When your friend is going through a breakup, your instinct is to help them as much as you can.
But how do you do that? How can you cheer them up and help them get closure on the relationship so that they can move on?
Let’s face it, breakups are never fun. They can be particularly tough on your friend if they weren’t the instigator of the breakup, it’s taken them by surprise, it’s ended due to betrayal, or the relationship was toxic in any way.
Regardless of the exact circumstances of your friend’s breakup, it takes time for a person to move on after a relationship ends. Your friend needs you to be there for them through this, and here’s how you can do that:
1. Ask them how you can help.
Everyone handles breakups differently. After all, their relationships are different too.
You’re more than welcome to tell your friend what worked for you, but don’t assume it will work for them. It’s probably better not to offer advice unless they specifically ask for it.
The best thing that you can do for your friend is to ask them how you can help. They know best whether they need to vent, go out, or hear your advice.
Ask your friend what they would like to talk about and what they’d like to do. Feel free to suggest some activities that you think they’d enjoy, but don’t force them into anything. Let them tell you what they need right now.
You can also ask what helped them deal with breakups in the past. Maybe they would feel better after a run followed by a nice long bath if that worked for them before. Try the things that they suggest.
2. Be there for them.
A breakup leaves a huge hole in your life. Most of us do our best not to become codependent with our partners, but it’s still inevitable that a partner is going to take up a lot of your time and energy. A breakup can leave you feeling really lonely, lost, and insecure.
As a friend, you need to try to make sure you ease some of that loneliness. Just keep them company so they don’t spend too much time alone with their thoughts, endlessly obsessing over what went wrong.
Listen to them when they talk about the breakup, and let them vent to you. However, try to make them think of other things if they’re open to it.
If they just want to talk about their relationship and the breakup, let them. Be there for them and give them a shoulder to cry on.
3. Bring them ice cream.
Sure, it’s a cliché, but it works for many of us. Bring your friend ice cream soon after the breakup. They might not eat it right away, but they’ll appreciate the gesture once they crave something sweet.
It doesn’t even have to be ice cream. Do you know your friend’s favorite snacks? Buy them and bring them to your friend.
Some people lose their appetite when they’re going through a hard time, but they’ll still eat their favorite snacks before the expiration date.
4. Help them on the road to self-development.
The ending of a relationship is the perfect opportunity for a new beginning. A lot of people choose to reinvent themselves once they go through a breakup, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
Assist your friend on the road to self-development. Do this by helping them learn new things, being their stylist, or encouraging them to pursue their interests.
You can suggest new hobbies or activities that your friend could try and even join them if that’s what you’d like. Maybe they’ve always wanted to take an improv class, learn to cook, or play golf. Whatever it is that interests them, it can be their new hobby now that they have more free time.
Hobbies and classes are also great opportunities to meet other people with similar interests. While your friend probably isn’t ready to start dating again, simply meeting new people will be good for them.
Some people might find it helpful to change their appearance after exiting a relationship. If they want to do so, help your friend decide on a new haircut or pick new clothes and encourage them to exercise if they want to look and feel stronger.
5. Don’t rush them to feel better or get back to their normal self.
Losing a relationship means losing the connection to someone who was an important part of your life. It’s perfectly normal to mourn when this happens.
Give your friend space and time to grieve their loss.
When you see your friend hurting, you want them to feel better as soon as possible. You might even be tempted to tell them to get over it already if it’s been a while.
However, you have to remind yourself that it takes a lot of time to recover from a breakup.
You want your friend to be their old self, and that’s normal. But, you have to understand that it might take them anywhere from six months to two years to move on.
Some people take less time, some even longer, but you should be prepared for months and years, not days.
Maybe you have a recipe for getting over a breakup, and you move on in a matter of days when a relationship ends. Even if that is so, you can’t assume that your friend is just like you. Let them heal at their own pace without forcing them to be their old self again.
Be prepared for ups and downs too. Your friend is grieving the relationship, and grief is unpredictable. They might seem fine one day but break down the following month.
Be prepared to go and pick up the pieces whenever you’re needed and don’t just assume that because X time has passed, they must be over it.
6. Don’t talk badly about their ex.
You might be tempted to trash talk your friend’s ex once the relationship is over, but this is not a good idea. Even if your friend was in a bad relationship, they probably cared about their ex, and they probably still do.
People can hurt us, and we’ll still love them. Love isn’t rational, so don’t expect your friend to want to hate their ex.
