A few weeks ago, I was talking with a friend who had been divorced for many years. As I keep hearing of more people going through divorces, I asked her for some advice on how to help the people I know going through the situation.

The first thing that came to her mind saddened me. She said that other couples seem to have a great deal of trouble dealing with the split. In fact, couples in general seem to have difficulty with the newly single person in their midst. She said she rarely got invited to parties after her divorce, and even when she did, some of the couples only wanted to do “couple things,” which made her feel excluded.

Another friend going through a divorce stated that she often felt as though she had a giant “D” on her forehead, especially at church. I’ve heard other people say similar things. They don’t want to be “that poor divorced girl” or “that guy whose wife left him.”

Several of my other friends who have been through divorces and have children talk about the issues that arise from dealing with the other parent. The temptation they face is to insult the other parent or to want the children to know their own side of the story. This is damaging to the child, though, and my most wise friends have gone to great lengths to keep private any disagreements with their former spouses and any other issues, such as child support problems. Doing this often requires a great deal of sacrifice, especially on the part of the custodial parent, but my friends tell me it is worth it.

From all these situations I’ve learned that some of the best ways for me to minister to my friends who are going through a divorce or still dealing with issues from their divorce is to be there for them.

Make them a part of the family. One Valentine’s, we invited a friend going through a divorce to join us. I made chili—not a romantic food at all! And we spent the evening talking with her, not just about her marriage, either.

I’ve also learned that while the temptation is to take my friend’s side and to bad mouth her former spouse, it is often best to be sympathetic while keeping most of my thoughts to myself. I made the mistake once of badmouthing someone’s significant other and she wound up getting back together with him. A listening ear is so much better than a flapping mouth …

Another time, we invited one friend to live with us while she was going through a divorce, so she could get back on her feet. She went to church with us and even joined my Bible study. I think she grew a lot during that time.

Often times during a hard situation, an individual’s response is to withdraw from the pain, as well as many other parts of life. I try to remember to check up on my wounded friends. I tell him or her we are praying and I do not get insulted when they have little energy to respond to my calls or my attempts to get together. But as a note of caution, when dealing with a male friend going through a divorce I make sure to reach out through my hubby and to include him in my efforts. One of the ways we have tried this is to email the friend through my husband’s email account. That way, any outreach comes from both of us, rather than just me.

It’d be great to hear some of the ways you all have encouraged and ministered to hurting friends. Please share your thoughts with us.