Help me help a friend get on her feet (failed marriage, broke)

I have a friend who has been having a rough time lately. We’re in our early 20’s and I understand times are rough for people our age, but for her, I have a little extra sympathy. She’s made some self-admittable mistakes and I as a friend, I need to help her, but I need some advice from the dopers… I’ve never been in her situation so I don’t know where to start.

So about her: She’s not in college but she has a job. The job is part-time (all the hours she can get) My first thought is “Get a new job!” but that’s really not the best option because although she’d limited by hours, she gets a very good healthcare package where almost everything is covered. I was naive and stubborn in my testosterone filled response of “Get a better job!” but now I’m sympathetic and I honestly want to help her get on her feet.

She’s a smart girl and has an interest in helping people. We talked until the sun came up in the morning about what she wants to do in her life. I can tell childcare, teaching, taking care of the disabled is something that would make her genuinely happy in life. However, jobs like that don’t just ‘jump up’ especially in southern illinois.

I extended a helping hand to her because I would do anything for my friends. I’ve lent her money (and she’s paid me back on time, everytime!) She’s staying with me, currently and we both know it isn’t permanent. I hope to help her fillin some gaps.

She’s young, and her decisions spurred from a mistake by getting married at 19. She was in an abusive relationship and she was smart enough to leave his sorry A$$! I have a feeling that the abusive relationship she came from is a large factor contributing to why she can’t make ‘big decisions’ on her own. Although the marriage was short lived, it left a deep psychological scar.

At this point, i realize, I’m jumping around here… I apologize… please bear with me.

I suggested a LINK card (We’re in Illinois… Southern Illinois) Although this goes against what I stand for, I admit, she needs it. She’s just on the border of eligibility. I’m sure this could help her but I can tell she doesn’t want to be on it long term.

None of this really is long term though… Unless she gets a job and back on her feet… she obviously can’t stay with me forever! I know her intentions are good and I want to help her do anything I can to help. But I don’t know where to start.

Have any of you dopers any ideas? I’m sure someone’s been in her situation before or know someone who has… What can I do to help her, but more importantly what advice can I give her?

Thank you all!

After leaving an abusive relationship, there are many resources out there. I’d suggest that she not stay with you, but rather in a battered women’s shelter and/or subsized housing for women in a similiar situation. I say that because she may very well need the other services these places offer, instead of just someone to stay with. If she doesn’t get some counseling and education about why she has made the choices that she has, she could very well end up in the same situation. I’d say her chance of ending up right back where she started with another abusive relationship is pretty high. Consider that staying with a friend and attempting to get on your feet with only a part-time job to do it with sounds very stressful and highly likely to fail.

It may not be a very comfortable thing to ponder, of course staying with a caring friend is way better than going to a shelter, but the ends may justify the means if it means she will get help for issues from housing to education and you probably can’t do that for her.

I’m not an expert, but I’ve had some experience in this area. I volunteered at a local women’s and children’s shelter long ago when I was working for my human services degree. One of the best things I can suggest is to be supportive of your friend, which it sounds like you’re doing. She also sounds like she has her head together, which is a good sign. Encourage her decisions, and help her out where you can. It seems like you’ve already done that. :slight_smile: However, support isn’t about giving advice or taking care of people. It’s about helping people get the information they need to make decisions.

I’d suggest an “empowerment” route. You mention that she can’t make big decisions on her own. I had a friend who could not make big decisions as well, and our circle of friends took a supportive “hands off” role, which worked well. What I mean by that is, rather than suggesting what she should do, or telling her what WE would do, we sat with her and helped her make lists of pros and cons for the choices she had. We let her take the lead. When she came up with an obstacle in the path of one of the choices, we helped her find the resources to overcome them.

For example, “I can’t go back to school. I don’t have the money”. We helped find organizations that give scholarships to people in her situation, low interest loans, and grant applications, and put those in her hands. The decision to apply was up to her. We didn’t tell her that she SHOULD go back to school, merely pointed her to the resources that would make that a possibility if she wanted to. The rest was up to her, and we made that clear. “You say you can’t go back to school, because of a lack of finances. I say if you WANT to go back to school, here are the resources you can utilize to make that happen.”

Your friend needs her own successes, and that’s not going to happen if you seem to be making decisions for her, or suggesting what she SHOULD do. You say she has scars from a relationship in which all her decisions were made for her. You taking on that role can’t have good results long term, no matter how you look at it.

Good luck to you and your friend. It sounds like she has a caring person on her side, and that’s a big plus.

Unless she has kids or major health problems, two part-time jobs are not out of the question at all. I agree that having good benefits with a job that comes up a little short on the $$ side can be better than a job that pays a little more $$, but has no benefits.

If your friend is able to to find some resources like Megyn describes, a career in nursing could be something that she could succeed with. I don’t know how different the situation is between Michigan and Southern Illinois, but here in MI there is a huge nursing shortage.

I’m in the same point in my life right now, and I have some friends making some decisions like your friend. I think that Megyn’s approach is a sound one and she’ll do well to have someone like you in her corner.

Your friend is lucky to have help and brave to move from a bad place to a better one. Leaving an abusive relationship is hard, even though it sounds like a no-brainer, it is hard to do. Some things that sound easy, sound like they are no big deal can be very hard. Applying to school, for financial aid, for scholarships means asking for help, telling strangers your story, letting them keep tabs on your life and committing to change under others’ supervision.
It’s hard and so worth it.
I kept telling myself I would be 40 before I was done, but I’d be 40 with an RN or 40 working retail for minimum wage, and I’d still be 40.
There are many programs to help women changing careers, continuing education and out of abusive relationships. It can be tiresome to hunt them down and it make take years, but 5 years from now she will be 24 in the same place or in a better place. Best of luck and hard work to her.
Cyn, RN nee motel housekeeping.

All of your responses are great! Megyn I would like to specially thank you for your words and I wanted to let you know that I’m taking your advice… I’m actually taking all of the advice on this post and sitting down to talk to her later about what SHE wants.

I’m going to use all of my resources and connections to help her get wherever she wants to be. Before she left for work this morning, I told her that I wanted to talk to her later about everything but I made sure that I said it with a smile so she doesn’t think it’s some kind of “attack” or intervention… She’s still safe here. The thing that makes this the easiest is the lack of intimate feelings towards each other and pure friendship we have. I’m sure it would be different for me if things were revesed.

I made it clear that I want to find out what she wants and how we can do it. I made it very clear that no matter what: it is her decision and I will support and help her no matter what the decision is.

I’ll throw ideas around and brainstorm with her but ultimately it is her decision. I think she would make a great nurse and I will let her know that she has the positive characteristics that would fit the position “to a tee”… If that’s what she chooses, I’ll certainly be looking into the various options of financial aid, loans, etc. But this is hypothetically saying that she believes being a nurse is for her.

I plan on doing all of this research after she makes her mind up, without her knowing that I’m looking into things as well. That way, she can get the information she needs on her own while I do too. This would eliminate the feeling of having to reliance on me if I put the ball in her court… I want to be a helper, not the actual solution. I would like to make it easy but let her make the steps.

does anyone have any idea where I can find information on nursing and the areas which need it most? If I know this and she believes that this is the best job for her, I could say “great! You know _______ is shorthanded on nurses and I don’t think you would have a problem getting a job!” Then we could go about financial aid.

overall, I think I’m taking the approach of the adage “gave a (wo)man a fish, feed him/her for a day, Teach a (wo)man to fish feed him/her for a lifetime” (Of course changed around for the situation)

Thanks again and keep the words coming… I need as much inspiration as she does!