Going through a breakup is never fun, and it can feel twice as frustrating when you have to watch a friend go through the sadness and stress of one. It makes you feel sad and stressed, too, even though you’re not the one who went through the breakup yourself. Is there any way to make your friend feel better when they’re going through such a rough process?
Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to help your friend through a rough breakup, and they range from short, low-effort and easy to high-investment and high-reward. Regardless of which kind of strategy you choose, your friend will surely appreciate your concern and effort invested in helping them through their trying time.
Getting through a bad breakup is often romanticized in a way that’s not true to real life when you see it on TV. In real life, you’re not over the breakup by the time the next episode rolls around, and you more than likely haven’t forgotten about your ex just yet. As such, trying to approach the breakup as people do on television isn’t always the best way to go.
Instead, try asking your friend what they need from you first. While they might not be able to give you a good answer for what they need, they can most likely give you a good idea of what they don’t want. Every little bit of information they can provide you can help you inform yourself and make better decisions regarding your friend going forward.
You don’t want to surprise your friend with a gift or trip that you thought was appropriate, only for them to make it clear that this was not the right gift for the situation! You never know what might remind them of their ex too much, for example, or they might really just not like your first idea.
Don’t assume that your friend will always want to talk about what happened earlier. No matter how good of friends you are, some friends just don’t want to relive the events by telling them again. If your friend doesn’t want to talk about things just yet, your best course of action might be to take a step back and let them set the pace instead.
Consider the Breakup
Imagine for a second that you broke up with a significant other suddenly. It could have been a sad breakup, an angry breakup, or even just an amicable one. Depending on how close you were and how things ended, there might not even be anything to be done.
However, if you had an angry breakup with your significant other, the best thing to do might be to go out and blow off some steam with something physical. Some good ideas might be things like:
- Martial arts
However, if you and your significant other had a sad breakup, the best course of action might be a slow night at the bar to forget your worries. While drowning your sorrows isn’t necessarily the best way to get over a lost loved one, sometimes it’s the best way to numb the pain after a painful emotional episode.
Now, what if you and your ex split on good terms? There might not even be any sadness or hard feelings to handle after the breakup. Instead, you and a friend might be ready to go out to a club, party, or another social event to meet someone new.
While some exes split on amicable terms, the vast majority do not. During the ensuing drama after a breakup, it’s possible that your friend might fall behind on chores, duties, and much more. Sometimes, the grandest gesture of love and understanding you can make to them is to simply help out with the tasks they’re falling behind on.
Doing chores for a friend might not seem like your best idea of fun, especially if they’ve really let their residence deteriorate. However, keep in mind that this might make more of a difference to them than you can understand. When someone’s fallen into a funk such as those that can follow a breakup, having dirty and unsightly surroundings can often compound those feelings of worthlessness.
As such, doing a few chores for them around the house does far more than just make their environment healthier and cleaner – it might make a difference in their presence of mind, too. While they might not be able to tell you this beforehand, this gift can make more of a difference than you might think.
The greatest thing about helping out around your friend’s house is that you don’t have to pay a cent for the service. While some friends might appreciate candy, flowers, or comfort foods after a breakup, these things all cost money. There’s no way to tell whether your friend will like the variety you choose ahead of time, either, if you don’t get the chance to ask them first.
Your friend is almost guaranteed to appreciate your efforts to clean up their environment, you don’t have to choose between flavor and type, and best of all, it’s free! However, do keep in mind that some individuals are more sensitive than others about where their things get put away. If your friend doesn’t want anyone else reorganizing their space, you may want to stick to areas that only need surface cleanings, such as doing the dishes, dusting the furniture, and scrubbing down countertops and bathrooms.
When our friends are going through a hard time, we all want to be there for them in any way we can. However, some of us have more time to devote to our friends than others. Someone with a family and a full-time job, for example, most likely has far less time to spend on a friend, close or not, than a high-school or college student does.
As such, it’s essential to be clear with your friend about how much time you have available to devote to them beforehand. It might feel cruel to say, but letting your friend know from the get-go that you don’t have much time to spend with them in a day has all sorts of benefits, such as:
- Letting your friend decide what’s most important to them in the time allotted
- Mitigating the feelings of loneliness and goodbyes when you need to leave
- Giving you time to rest and recharge instead of feeling obliged to stay longer
As much as we want to be there for our friends 24/7 when they’re going through a hard time, this is neither possible nor healthy. Just like our friends need time to rest and recover, so do we. After all, feeling a friend’s grief secondhand can be exhausting and taxing on its own.
This is another area where setting definite time boundaries shines. If you don’t allow a precise amount of time to your friend, you might feel tempted or even guilted into staying for longer than you intended. While you might still feel like that with time boundaries in place, you have the option of sticking to them, as well.
