Getting through a breakup takes support and can be a heart-wrenching experience at any age. Most of us have had to deal with the loss of a relationship at some point in our lives. The emotional crisis triggered by a breakup can last for several weeks, months, or years depending on different factors such as the closeness of the relationship and the reasons behind the split.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- What Should You Understand Before You Help a Friend Through a Breakup?
- What Should You Say to a Friend Going Through a Breakup?
- What Should You NOT Say to a Friend Going Through a Breakup?
- Tips for Helping a Close Friend Through a Breakup
- Tips for Helping a Close Friend Through a Breakup Who Lives Far Away
Everyone has a unique experience after the loss of a relationship. The emotional scars left behind aren’t any less traumatizing for the person who did the leaving than for the person who was left. The experience is simply a different one for each person.
What Should You Understand Before You Help a Friend Through a Breakup?
Before attempting to help a friend through a significant breakup, it's essential to understand that it'll be challenging to offer support—but the effort almost always pays off in the end.
Immediately following the end of a relationship, your friend will most likely be feeling depressed and unmotivated. These are natural and normal grief responses following a significant loss, such as a serious relationship. Your friend is probably struggling to make it through the day, and they might even be unable to perform their day-to-day activities.
The grief reactions of a breakup are similar to other significant losses that create feelings of profound pain and sorrow. Understand that there's nothing you can say or do to make your friend feel better about their situation.
You shouldn't always try to come up with something funny or clever to cheer them up. Often, even the most well-intended attempts at making someone feel better can backfire, creating tension between the two of you, insteads.
Breakups are rarely easy to deal with. They have the potential to destroy friendships, or at the very least, effectively drive a wedge between the two of you. Knowing what to say and do when helping a friend in this situation is vital to keeping your friendship intact.
What Should You Say to a Friend Going Through a Breakup?
A friend suffering from the loss of a relationship might not be able to see anything past their pain and sorrow. They may not recognize the good intentions behind your attempt to help them get through this challenging time.
The grieving process is different for every person. Some people can handle the loss of a relationship much better than others. And some might even push people away because they don’t know how to deal with their emotions. Those who fall under this last category of grief-stricken individuals will likely end up feeling isolated, misunderstood, and alone despite all the best efforts to help them get through their sorrow.
Knowing what to say to a loved one going through hard times can be challenging and a bit scary because of how easy it is to misunderstand a friend's good intentions. In situations like these, there's never the “right” thing you can say. If you feel the need to say anything, it's usually best to keep things simple and ask your friend what you can do for them instead.
Try saying something like, "I'm sorry you have to go through this. Do you want to talk about it?" Or, "I can't imagine what you must feel. What can I do to help?"
What Should You NOT Say to a Friend Going Through a Breakup?
It’s easy to misunderstand the type of support a friend needs, especially when going through a breakup. People will mourn the loss of a relationship in many different ways. Their grief is affected by their personal history, cultural influence, and even pressure from their family.
Try and avoid comparing your past breakups and heartbreaks to theirs. When you share your stories of loss, it can minimize your friend’s recent experience and make them feel even more isolated. Remind yourself that each experience is different and that there’s no comparison between what you’ve been through and what they’re currently going through.
Try and avoid saying things like, “I know what you’re going through,” or, “I know how you feel.” There’s no possible way to know what someone in this situation is feeling or experiencing unless they tell you.
Tips for Helping a Close Friend Through a Breakup
You can help a close friend move through the grief and disillusionment following a breakup by being supportive of them in their experience. We all need help in times of crisis and can benefit from having the support of a good friend. The following are some ways to support someone who’s going through a tough time.
1. Be there for them
Whenever we experience loss, we need to know that we’re supported. The feeling of knowing that our friends and loved ones are there for us is reassuring. Showing up is the first step in ensuring that you’re there to lend them the support they need while dealing with the aftermath of a breakup.
