Friends always say “Whatever you need, call me.” And they mean it. Trouble is, when you’ve been shattered, asking for any kind of help just reinforces the sense that you are a big, hot mess.
Plus, trying to come up with a way for your friends to get you past some of what you’re feeling at the moment seems like an impossible task. Better to stay home alone again, right?
So why not e-mail this article to all your friends instead? It will make it easier for them to get in the driver’s seat in helping you get through these hard months.
I NEED YOU TO: Call me up and say, “Hey! Let me take you out for margaritas on Friday!” And if I say no, promise you’ll call again in a week or two and try again. Sometimes the last-minute plans work best. It’s hard to put dates on the calendar to go out and have fun when you’re living through so much heartbreak.
So pay attention to what night the kids (if there are any) are out with their other parent and call the day before. Chances are good I haven’t made any plans, and you’ll be saving me from another lonely night at home staring at the wall and wondering how I got here.
I NEED YOU TO: Send me stupid/cute/funny YouTube videos that I probably won’t watch. But I’ll be happy to know that someone is trying to keep me on the light side of things.
And someday when I’m scrolling through my in-box (maybe on a night I told you I wasn’t up for going out for margaritas), I’ll start watching the sneezing baby panda or the cat bowling or the always-good-for-a-laugh Justin Timberlake/Beyonce SNL skit.
And then I’ll be so grateful for the distraction that was sent to me with love and friendship good intent instead of just mindlessly surfing the Web for shoes on sale for the 1,000th time.
I NEED YOU TO: Buy or cook me some healthy food that you know I like. It’s not like I lost my arms when I lost my spouse, but for some reason, cooking dinner for myself just seems like a total waste of time, after I’d been so used to making meals for two for a decade. So dinner has rapidly devolved into things I can take from the freezer and heat and eat without too much attention or interest.
I want to be reminded that I actually do want to eat fresh tabbouleh salad and grilled salmon, but I need someone to put it in front of me! Help me make this first step toward starting to take care of myself again.
I NEED YOU TO: Send me a card, or three. Getting a piece of mail, even a dopey card, is a reminder that someone is thinking about the fact that I’m going through a hard time.
It feels especially good because I open the mail when I’ve come home after work, and I’m tired, and I’m entering a house that doesn’t have a spouse, and I have to to put on a game face for my child, and then face the empty hours in the house alone after they’ve gone to bed.
The card in the mail is a guarantee for a little less self-loathing that night, company with no strings attached. Sounds good, right? Get thee to a card store, pronto!
I NEED YOU TO: Ask me to go for a walk, and ask again and again until I say yes.
Yes, I know that it’s true that moving my body and getting my heart rate up has huge positive impact on mood, metabolism and mindspace. But sometimes it’s all I can do to go to work and get home and collapse on the sofa.
So keep suggesting that you’ll take a short, 15-minute walk with me: “It’ll do you some good, and I promise we don’t have to talk about anything if you don’t want to.” Do it until I say yes. I will say yes eventually, especially if it’s nice out, and then I’ll realize that (1) nature calms, (2) walking and not talking with someone you trust is healing, and (3) my body releases stress just by moving it without the specific intent of getting from Point A to Point B.
But one important tip: Do not turn this walk into interview time. “How are you? What’s happening with the divorce? How are the kids?”
These questions are already on constant playback in my mind, and they don’t have definite answers. What I desperately need is accepting, loving company and some empty space in my head. Thank you for helping me with that.
I NEED YOU TO: Come up with ideas of fun things to do with my/our kids.
Parenting is very overwhelming in the initial stages of a breakup, and the creativity of my parenting has dropped by about, oh, 98.5%, as I’ve been adjusting to doing everything on my own. (Yes, I might have already thought I was doing everything on my own before the breakup, but after the separation comes the brutal realization that having another body in the house is a huge help, no matter what they did or didn’t do.)
So if you’ve just bought tickets to a Dan Zanes concert or are planning to go to the local science museum, pick up the phone and call me!
I do know that I should be filling those long weekend stretches of being a single parent with activities, but frankly, making advance plans is often more than I can handle.
So if I get a call from you on Saturday morning saying, “Hey, I’m taking the kids out for dim sum, want to join us?” I will probably shout “Yes! Yes! Yes! Oh God, thank you for saving me from another blank Saturday.”
And the best part? I bet my child will get really tired from all the fun, and will go fast to sleep without a peep – - and then I’ll enjoy my few hours of alone time that night feeling like I might be working out as a parent, after all.
This article was featured on CNN.com.