On that topic, remember that it is not your obligation to stay with your friend for every moment of every day while they recover. While you might want to do so, on the contrary, it’s better in many ways for your friend to make their way through the breakup by their own power. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be there to support them whenever you can afford to, but they should not depend on your help to get through it, either.
Depending on your personality and the personality of your friend, you might be tempted to frame your friend’s breakup in a variety of ways. Sometimes we might try to look at it from the bright side, for example. Perhaps your friend and their ex fought often, making for a relationship that was relatively unhealthy overall.
However, on the other hand, some of us can end up being too harsh on our friends. As loathe as we might be to believe it, sometimes our friends can be responsible for the breakup at hand. If this is the case, sometimes comfort and kind words can get lost under punishment and judgment instead. Regardless of the guiltiness of your friend, this is neither healthy for your friend or healthy for your friendship.
Rather than going too far into either of these categories, it’s best to retain as much realism about the situation as you possibly can. There might be some silver linings involved, but it’s important not to make it feel like your friend shouldn’t have been with their ex in the first place, either.
In the same way, the breakup might be partially their fault, but you should only linger on this topic for however long is appropriate. If your friend is responsible, they’re probably already beating themselves up about it enough for the both of you, anyway.
Instead of framing the situation too much from either side, try to focus on the facts. The previous relationship might be over, for example, but there will be plenty of opportunities for your friend to find another partner in the future once they recover.
Victimization is something to keep in mind and avoid after a rough breakup, too. Unless your friend was the receiver of real abuse, you shouldn’t place all of the blame for the breakup on your friend’s ex. It’s only natural to want to defend your friend after what’s happened, but remember that they may be partly responsible for the breakup, as well.
Being there for your friend in their trying time doesn’t always mean spending every waking hour with them. You can provide your friend a lot of comfort just by talking to them on the phone, sending them a text to remind them that you’re there for them every so often, and including them in any applicable group plans you make.
Part of the reason why going through a breakup is so difficult is because we’re used to spending most or all of our time with that other person. When they suddenly leave from your life, it can be like a big, gaping hole is all that’s left where they once were. While there will be no replacing that person for a while, the loneliness you feel after sharing all of your time with someone else can be crushing.
You can’t replace the presence of their lover in their lives, sure. However, you can help to mitigate the loneliness that hits them after losing such an essential existence in their life. While this seems like a tiny, insignificant thing to do, we can guarantee you that it’s not! Just being there for a quick text conversation or phone call when your friend is feeling especially alone can mean the world to them.
Speak to Reason
When someone goes through a bad breakup, they might be consumed by rage or sadness – and often, rightfully so. A breakup, especially after being in an established relationship, is like pouring ice water over a raging fire. It’s such a drastic lifestyle change that many who go through it choose to cope in unhealthy ways.
While you can’t make your friend’s choices for them, think about acting as their voice of reason when their own goes out of control. No matter how mad your friend is at their ex, for example, keying their car is never a good idea, and will only get them fined (or worse). While some friends might feel that their life is over after losing the love they knew for so long; you can be there to remind them that there is much more love waiting for them to experience it out there.
While your friend might not feel very keen on listening to reason after a dramatic breakup, you might be surprised by how thankful they are after all is said and done. We all do things in the heat of the moment, and this is even truer when we’re blinded by emotion and our lives have been upset.
Of course, you need to temper this voice of reason with support and love, too. If you act too much like your friend’s keeper, they’ll begin to resent you for it. As we mentioned, you can’t make their choices from them. However, you can offer them your opinion and thoughts on any crazy plans and plots they might concoct after a relationship ends explosively.
Respect Their Process
Respecting your friend’s method of grieving might seem a bit opposite to the voice of reason we just looked at above, but you might be surprised by how important it is to let your friend grieve and recover on their own. If they depend on you entirely for their recovery, they’ll end up dependent on you after that recovery, too.
Additionally, each of us has our own manner of grieving. While they vary in effectiveness, healthiness, and methods, each person has their own unique coping method of choice. Within reason, it’s essential to respect your friend’s way of getting over and coping with the loss of their ex.
However, we do say “within reason” for some clear caveats. If your friend is doing something to cope that could endanger them or others, it might be better to try and intervene. No one wants their friend getting into trouble or putting themselves into danger.
However, if their coping mechanisms work for them – even if they’re a little unconventional – it’s essential to show your support anyway. You might think about suggesting better, healthier coping mechanisms for your friend in a positive, constructive way, but it’s important not to attempt to order your friend to do anything. The choices they decide to make are theirs and theirs alone.
For example, going out and searching for a “rebound” partner after a relationship ends dramatically isn’t the healthiest or wisest way to deal with a breakup. Still, if this is your friend’s method, then you need to respect it. The difference is when your friend is endangering themselves or others, such as if they’re considering ending their own life. This is when you should call professional help in for backup!
