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5 Ways to Support a Woman Going Through Divorce

Here are 5 essential steps in helping support a woman going through a divorce.

Here are 5 essential steps in helping support a woman going through a divorce.

Going through a divorce is never easy, especially in communities that stigmatize divorce and continue to place blame on the woman.

After the horrifying murder of Sania Khan by her ex-husband, it is important for us to end the cycle of shaming divorced women. Women often deal with the more severe repercussions of being a divorcee, including a heightened amount of shame and isolation compared to divorced men. Many are told to stay in toxic environments and abusive marriages out of fear of what others will say and deal with the community’s criticism and finger-pointing.

From my experience as a Pakistani-American divorced woman, and taking into account perspectives from other divorced women, here are five ways that you can support a woman going through a divorce:

1.     Address Your Internalized Stigma

There is a huge bias against divorced women due to it being a taboo topic, largely due to patriarchal remnants of culture that forces people to see divorced women as more at fault. If a negative viewpoint comes into mind when divorced women are discussed, it is important to reflect on why. Is marriage seen as an ‘end-all, be-all’ in your life? Are you able to see the value of women outside of a spouse and mother? The end of a marriage does not mean the woman has failed or is any less. It could simply mean that the two were not compatible to continue a healthy relationship.

2.     Stop Others from Discussing the Situation

An unfortunate situation that transpired is not a topic of conversation for others to have when they are sitting around bored with family and friends. If you hear your circles gossiping about somebody else’s situation, remind them that it is not any of their business. You could also redirect the conversation to speak about combatting the stigma of divorces.

3.     Offer Your Time

Going through a divorce can often be extremely lonely and isolating. That person was once sharing their time, space, and love with somebody who is no longer present in their life. They may also be ostracized by community and family members because of the divorce. Offer to meet up to help her get her mind off the divorce and have a nice time. It might be a bit nerve-wracking to see somebody who has gone through such a rough time, and it is OK not to know what to say. Sharing a physical space and just being with them makes all the difference.

4.     Listen Without Judgment

It is best not to ask questions about the divorce unless she brings it up on her own. If she does, give her the space to speak about her experience without interrogating her or making judgments about the situation that occurred. When she is ready, somebody being an ear while she is processing difficult emotions may be extremely helpful. If you feel comfortable, you can also ask her what she needs from you at the moment.

5.     Don’t Make Her Relive It

She might not wish to talk about the divorce and events that unfolded since it can bring up traumatic feelings that she is trying to work through. If this is the case, try bringing up topics outside of marriage and relationships including asking what she is doing to take care of herself, and if she is eating well and sleeping enough.

Often, a divorced woman is left with no other choice than to leave the marriage, and the support from others can make a terrible situation into something easier to deal with.

In Surah Talaq, Allah (swt) relays the rules of divorce in the first seven verses. Verse 2 of the chapter states:

أَجَلَهُنَّ فَأَمْسِكُوهُنَّ بِمَعْرُوفٍ أَوْ فَارِقُوهُنَّ بِمَعْرُوفٍۢ 

Retain them honourably or separate from them honourably.”

If God is demanding the spouse to part with the woman honorably, who are we as a community to not accept divorced women with honor?

Note: This is not to say that men do not need support during a divorce. This article was intended to support divorced women, but the general advice may also be applied to men.

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