DEAR HARRIETTE: One of my best friends just confided in me that she and her husband are getting divorced. I am shocked. They seemed to be a solid couple. They have been married for years, and their youngest child has just left for college. I’ve heard about the empty nest syndrome, where couples sometimes break up when the kids are gone. I didn’t think this would happen to them. I’m not quite sure what to do. We are friends with both the husband and the wife. How do I support my friend and deal with the grief I am feeling over what’s to come? -- In the Middle, Fairfax, Virginia
DEAR IN THE MIDDLE: When couples break up, the divorce affects many more than the two of them or even their nuclear family. Usually it is difficult for people to stay close to both the husband and wife, simply due to logistics. You can try to maintain both relationships and watch to see how things unfold. You certainly can remain kind and discreet to both of them. It is best for you not to discuss the details of their relationship with anyone, even when you have “juicy” details. Keep that information confidential. It will help you to remain neutral as you also avoid fueling the fire of gossip that is bound to emerge in the coming months.
In terms of how you are feeling, be honest with yourself and with them. Admit that you are deeply saddened about their breakup. You can even encourage them to get counseling before they make it final. You may need counseling yourself depending on how you manage emotionally in the coming months. Getting professional support is better than relying on friends.