Dealing With Grief

Despite the painful losses, it’s easier to make friends post-divorce than you might think.

There are so many things you lose when you get divorced. Obviously, there’s the marriage, your role as spouse, being with your kids every day and maybe even your home.

But there’s one loss that surprises just about everyone – the loss of your friends. They probably won’t all leave in some grand exodus. But it’s common for them to start fading away one or two at a time.

Now you probably aren’t surprised by losing the friendship of your in-laws or even the friends that your ex brought into your life. After all, most people feel like they have to take sides in a divorce and loyalties tend to go with blood and duration of relationship. Not always, but usually.

Unfortunately, you’ll probably lose other friendships too. It’s likely that over time you’ll lose many of your married friends. This happens for many different reasons. Some will see you as a threat to their marriages and decide that spending time with you isn’t a good idea. Others you’ll lose because of a decision you’ll make. As time goes on, you’ll likely become tired of being a third wheel.

Then there are those that just seem to evaporate for no real reason. These friends who may have been there to support you through other trials and tribulations disappear now without a trace.

Their disappearance is usually because they don’t know what divorce is really like because they’ve never been through one. They don’t know what the proper social expectations are for helping a friend through the end of a marriage either.

And so these people bail. Says a lot about them. Doesn’t it?

The logic is there to help you understand why these friends have left your life when you really need them. But it doesn’t help with the pain their disappearance causes. The loss of friendships is especially difficult during divorce because it’s yet another loss on top of the huge mound of losses you’re already experiencing.

Sometimes understanding the reason helps lessen the pain, but you still need to mourn your lost friendships. And one of the easiest ways to work through the mourning on your own is to write a goodbye/hello letter.

This is a letter that you never send. And it does two things. First, it will allow you to express your grief about losing the friendship. Second, so you don’t get stuck in the grief, the letter will provide you a means for acknowledging what is still good in your life. (And, yes, there is still good in your life.)

The interesting thing is that once people have left your life, you have room in your life to both deepen your remaining relationships and create new ones. Now I know the idea of finding new friends probably isn’t something that has you jumping up and down with glee right now, but I promise that you can do it (and fairly easily too).

When I got divorced, I made some amazing friendships with people (both women and men) in my divorce support group. It was kinda like the two birds with one stone idea. I needed to heal from my divorce and I needed friends. And everybody else in the group needed the same thing.

If you’re not already participating in one, find a divorce support group and get involved. You won’t find friends if you’re just a fly on the wall. You’ll need to participate and find commonalities with one or two other people in the group so you can support each other through your healing and develop friendships.

The other really easy way to find friends is to participate in Meet-Up groups. Don’t worry. I’m not suggesting that you find singles’ groups to join. Instead look for groups that are doing things that you find interesting. Maybe it’s a book club, or a hiking group, or an adventure group, or even a knitting group. The key is to get involved in things that are fun. When you’re having fun, it will be easy to strike up conversations with the other people who are having fun too.

One last word here about making new friendships. Please don’t feel that you can only befriend people of the same sex. Allow yourself to develop friendships with people of the opposite sex is very helpful for learning to trust again and is a great stepping stone for getting out there and starting to date again – when you’re ready (and if you decide that’s what you want to do).

So even though it’s heartbreaking to lose friendships along with everything else when you get divorced, it’s OK. The ones who stick around are real friends. And the good news is that you can make new friends by doing things that help you heal and that are simply fun.

Looking for more help making sense of all the changes happening because of divorce? Read more advice in Dealing With Grief.

I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a divorce coach and advisor helping people just like you who are struggling with divorce. You can join my newsletter list for free weekly advice or schedule a FREE 30-minute conversation with me directly in my Time Trade calendar.

This article originally appeared on DivorceForce.