The Reinvention Process
Inevitably, when two people date each other, their likes and dislikes begin to mix together. They start doing things they both enjoy together, and one of the pair might start doing something they didn’t do before in order to spend more time with their partner. This is a normal and healthy part of relationships, but it can cause some issues when a relationship ends.
When the relationship is over, your friend might feel bereft of things to do if they were spending most of their time with their significant other. Canceling plans that usually involved their ex will feel twice as painful, and the newfound holes in their schedule will feel just as devastating.
However, one of the unique things you can do as a friend is to help them to “reinvent” themselves. When we say reinvent, we don’t necessarily mean to reinvent your friend from top to bottom; more than likely, they’ll return to how they were before the relationship in most aspects. However, being there for this process is so helpful to help your friend return to how they were before.
When a person loses someone they spent the majority of their time with, it can sometimes feel like activities that their ex touched are forever tainted by their memory. Let’s imagine that your friend and their ex liked to play board games every Sunday, for example. From there on, board games, and probably Sunday afternoons as well, will feel bereft and lonely to your friend.
Because of this, your friend might find it necessary to cut some activities and interests out of their life completely after the breakup. While not everyone needs or wants to do this – some people prefer to hold onto activities for the memories that they carry with their ex – it’s something that you can provide a unique perspective on as their friend.
For example, every activity that your friend decides not to do anymore becomes an opportunity for the two of you to spend more time together. Consider turning these chunks of time into activities like:
- Dance classes
- Monthly movie nights
- Reinvent your friend’s wardrobe together
- Choose a day of the week or month to be the “girls’ night” or “boys’ night”
- Attend parties and make new friends together
If you can, it’s always helpful to encourage your friend to find activities that help them grow and develop as an individual, too. These can be hobbies, communication skills, dreams and goals, and much, much more!
Breaking Up Isn’t Failure
Most people can’t help but blame others when a breakup happens. Breakups are no fun, this is true, but no one has to be the failure when it happens, either. Relationships grow, change, and expire over time, and sometimes they come to an end, whether naturally or organically.
As such, if your friend has been through a breakup recently, be sure to remind them that they haven’t failed. If their relationship ended, then it may have been that the relationship wasn’t meant to be, anyway.
They will meet many more people that they become romantically interested in throughout their lives, and a breakup is simply the ending of one chapter of their life and the beginning of another. There’s no way to know right away where their life will lead them next!
While this might not be the best thing to tell your friend while they’re in the midst of a breakup, do also keep in mind that not everyone needs to be in a relationship to be happy. Many people live happy, healthy lives while single. Additionally, being single opens up your friend to all sorts of things that they couldn’t do while they were with their ex!
On the flip side, sometimes breaking up from a bad relationship should be celebrated as a success. If your friend was a victim of mental or physical abuse, you should celebrate leaving that situation behind them, but only as much as your friend can handle. Regardless of whether a relationship was right or not, it can still be challenging to get over and move on, and the process should always be treated with care.
One of the hardest things for a person to do after going through a breakup is to spend time alone. After spending a significant amount of time with their loved one, alone time often feels much too lonely. It’s understandable that most people need a bit of support from their friends during the worst of this lonely time, but it’s important not to understate the value of alone time, either.
Not only is alone time good for helping your friend recover, but it’s essential for the process of reinventing themselves, too. Much of the feelings of hopelessness that come after breaking up with someone spring from loneliness and isolation, and spending time with oneself is a great way to start getting used to doing things on your own again.
Start by encouraging your friend to do one important thing on their own every day. It doesn’t have to be a big thing, but it should be something that makes them feel accomplished and proud once they’re finished. It can be something as simple as vacuuming a dusty rug, doing the dishes, or taking a walk around the neighborhood.
No matter how much of a social butterfly your friend might be, everyone needs to be able to function on their own from time to time. While it’s not necessary to force your friend into it quickly, if your friend seems to be avoiding me time, it’s something that you may want to remind them about.
Comfort, Comfort, Comfort
More so than anything else, what your friend might need after a rough breakup are things that bring them comfort. Think a nice, warm place to curl up, blankets, a soft bed or couch, and an exciting movie or series to watch for a few hours (or days – we’re not judging).
While lounging in comfort, eating calorie and sugar-rich foods, and neglecting to exercise is great for the first short while after a breakup, it’s not something that you should maintain for a long time. However, that first bit of time alone after the breakup is often the hardest. Sometimes being able to operate without any pretenses alongside things that bring comfort can be more of a blessing than you might think.
Another great thing about having a comfort day is that you and your friend can spend it together! This is a great way to keep an eye on your friend for the first short while, and your friend will surely appreciate the extra presence in their life after losing their significant other. Just don’t forget the ice cream and popcorn!