My best friend just called me in tears, saying that she and her partner have decided to separate.
Of course I gave her my shoulder to cry on and told her to call me any time she needs an ear, but I also feel like I want to send her something to help her through the trauma of these early days of her separation.
The first few weeks of a separation can be fucking intense. The grief, the loss, even a sense of physical pain… it’s weird that something so common is so awful! Offering your ear is the most important thing you can give to any friend experiencing a profound loss or recovering from a trauma, but we get it: sometimes you want to give something more to offer your comfort. Of course you know your friend and their interests best, but here are our suggestions for great gifts for a friend going through a divorce or an epic break-up of any kind…
Read to them at night
Nights can be difficult and especially lonely for the newly-separated, as time that used to be spent curling up on the couch watching Netflix together suddenly becomes… empty. If you live nearby, offer to come over and read to them.
What to read? It’s totally up to them — some folks might like catharsis, reading books about loss by folks like Pema Chödrön or Stephen Levine, while others might want distracting comfort reading like Harry Potter. Reading provides a nice way to be together, without talking about the situation.
If it feels right, hold their hand while you read to them.
Bonus points if you rub their hands while you read.
Triple bonus points if you read until they fall asleep.
Ok, sure: everyone gives candles for every possible occasion, but candles can take on a special meaning for folks going through a loss… again, this is especially true of lonely nights. And duh: lots of candles smell good, which can make an empty house feel a little less lonesome at night.
Obviously, this is a dumb gift if your friend is sensitive to fragrances… you might want to double check that, first. Remember that scented candles doesn’t have to mean cloying and predictable — think of Old Books or Tatooine.
Self-care products like makeup or hair stuff
This is another one that depends on the friend — obviously your favorite butch recovering from her transman’s departure might not be into a box of sparkly shit from Sephora. But they might be into a gift pack of their pomade or styling wax. Break-ups can be tough on self-esteem, and lots of folks need a little extra support remembering that their body is a wonderland. Bath, body, hair, and makeup products are silly and superficial, but can be great gifts.
Bring them food
Break-ups can be weirdly physical, and remembering to eat can be hard. Bring food over, or have food delivered. If there’s an app-based like Munchery available in your area, you can even get them a gift certificate — but good ol’ fashioned take-out works just fine, too.
Really, the best gift you can give is your ear, your time, and a shoulder to cry on. Avoid platitudes (“…everything happens for a reason…”) or even reassurance (“…it’ll get better…”) and just focus on listening and handing over the kleenex.
Heartbreak survivors: what helped you during your darkest hours?