Suicide is considered a serious public health problem. More people die of suicide than of homicide.
For over a hundred years, research findings have supported the idea that marriage is an antidote, or is at least protective, against suicide. This hypothesis seems most consistent for men, although this may be a result of smaller numbers of suicides in women overall, and the lack of statistical power to nail down the effects of marital status among women who commit suicide.
What does this mean?
To me, it means that when your friend, sibling, parent, neighbor, or child gets divorced, you get close to them. Don’t withdraw, as so many people do, because you miss that person’s other half, or because you feel awkward and don’t know what to say. And don’t withdraw, as so many people do, because you judge the divorced person as different, testy, weepy, guilty, selfish, or too busy dating, or too depressing, to be around.
Invite them to lunch. Invite them to dinner. Invite them to sleep over on Christmas Eve and New Year’s and on their birthdays. Call them –too much. Pester them with care, with meals, with movie invitations, with potted plants and boxes of hand me downs. Anything. Just be there.
And this advice doesn’t just apply for the first month or two that the person is living single. They’ll be just as shell-shocked and lonely the next year, and the year after that.
You might have gotten used to the idea that your loved one is divorced and single, but he/she hasn’t gotten used to being so alone.
Being divorced, even if the divorce was necessary and good and a welcome turn of events, is painful.
I felt like I’d been orphaned in this universe when I got divorced. I developed sleeping problems. I missed certain things about marriage– even though I was truly better off.
I had nobody next to me. Not even a mean and abusive body. Nobody. Not in a movie theater, not in my bed, not at church. If my car broke down, there was no automatic person to call.
I had to think: who can give me a jumpstart, a gallon of gas at the side of the road, or how would I get the pickle jar to open?
Would I call my neighbor? My brother? The guy I’d dated one time? A tow truck company? If I was very sick, who would take out the trash, do the shopping, or pick up the kids from school? Unless I figured out who to ask to help.
And those are just the small things– think of the bigger ones; financial turmoil, emotional and sexual issues, and child discipline.
So take care of your loved ones, and stay close to those you know who divorce. They’ll need you, more than you (or they) might realize.