Handling “The Divorce” Conversation with Family During the Holidays

Divorce is hard enough. Add the holidays and questions from family and friends and it can be downright unbearable. Your family and friends are trying your best to be there for you, or you have the odd cousin that seems smug about your recent predicament – either way it’s hard.

Often the most difficult conversations to have are the ones with family that cares deeply about you but isn’t quite sure how to be helpful in the way they go about it. This can lead to discomfort, embarrassment, and even unnecessary frustration. Much of the time this is actually because your family genuinely doesn’t know the best way to help you – here are a couple tips to help with that.

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Ask someone you trust for help with spreading the word

It can be a really good idea to go ahead and give the group you’ll be with a heads up. Truth of the matter is your family and friends are discussing your situation and how to navigate it. Select a person you trust and know has your best interest in mind and tell them to spread the word – asking for exactly what you need. It can be exhausting to have the same conversation over and over again – let your friend do the heavy lifting for you. Select which details you’d like them to know and explicitly tell them how you’d like to have it dealt with. It can take a lot off your hands to have someone act as the front runner and explain to those you love how they can be supportive.

Be honest about what you are comfortable discussing

You know what? People don’t commonly akin divorce to death, but that is exactly what it is. It is the loss of someone who played a vital role and presence in your life. The difference is most people know how to talk appropriately during a death in the family, while most will not know how to talk to you during a divorce. Be honest about what you’re comfortable discussing and be prepared for seemingly inappropriate comments and assumptions about how you are feeling.

Unlike many other comparable difficult situations in life – like death in the family – there are a thousand ways you could feel about your divorce. Angry. Happy. Relieved. Sad. Neutral. Nostalgic. Bittersweet. Desperate. Terrified. Anxious. Divorce has such a unique mix of emotions it’s impossible for those around you to know how they can be supportive without you clearly defining the help you need and telling them what you are comfortable discussing.

Consider limiting social time

While support and being surrounded by family and friends during a difficult time can be wonderful, it can also be draining and sometimes lead to additional sadness. Also, depending where you are in your divorce, you might not have the answers to a lot of the questions that might be asked and that can cause added anxiety. Therefore, there is such a thing as too much family and friend time. Consider limiting your social time to prevent yourself from being exhausted or overwhelmed.

Divorce is tough and ultimately your family and friends want to help – but most will not know how. It’s up to you to ask for what you need.

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Sarah Hughes is a freelance writer and co-creator of The Sex Talk podcast and blog. She is also a divorced mother and step-daughter and decided to take actions and help others here at Smart Divorce Network.

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