The decision to divorce after a long-term marriage is never an easy one. All divorce decisions are difficult, but in some ways, it's harder than ever later in life. It's been called "gray divorce" and it has its own set of issues.

By the time we pass our mid-50s, our concerns about single life usually revolve around our financial security, family issues and the deep, personal question; "This late in life, will we find romance again?"  

If a couple divorces later in life, you can be sure that at least one of them has considered every alternative and concluded that there is no alternative.  What there IS, though, is a need for the love and support of friends.  Sometimes, that's not as forthcoming as you'd think.

If a friend is going through a divorce, he or she is in need of four kinds of support:

Be there.  It's always a shock when friends disappear after a divorce. Sometimes it's because they feel they'd have to take sides, other times because they're uncomfortable and don't know what to say. In a few cases, a couple in a weak relationship might be threatened by a divorce so close to them, as if it were contagious.

A friend going through a gray divorce needs his or her friends more than ever. Invite them to a movie, sporting event or coffee. Don't exclude them from a party, let them decide if they want to come.  They may not initiate, themselves but reaching out in support is always a good idea. Yes, even if they are not ready to respond.

A non-judgmental attitude.  You may have your own opinions about their relationship or divorce in general. Now is not the time to share them, even if they ask, "do you think I'm doing the right thing?"  The best answer is "what do you think?"  because even if  you know one or both of the couple very well, you are not privy to their private, long-term relationship.  It's not your decision to make.  Weighing in on their decision can bounce back to hurt your friendship, too.

A safe place to vent.  When people emotions run high, venting is necessary. Your friend may want to let off steam and in the process, you may hear some unsavory things.  It's best to just let your friend talk and not make any comment on the prurient details.  Comments such as "It must have been really hard for you" or "I'm so sorry to hear this" provide support without opinion.

Let them decide when to move on.  You may know the perfect match for them, but they may not be ready to date. At some point, your friend will appreciate being set up but let them take the lead on that. 

And it is always a bad idea to set up your friend's ex.  After I divorced, some good but tone-deaf friends of mine immediately tried to set up my ex with one of their friends. Since the divorce was my idea, I'm certain they thought it would be ok with me, but it wasn't, not so soon. No matter whose idea the divorce was, there is always an adjustment period. Be sensitive to it.

The simple act of being a friend is the very best thing you can do when someone close to you goes through a difficult life event, such as ending a long-term marriage.

 

Carol Cassara is a writer and ordained minister who believes in living fully in every color of the rainbow. Her essays have appeared in Skirt! magazine, the Christian Science Monitor, several Chicken Soup for the Soul anthologies, on public radio and other venues. After a long career as a corporate communications executive, she is enjoying having more time to write, travel and just enjoy life. When she's not traveling the world, she lives in the San Francisco Bay area with her husband and crazy little maltipoo. Her daily blog inspirations for creating our best lives can be found at www.carolcassara.com.