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My friend is in crisis. What can I do?
June 8, 2012 11:44 AM   Subscribe

My friend is in extreme crisis after his wife of seven years left him completely out of the blue. I'm not sure what to do to help him. Relevant details inside.

My friend called yesterday afternoon to say his wife of seven years had indicated she was unsure about the future of the marriage and was leaving the house to spend time with a friend. Today, he called to tell me she called it quits.

They have one child, an 18-month-old girl, together. She has one son from a previous marriage, and he has three other daughters. Primary custody for all of the kids has been with my friend and his wife.

He's a writer who has had a number of books published, but makes almost no income from his writing. Until a recent health-problem, he worked full time as an in-home caretaker for individuals with severe disabilities. The health problems (severe heart condition) have forced him to cut back on his hours. She's a teacher and makes more money, especially now that his hours are down.

His parents live 700 miles away, and they aren't particularly close anyway. I'm his closest friend, and I have little to offer in the way of support aside from whatever encouraging words I can muster to try to ease his pain.

He's really freaking out right now about the future, both immediate and long-term. He's on medication for depression to boot. I really want to figure out something concrete that can be offered to get him through this, but I'm coming up blank.

This is all occurring in semi-rural Kansas, U.S.A., where social services are lacking, to say the least. Any suggestions/ideas would be greatly appreciated.
posted by ronofthedead to Human Relations (19 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
Considering the depression and health problems, I have a feeling your friend is going to start eating like absolute shit right about now, and that's going to exacerbate things. If you can cook, make him some food. If you can't, fill up his fridge with good, healthy food.
posted by griphus at 11:48 AM on June 8, 2012 [13 favorites]


Does he belong to any other social groups? Does he have other close friends? Maybe you could set up a group of people to visit and be with him or you could.

I have little to offer in the way of support aside from whatever encouraging words I can muster to try to ease his pain.

Just go and listen. It's enough.

If you feel he's maybe a danger to himself, I would call a suicide hotline for advice.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 11:50 AM on June 8, 2012


Just keep offering moral support and emotional-handholding for now --- do NOT badmouth his wife, because this MIGHT blow over and you don't want to be remembered for insulting her! If possible, spend time with him, maybe take him and the kids out to dinner once in a while (even a fast food place will give a them a break), or else spend time with him at his place making dinner or watching TV.
posted by easily confused at 11:50 AM on June 8, 2012


Has she left any/all of the kids with him, or has she taken them with her?
posted by batmonkey at 11:54 AM on June 8, 2012


Just be patient and listen. My 15-year relationship with my ex wife ended unexpectedly, and I was in total shock for months. I am still, and will forever be, grateful to the good friends who listened to me try to process what was going on, took me to the movies, went on walks, had me over for Battlestar Galactica marathons, fed me soup!

There were no kids, and I had a job, so there are issues confronting your friend that I didn't have to face.

But the listening helps so much.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 12:01 PM on June 8, 2012 [5 favorites]


I have little to offer in the way of support aside from whatever encouraging words I can muster to try to ease his pain.

This is plenty. Sometimes, you don't even need the words. Just be there and listen. You don't have to offer advice; just listen and let your friend know you're hearing how hard this is. That kind of receptive kindness is invaluable.
posted by Elsa at 12:04 PM on June 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


This only literally just happened. The first 24-48 hours after any breakup is the "wail and rend garments and have a complete meltdown" stage. I know it doesn't look pretty, but I think it's kind of important to just totally completely lose it if you need to and get that out of your system.

Let him. Listen and be there for him. Be the one to take care of the kids just for the next couple days, so he can have his meltdown.

And if you're looking for something to say, something I've often said in similar situations was that I really wished I could think of the most perfect thing to say that would magically make everything all better.

Both of you hang in there.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:11 PM on June 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


At the moment, she has the baby. The older kids are with their other parents until tomorrow or Sunday. (And I'm guessing that's why she chose this time to put this out there.) After that, I would assume the stepson and baby will go with her, and the girls will stay with him. Which is awful for them, too. They've been together as a family unit for over seven years.

