Helping a friend through a breakup can feel like putting out a fire.
You stop what you’re doing, drop your current plans, and roll over to their house with a pint of ice cream and a shoulder to cry on.
However, being a good friend isn’t always as simple as a three-step rule.
Sometimes, we are at a loss for the right thing to say or do in the moment.
Even if you have been there yourself, you may not know how to comfort a friend during a breakup.
We have put together a brief guide for finding the right words and actions.
What to Say to Someone Who Just Broke Up
If you want to share words of encouragement after a breakup, you may be concerned about saying the wrong thing.
Merely being there shows your friend that you have their back, but they may ask for guidance or comforting words while going through their heartbreak.
No one relationship is the same, so there is no one size fits all approach to a breakup either. However, there are a few essential guidelines and sentiments worth touching on as you support your friend.
Here are a few helpful tips for what to say to your friend when they get dumped:
What You Should Never Say to Someone Who Just Broke Up
Being the go-to friend can feel like navigating a minefield. When in doubt, just listen. Be there and make them laugh. Hold their hand and let them cry it out. Unsolicited advice isn’t helpful, but even solicited advice can take a wrong turn. Here are a few things to avoid:
- What to Say to Someone Who Just Broke Up
- What You Should Never Say to Someone Who Just Broke Up
- How to Help a Friend Through a Breakup in 15 Steps
- 1. Make Time for Them
- 2. Practice Active Listening
- 3. Run Errands or Do Chores
- 4. Bring Treats
- 5. Help Them to Engage in Self Care Practices
- 6. Plan an Escape
- 7. Be Patient with Them
- 8. Open Your Home as Well as Your Heart
- 9. Check in Regularly
- 10. Avoid Gossip and Share the Load
- 11. Support Their Need for Change
- 12. Make a Care Package
- 13. Make Them Laugh
- 14. Avoid Comparison
- 15. Respect Their Boundaries and Yours
How to Help a Friend Through a Breakup in 15 Steps
1. Make Time for Them
Before the breakup, your friend likely spent the majority of their time with their significant other, and now he or she is learning to navigate without them.
Try to prioritize spending quality time with your friend so they don’t have to dwell on negative thoughts.
You are not obligated to spend every second of your day with them, but try to find a balance between prioritizing them and making space for yourself.
2. Practice Active Listening
Active listening means being present and truly hearing what your friend has to say, rather than speaking over them or zoning out.
Ask specific questions, so they know that you want to understand their situation better. Small affirmation statements like “Oh, I see” or “I understand” signals that you are still listening without interrupting their train of thought or turning the conversation towards you.
Make sure you demonstrate your concern for them and make them feel heard.
3. Run Errands or Do Chores
When you are suffering through heartbreak, it can be hard to get out of bed, let alone empty your dishwasher or go grocery shopping. Stepping in to take responsibility for these tasks will significantly ease the load for your friend, and show how much you care.
4. Bring Treats
Small surprises always help. A sweet treat, a goofy movie, or a bunch of junk food can be a helpful cure for anyone going through a hard time.
Does your friend have a favorite candy or bottle of wine? Stop by the store on the way to their house and pick it up. Your friend will be pleased to see you thought of them and happy to eat some chocolate!
5. Help Them to Engage in Self Care Practices
During a breakup, we can neglect ourselves when we focus on losing someone else. If your friend is experiencing this, encourage a bit of self-care.
Share a meditation app, buy a journal, or help them find a local therapist on their insurance plan. Remind them of the things they used to love doing on their own and help ease their way back into doing them.
6. Plan an Escape
Sometimes you just need to get out of town or maybe just out of the house. Plan a weekend getaway or a road trip for only the two of you.
Help your friend escape the places that remind them of their ex and make new memories together. An escape isn’t a long term fix but can provide a fun short term distraction. If you can’t leave town, organize a fun “stay-cation.”
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7. Be Patient with Them
There is no pre-set expiration date for heartbreak. It may take weeks or months for your friend to start feeling like normal again. Take space if you need to, but try to be patient with them.
Don’t blame them for feeling sad or processing their pain in their own time. If they don’t want to get out of the bed or go out with friends, don’t force it. With a healthy support system, things will eventually get better.
8. Open Your Home as Well as Your Heart
Make your home a safe space for them. If they need a place to crash somewhere for a few nights, a distraction, or just a home-cooked meal, let them know your door is open.
Maybe it seems obvious, but it never hurts to let them know that your home is open to them, and they aren’t a burden to you. Of course, only offer what you can feasibly do and keep critical boundaries in place.
9. Check in Regularly
Send a sweet message through text or call every once in a while to make sure they are okay, see if they need anything, or remind them how much they are loved.
A little extra support in a hard time is always appreciated, but avoid smothering or forcing them to talk. Pay attention to verbal and non-verbal cues. If you think you are being overly-supportive or pushing too hard, simply ask them how they feel. People are generally willing to tell you what they need when you ask.
10. Avoid Gossip and Share the Load
If you are in a friend group, avoid speculating about your bestie’s breakup. Gossiping never helps. You may share concern and love for your friend, but keep them in the loop rather than talking behind their back.
If you feel like you’ve taken on too much responsibility in caring for your friend, reach out to their other friends for help. You aren’t a superhero and can’t solve someone else’s heartbreak on your own. Lean on your friends for support.
11. Support Their Need for Change
Some people thirst for reinvention after a breakup. This can manifest in many different ways, from a haircut to a sudden interest in running marathons.
No matter how silly their chosen method of reinvention may seem, try and be supportive of their need for change.
Help your friend rearrange the furniture in their living room or help scroll through Pinterest to find the perfect reference picture for bangs, even if you think they’ll want to grow them out in two weeks.
Reinvention is a critical component of getting over a breakup.
12. Make a Care Package
Package all of their favorite foods in a picnic basket, or curate a playlist of songs you think they’d like. You can even include practical things like toothpaste or a new hairbrush — the sort of things you forget to replace amid the heartbreak.
If your friend is female, make a trip to Sephora and pick up some new skincare or makeup. If you wonder how to help a guy friend through a breakup, include that new video game he's been talking about for weeks or make a list of your favorite comedy specials on Netflix.
13. Make Them Laugh
Nothing heals a wound faster than laughter, and nothing distracts from a breakup better than a funny friend. Don’t be afraid to be goofy and talk about silly things.
Supporting them doesn’t have to mean deep conversations about how it all went wrong. Throw on reruns of your favorite comedy show, or watch cute puppy videos on YouTube. Bring up funny friendship memories that keep your pal hopeful about the future.
14. Avoid Comparison
Your breakup is not their breakup. You can share things that helped you get through your heartbreak, but avoid centering your experiences during this time.
Try not to compare their relationship or their breakup to another couple’s, as it gives them room to look for failure or dwell in jealousy. Keep your advice on the specifics of your friend's situation.
15. Respect Their Boundaries and Yours
It’s essential to support your friend but not overwhelm them. Respect their privacy and calls for space. You may get so wrapped up in helping them that you neglect your own needs. Setting up healthy boundaries enables you to avoid this.
Helping your friend through a breakup is the right thing to do.
Figuring out how to help someone get over a breakup can seem like a complicated process, but ultimately the steps are simple: be there and listen.
Pay attention to where they may need help and find small ways to bring a little light into their life. It's okay if you mess up or say the wrong thing every once in a while.
Remember, the position you're in isn't comfortable, and it's not your job to fix everything. There is no right way, but effort does go a long way in helping your friend heal and move on.