My friend is a depressed divorced parent: How can I help them?

Marriage is hard, but divorce can be harder, which is why depression can occur after a married couple breaks up. While the rate of marriage is 5.1 marriages per every 1,000 people, divorce has a rate of 2.3 per every 1,000 people. As an adult, you probably know at least one person who has been divorced. But when that person is close to you, it can be hard to see how much they’re struggling after their marriage has ended.

A divorce is a life-changing event that can result in many negative emotions, especially sadness. This is especially true if your friend is a divorced dad or mom, as having children in the mix makes the emotional process even more difficult. They can feel a sense of guilt for putting their kids through a hard situation, or feel like they disappointed them. 

Your friend is most likely struggling both mentally and emotionally, making it possible that they may develop major depressive disorder, or depression. 

How to tell if your divorced friend is depressed

As much as people often blur the lines between the two, there is a difference between being sad and being depressed. Depression is set apart from general sadness based on the length and severity of the downcast emotions. Sadness is a temporary emotion that will ease up as time passes. Depression is persistent and can linger for months, and even years, sometimes without any cause behind it.

While people can be sad about something, like a death occurring in the family, they can still handle their day-to-day responsibilities and maintain relationships. Depression can damage a person’s everyday life. Either one of these can come from divorce.

Major depressive disorder can be diagnosed by a mental health expert based on certain criteria. A person must have at least five symptoms during a two-week period, including feeling down or a loss of interest in life, to be diagnosed with depression.

Depression can also cause people to feel an all-encompassing mood of hopelessness that can manifest in many different ways. A few other symptoms of depression include: 

  • Feeling sad on a nearly daily basis
  • Loss of pleasure in activities
  • Lack of motivation
  • Low energy levels
  • Significant weight changes
  • Decreased concentration and decision-making abilities
  • Suicidal ideation

4 ways to help your friend who is a depressed divorced parent

It may be difficult to connect with a friend who is going through a divorce if you’ve never had one yourself. But there are still things that you can do to help them work through the situation and alleviate their depression symptoms. 

  • Check in — When people go through hard situations, they tend to keep to themselves, as they don’t want to seem like a burden to others or bring them down with their melancholy. But just checking in can make a big difference. It shows that someone cares enough to take time out of their day to ensure that they know there are people on their side. It also lets them know that you’re there to listen whenever they’re ready.
  • Actively listen — It’s always easy to say, “I’m here to listen” to your friend during hard times. But it’s important that you show how genuine and truthful your statement is. By giving them your undivided attention and showing genuine interest in their feelings, they will see that they aren’t alone. You can also ask questions like, “What do you need from me?” as they may just need a place to vent, as opposed to actual advice or insight.
  • Offer help with logistics — When a long-term relationship comes to an end, there are often logistics that need to be handled, especially if the couple lived together or have children. You can offer to help them out with errands or chores as a way to ease some of their stress. Asking if you could bring over food or pick up their kids from school can prevent them from feeling overwhelmed. 
  • Be empathetic — Many people often confuse sympathy for empathy. If you’re helping your friend through something as personal and painful as a divorce, they need you to connect with them, not feel bad for them. Being understanding as opposed to pitying shows your divorced friend that while they’re going through a difficult situation, they aren’t being seen as someone who needs to be tiptoed around. 

Lightfully Behavioral Health can assist with depression from divorce

When your friend is a divorced parent, your support can have a positive impact on them throughout the process. But treatment might be necessary if they are showing signs of depression, and that’s where our team of licensed, clinical therapists comes in.

We provide four programs that can assist people with major depressive disorder on their mental health treatment journey: residential treatment, Virtual Intensive Outpatient Program (vIOP), Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP), and Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP), also called our Day Treatment Program.

Change is possible. When your friend is ready to treat their depression from divorce, reach out to our Admissions Concierge Team. We’ll take the next steps together, toward their fullest, brightest version of themself.

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