So you just found out that your friend or family member is getting divorced. After the initial shock and disbelief fades and you’ve gathered and digested the salient facts, you’re left with a deep desire to help. To at least soothe the pain since you cannot make it all go away. And much like kids at their first sleep-away camp, teenagers during their first semester at college or soldiers on their first deployment, people in the early stages of divorce are homesick, lonely and often scared.
And a small collection of tailor-picked items can go a long way to making them feel loved and supported.
Here’s your cheat sheet for assembling a divorce care package that any newly single person would be grateful to receive:
Something to Comfort
One of the first purchases I made for myself was a super-soft extra-fuzzy blanket. I used to cocoon myself in it at night when I cried. It was essentially the adult equivalent of a teddy bear. Think about your loved one. Do they tend to seek out a certain food when upset? Or are they more tactile and would prefer something soft against the skin? Maybe they slip the headphones on and disappear into a world of music. Whatever their preferred modality, something that provides a portable on-demand hug goes a long way during divorce.
Something to Distract
Divorce has plenty of ongoing bad days. And sometimes you just want to forget about the lawyers and the negotiations and focus on another world for a time. If your friend is a reader, buy an engrossing (but not too complex – the brain isn’t functioning at peak capacity) fictional book. It’s even better if it’s the first of a series; that promises many days of distraction. Puzzles are a great tool to divert the mind and you can even play Words With Friends or Trivia Crack with them. If they are more of a watcher, buy a movie or a series for them. Even better, set up a recurring date with them to watch a favorite show.
Something From the Past
Divorce is a time of identity crisis. You are no longer your married self and, as you try to figure out who you are now, it can be comforting to connect with the person you were prior to the marriage. If you knew the person during this period of their life, find something that will remind them of that more innocent time.
It feels good to be pampered. And when you’re going through the end of life as you know it, it feels even better. Spring for a massage. Or a pedicure. Take them to a restaurant known for its amazing service. It can be as simple as some bath salts and a candle or as involved as you want to make it. I used to save those little indulgences as treats after particularly difficult days. It helped me make it through just knowing that I had something to look forward to.
Something to Ease the Routine
Life can be overwhelming. And when you’re trying to learn to do the work of two by yourself (especially if you have kids), the pressure is immense. Gift a gift of ease. Offer to take their children to school or car in for servicing. Offer to help clean their house or wash their dog. When someone is in survival mode, the little things add up. So find something you can take off their plate.
Something to Do Together
These were my favorite care package items during my divorce. Some were elaborate and some extremely simple. In every case, the time together let me know that my friend was thinking of me and it gave me much needed laughter as well as time away from the reality. Go on a hike together. Go to a concert. Watch a game. Explore a nearby town. The “what” matters less than that you plan it, invite them and take care of any barriers in their way.
Something to Feel Attractive
In any divorce, there is a fear of getting back out there. Of dating again in your older and saggier form. And if there was infidelity, their confidence has taken an even bigger hit. Include something in the care package that makes them feel attractive. Desirable. They will probably not be ready for it at the beginning, but when they are ready, it sure is nice to have that little reminder handy.
Something to Inspire
I used to tease my mom about her ever-present inspirational quotes. And then I got divorced and suddenly I surrounded myself with them as well. You don’t have to limit yourself to quotes. Give them a postcard from a trip you took together or that they dream of going on. Include a plant that is just starting to grow or bud as a reminder that they will bloom again. It can even be more symbolic, taking the form of a rising phoenix or emerging butterfly. This is the gift of hope.
All of these gifts will be appreciated and treasured. But the gift that means the most can’t be put into a box or presented in a card. It’s the gift of an empathetic ear and a supportive hug. Be there and they will never forget.