2. Listen without judgment
After a breakup, you can expect that your friend is experiencing at least some of the stages of grief. The stages of grief can include disbelief, isolation, anger, and depression. Not eating or sleeping isn't unusual following a breakup, nor is crying for hours. Ask your friend how they're coping. Listen to not only what they're saying but how they're reacting to their loss. Sometimes actions speak louder than words.
3. Help them recover their self-esteem
Knowing what to say to a newly-divorced friend can be challenging at best. There aren’t any words that can make the pain of divorce go away. For many who’ve suffered through the loss of a relationship, their self-esteem takes a significant blow. Spouses often wrap their self-worth around the status of their marriages.
When a breakup occurs, the friendships suffer, too. You can help your friend recover this aspect of their self-worth by reinforcing the bonds of your relationship with them through your presence and reassurance.
4. Ask them how you can help
Most of us need to learn how to support someone who's going through a breakup. We don't ever know precisely how to be there for our friends who suffer significant losses regardless of how well we think we know them.
One way of making sure you're a supportive friend is by asking your friend exactly how you can help or what would make them feel better during this challenging time. The answer might surprise you. What you think they need or want from you may be completely different than what they're thinking.
5. Talk to them about getting counseling
Learning to live with the loss of a valuable relationship is seldom easy. Your friend may very well be going through many challenging emotions and grief responses following a breakup. Ask them to consider professional grief counseling to help them process their feelings if they need additional help and support. A trained professional can guide them as they navigate the resulting emotional ups and downs they'll experience in the coming weeks and months.
Tips for Helping a Close Friend Through a Breakup Who Lives Far Away
Knowing that you’re not alone is extremely important when going through a breakup. A friend who’s far away may need your support more than ever. You can bridge the distance gap and make them feel loved and supported no matter how far away you are from each other. Here are some ways to reach out to a friend in need.
6. Stay on the phone with them
Calling to be supportive is a good option when a friend is just too far away to visit in person. Make yourself available to hear them out without placing a time limit on your call. It's important to stay attentive and in the present moment as they give you as much detail of their breakup as they're willing to share. Try not to interject with your opinions unless asked.
7. Check in on them
Regaining self-esteem after a breakup takes time, and your friend may need several days to get back on their feet, emotionally speaking. You can lend your support by periodically checking in on them by phone, text, or email.
Keep things straightforward by telling them that you’re simply reaching out to see how they’re holding up and if there’s anything they need. Let them know there’s no obligation on their part to fill you in and that you’re there for them whenever they need someone to talk to.
8. Help them set boundaries
As much as we wish for an easier path toward personal growth following a breakup, things are often not as simple as we want. Usually, after a breakup, one or both exes wish to remain friends or keep in contact. Continuing to contact an ex isn’t always the healthiest way to move forward after a breakup.
Encourage your friend to ask themselves why they feel the need to keep in contact with their ex. Unless they share children, finances, or mutual obligations, there’s simply no good reason to stay connected immediately following a breakup. Healing takes time, and it’s healthy to set and maintain boundaries with an ex when recovering from a lost relationship.
9. Send them flowers
Flowers almost always cheer up someone who’s feeling down. Suffering through a breakup is something to mourn as any other type of significant loss. You can say a lot through flowers to help cheer up your friend and brighten their day, especially when you can’t be there for them in person. A beautiful bouquet of fresh flowers lets them know you’re thinking of them and that you care about their wellbeing.
10. Take a trip
There’s nothing better than to see an old friend walking through the door when you need them the most. If you’re able to take an impromptu trip to visit your friend who lives far away, why not make the trip?
Whether it’s a short drive away or travel across the country, an in-person visit is sure to bring lots of joy to both of you. Precious memories that last a lifetime stem from these spontaneous acts of love and kindness that bring friends closer together, especially after suffering through loss.
Healing From a Breakup
Breakups are painful no matter who initiates them. Both parties to a relationship will suffer some form of loss that will take time to heal from. Allowing the necessary time to work through the loss will enable the steady progression toward healing and wholeness.