is exhausting in ALL possible ways. Physically, mentally... it's so completely draining. I found the place in town that sells $5 hot-and-ready pizzas, and fed those to my kids WAY too many times because I could NOT possibly handle cooking. Sometimes when you're making a dish for your happy family, make extra in a disposable pan and take it to her. Extra points if you put SEVERAL meals in her freezer. My friends who brought me meals and cookies sealed my loyalty for life. Best. Friends. Ever.
6. Take hand-me-downs. Now, this may not apply to everyone, but after my own divorce I was without a car and without a job and plunged suddenly into poverty. My stomach hurt when my kids (who had been used to having things) outgrew their shoes and I didn't know how I'd be able to afford more. There are ways to do it without totally killing her pride, and you don't have to unload EVERYTHING on her, but, you know, I was incredibly grateful for a friend who brought me a couple of pairs of Nikes her daughter had outgrown, and another friend who gave me a Rubbermaid tub of kids' clothes. It was SO helpful, SO welcomed, and I was incredibly grateful.
Those are the things off the top of my head that helped me the most when my own life shattered in two; I have amazing friends without whom I could not have survived it so well. I can't even think of words big enough to say how grateful I am for those friends. And if you want to be that kind of friend, this list would be a good place to start.