The holiday season can be especially rough on the newly brokenhearted. If a good friend is going through a painful breakup, here are some things to keep in mind as you help him/her navigate life without a significant other.
How to help a friend going through a breakup:
Sometimes the best way to help is to just show up. Even if you’re not sure what to say, reach out to your hurting friend and let her know that you care. Provide a listening ear and a shoulder to cry on — and remind her that even though she might be feeling lonely, she’s not alone.
Know when to stay quiet.
Unless it’s requested, steer clear of giving advice. Don’t judge the situation, lecture him about relationships, or trash his ex (beyond validating or empathizing with his own feelings of anger and grief). Sometimes a friend just needs to vent without anyone adding to the noise.
Don’t make it about you.
It can be difficult to let someone mourn according to their own process. Don’t try to rush a friend to get over her ex, or selfishly insinuate that she should “suck it up” after a few days of moping just because it’s getting hard on you. And never compare a friend’s breakup to one of your own. Every broken relationship is a unique one. Don’t minimize your friend’s fresh pain by reminiscing over your past and trying to draw parallels.
Be the voice of reason.
Empathy and support is important, and part of being supportive is trying to protect a friend from making a bad decision in the wake of emotional upheaval. Don’t let her shave her head or egg his house. Don’t encourage him to immediately rebound or treat his pain with alcohol binges. If he agreed that it’s best to cut off all contact with his ex, remind your friend to delete her number from his phone. Help him focus on healthy ways to get over his ex and avoid impulsive behaviour that might lead to regrettable consequences.
Have fun together.
If time heals all wounds, why not pass the time with some fun distractions? Sure, those serious heart-to-hearts are important, but so is getting out the house and doing something that your friend loves to do. (With no dates in the foreseeable future, Friday nights can get depressing. Be a friend and help fill that empty calendar.) Go to the movies. Invite him to play shinny on a local rink. Go see her favourite band together. Your friend needs to feel like herself again.
Provide practical support.
Some breakups hit harder than others. If your friend is having a hard time managing certain aspects of her day, try to offer some practical help: walk her dog, pick up her dry cleaning, bring her her favourite cup of coffee. She might need some help picking up her things from her ex’s apartment — or in packing up his things at her place. Maybe she’ll want you to inform a few close friends about the breakup so she doesn’t have to. Show your friend she’s loved by lending a helping hand.
Know your limits.
You don’t have to be your friend’s saviour. Nor should you be a permanent stand-in for your friend’s ex, time-commitment-wise. You can’t fill the relationship void. Offer to listen and help, but don’t let him abuse your friendship — even unintentionally — in his sadness or anger toward his situation. Try to be patient, but still set boundaries for yourself so you don’t grow resentful.
Any advice to add? How would you help a friend going through heartbreak?