Thanks for all the kind words and suggestions, folks.
posted by ronofthedead at 12:21 PM on June 8, 2012


I'm wondering about his financial situation - will the wife keep paying towards the house? Will he have enough to support himself and the girls from his writing alone? Will he be eligible for any government benefits because of his health condition? I know the timing is rough but I think he needs to look into what jobs he can get to give him a more reliable income; and ways to save money - could you help him with that?
posted by EatMyHat at 12:27 PM on June 8, 2012


Financials are a big part of the equation. She did tell him he could stay on her insurance for now. He's actually applied for disability insurance already. He's in the three-month "wait and see" portion of the process.

There appears to be a bit of possible good news on the horizon. An old, old friend of his may come on board as a roommate in the house my friend and his wife are currently renting, which would release some of that financial pressure. Got my fingers crossed on that one, because things will get really difficult without something along those lines happening.
posted by ronofthedead at 12:40 PM on June 8, 2012


Let him know he needs to get a lawyer to ensure the children are all looked after financially. If he can't think to call one, get recommendations.
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 12:43 PM on June 8, 2012 [5 favorites]


Do some research and try to find him a family law lawyer to meet with. Or at least identify some and narrow it down to, say, three for him to look into.

I also like the idea of making sure he has some good and easy food in his fridge.
posted by J. Wilson at 12:58 PM on June 8, 2012


First thing to do is help him find a good lawyer. It'll pay off.
posted by Hollywood Upstairs Medical College at 1:20 PM on June 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


Consider helping him meet with a respected local family lawyer who can tell him what to expect and whether he may be entitled to spousal support/alimony or child support. Encourage your friend not to use alcohol or drugs to deal with this issue since that will (a) make it worse, and (b) lead to potential legal problems down the road in the event the divorce becomes contentious.

When I went through a horrible breakup with a long-term SO, having friends available and who dragged me out of the house really helped, even though it sometimes seemed like a hassle at the time.
posted by Hylas at 1:36 PM on June 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


If she makes more money, I think he would be eligible for alimony, not to mention child support payments. That's why he needs to talk to a lawyer, stat.
posted by musofire at 1:45 PM on June 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


He's actually applied for disability insurance already. He's in the three-month "wait and see" portion of the process.

He will probably be denied. I think all SSDI applications are denied the first time; it's ridiculous. At which point, he's going to need a SSDI lawyer for his appeal, which seems to mostly take a minimum of one year. So the bad news is that in no way is this likely to get better any time soon.

So really, the best and most practical thing you can do right now as his friend is a) help him find a divorce lawyer and find out about spousal support, and b) find out about benefits, particularly food stamps and I guess TANF. In fact, a lot of non-employed spouses are thrown into poverty by divorce, so his lawyer may actually be very familiar with the benefits process.
posted by DarlingBri at 3:10 PM on June 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


If he is located anywhere near Wichita, let me know. My family lives there and I could put some feelers out to see if there is anyone who could help him. Send me an email if applicable.
posted by tacodave at 3:25 PM on June 8, 2012


DarlingBri: "He will probably be denied. I think all SSDI applications are denied the first time; it's ridiculous. At which point, he's going to need a SSDI lawyer for his appeal, which seems to mostly take a minimum of one year. So the bad news is that in no way is this likely to get better any time soon. "

This is true. My ex-roommate had debilitating rheumatism; took him over two years to get approved, and he was VERY proactive in following up. If he had also had mental health issues, I don't know how he could have won.

--

That aside, your friend should ask his doctor for anti-depressants to help him through this horrible period. Modern ones won't make him numb. They'll just take the sharpest edge off the pain.
posted by IAmBroom at 7:09 AM on June 9, 2012


And he must lawyer up. MUST. This is something you can do as a friend: take him to a divorce lawyer, or convince him to make the appointment himself.
posted by IAmBroom at 7:10 AM on June 9, 2012


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