A person I know online from a writing site recently had her parents get divorced. I first messaged her about a month or two ago, probably mid December before Christmas. As far as I can tell, which isn't much, she lives in Texas somewhere and is 14 years old. We don't really know much about each other, I just help her with her writing, and she probably knows my name and age IRL (16), but other than the stories I post, that's about it.

I want to be supportive and help her, but as we barely know each other, have never met, neither of us have really tried to befriend the other, and my general lack of how humans work, I don't know how to do that.

I know next to nothing about the divorce, here is the message that I was sent via the sites built in PM function;

I'm sorry, but lately my parents got divorced. I don't feel like writing anymore. I may write in a few months, but I don't feel like anything now. I'm very sorry. If you still want to be my beta, you can wait for a few months, if you don't, it ok. You can find someone else to beta read.

Here's the response I would send:

Sorry to hear that.

I totally understand you not wanting to write at the moment. Once things settle down, writing is a good way to vent a bit, even if nothing is posted. I can't say I know what you're going through, but I've seen it and know it can be tough. Just keep on keepin on.

I'll be active like I am until mid-May(when my school year ends), and after that I'll still be active, just a tad bit less, if any. If you need someone to talk to, I'll be here. Honestly... I'm not the best at comforting people, or just people in general, but for what it's worth I'm here. If you need anything, betas, advice, help with schoolwork, someone to listen, or whatever it is you need, I'm here.

Hope things work out and get better.

Now I feel like I did something wrong in the wording or something, but don't know what. I kinda feel like this is being tad bit too supportive, mainly because it's someone she doesn't really know offering quite a bit(for someone you don't really know, if we were better friends I probably wouldn't feel so weird about it.)

How can I support someone I don't really know through a divorce without overdoing it?


1 Answer 1


I've been divorced myself, which isn't exactly the same situation as what your acquaintance is going through, but it's similar enough for me to give advice. I personally had someone I didn't know hardly at all offer support and someone to talk to. I was too overwhelmed at the time to take her up on it, but I still appreciated it, especially in retrospect.

I'd say what you did was mostly appropriate: you offered to help, listed some examples to make it clear the sort of support you're willing to give, but didn't apply any pressure. The only thing I'd criticize is you offered a bit of unsolicited advice ("writing can help" and "keep on keeping on"). As a general rule, you shouldn't offer advice unless it's asked for, and that's especially true for someone you barely know. You don't know how they feel, so your advice is probably not helpful.

At this point, since it's been a month, it'd be okay to send a short follow-up message reiterating that you understand they're struggling with something that takes precedence over writing, that you're still happy to wait a few months to be their beta reader (assuming that's true, you didn't explicitly address it in your original message), and that your offer of support is still valid, although they're under no obligation to accept it.

It's possible they're not bothering to monitor their messages on that site, so if you don't get any response, don't despair. I'm sure you haven't offended them in any way, they're just not prioritizing their writing hobby right now. Chances are they have other sources of support they're leaning on, so they don't need yours, but it's still very kind of you to offer.

If your friend does decide to talk about what's going on, simply listen and show empathy when you can. Don't offer advice unless they ask for it. That may seem like you're not doing anything, but having a nonjudgmental ear to talk to can be a big help when processing events like that.

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