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21 October 2017Last updated
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Ask the expert: my friend is in self-pity mode

It’s always difficult to watch people you are close to suffering emotional distress

Russell Hemmings.
3 Jul 2015 | 12:00 am

A close friend is getting a divorce and has gone in to self-pity mode. If I tell him that he needs to stay positive and take steps to come out of his emotional ordeal, he just says ‘it’s easy to preach but difficult to be the one going through it’. How do I help him?

Let me start by saying how lucky your friend is to have you around. The fact that you have written to ask for advice 
on how to help him shows you are 
the type of caring person most 
people would want on their side 
during tough times.

It’s always difficult to watch people you are close to suffering emotional distress. It can make you feel powerless and also frustrated because it often feels like you can see what they need to do very clearly, but they refuse to take any notice. Having helped many people explore and overcome emotional trauma, experience has taught me that everybody deals with things in their own way and at their own pace.

For most people, divorce is a very stressful process. It’s normal to experience emotional extremes, from rage, despair, sadness, guilt and everything in between, especially if children are involved. These feelings are normal; as is the self-pity you refer to. When a serious relationship ends, inevitably there is a grieving process people need to go through before they feel strong enough to move on.

I’m sure you’re not ‘preaching’, but sometimes people going through emotional trauma aren’t quite ready to listen to advice. That seems to be the case with your friend, so instead of offering it, why not just be a shoulder to cry on for a while?

Being someone who will listen might be just what your friend needs for the moment.

You can also encourage him to get involved in something he enjoys. This might distract him briefly from his bigger emotional issues and will help him to feel more positive about the future, reinforcing that there is life after divorce.

Not only can divorce be incredibly traumatic, it can also leave people feeling isolated and unsure about what comes next. So any practical support you can offer to bolster your friend’s self-confidence through actions as opposed to words will help him start to rebuild his life.

Divorce can sometimes feel like you’re trapped in a maze and it takes 
a long time to find the right route out. However, one of the most important things you need at times of crisis are friends and family around you. Just being there, like you obviously are, speaks volumes about you as a friend and with your support, he will gradually become more optimistic.

Russell Hemmings.

Russell Hemmings

Life coach, and clinical and cognitive behavioural hypnotherapist. More info: www.russellhemmings.co.uk / 04 4273627 / 055 2867275.