In addition, trash talking just brings negative energy. Your friend’s ex was someone they chose to be with, regardless of their flaws. They loved this person, and they can’t just stop loving them because they’re bad for them. Actually, they can, but it will take time to get there.
If their ex was bad for them, they are probably aware of it. You don’t have to tell them that it’s better the relationship ended or that their ex wasn’t good for them. They know these things, but the heart wants what the heart wants, and it needs to heal now that it’s broken.
Try to bring positivity into your friend’s life instead of focusing on their ex’s bad qualities. Don’t make your friend fear telling you that they miss their ex because you think poorly of them.
If the relationship has broken up over something serious, like abuse of any shape or form, then hopefully your friend will be strong enough not to go back there. But the fact is, people break up over all kinds of things, and they don’t necessarily stay that way.
Bear in mind that there’s always the danger that your friend could get back with the person who’s currently their ex. And if that happens, you don’t want to have called them anything too nasty or revealed the fact that you always hated them anyway.
If you do, you might not be getting invited around for dinner at their place when they move back in together… and your friend definitely won’t feel like they can confide in you about the relationship in the future.
7. Suggest activities that they’d enjoy.
Your friend may not want to go anywhere or do anything immediately following the breakup.
After some time has passed, you can begin to suggest plans and try to encourage them to get out and about. However, don’t invite them out in a way that makes them feel like you’re only doing it because you feel sorry for them.
Just invite them along to things you’re already doing or look for fun events that you know they’d enjoy.
If there’s an evening class that you’ve been wanting to start or a sport you think you’d enjoy and you reckon your friend would like it too, then suggest it as something you could do together.
You probably know a lot about their likes, dislikes, and interests. Maybe you know of a concert that they’d love to go to or some other event they’d be interested in attending. Suggest it to them and give them opportunities to get out of the house sometimes.
8. Make life easier for them.
You could make your friend’s life easier by taking care of some of their tasks and chores. Maybe they’re too depressed to cook, so you could make them their favorite meal.
Perhaps they want to redecorate their place so that it doesn’t remind them so much of their ex. Help them with that.
Maybe they had made plans to go on holiday or to a music festival with their ex. You can help them cancel these and get refunds, or even offer to go in place of their ex.
Friends and family should also be informed about the relationship ending. These are all things that you can help them with.
You also know what makes them smile. Create a movie list for them, go shopping for groceries, buy them a cozy sweater, or simply tell them a joke. Try to bring joy into their life and make things easier for them.
9. Respect their boundaries.
You have to consider the possibility that your friend doesn’t want your help right now. Maybe they just want to grieve alone for a while.
They’re not ready to go out there and face a brand new day. If they’ve made it clear that they wish not to be bothered, respect their boundaries.
Before sharing advice, always ask your friend whether they’re interested in hearing it. They might not want to listen to your personal experience because it’s too different from theirs. So, always consider their needs and respect their wishes.
10. Show kindness and empathy and don’t judge.
Make your friend feel safe to open up to you by showing them kindness and empathy. Don’t judge them regardless of what happened.
Maybe you think that they’ve let their ex hurt them; keep this sort of thought to yourself. When talking to your friend, try to really understand where they’re coming from without passing judgment.
Always validate their feelings and make them feel heard. They shouldn’t be made to feel bad about missing their ex or still loving them. Try to see things from their perspective.
Feelings aren’t always rational. Your friend might not be able to see their situation objectively just yet because of their emotions.
11. Don’t make promises that you can’t keep.
Before promising your friend that you’ll always be there for them, make sure that you actually can do that. Do you have the time and energy it takes to follow through with everything that you promised to do for your friend?
Don’t commit to doing things that you can’t actually do. Overcommitting and overpromising will just lead to your friend being disappointed.
It’s much better to be honest about your capacity than to cancel at the last minute when your friend is already vulnerable. Be considerate of their feelings and your capacity when making plans with them.
Be honest with yourself about how much you can really help your friend before committing to anything. It’s much better to do little than to promise a lot and bail when the time comes.
12. Offer a change of environment.
If your friend is surrounded by reminders of their ex in their day-to-day life, a getaway might be just what they need. Book a last-minute city break, or just go on a day trip to the coast. Putting some physical distance between them and their ex can be a real lifesaver, even if it’s just for a short while.
You can also offer a change of environment by inviting your friend to places that they have never been to before. Encourage them to experience new things because it might remind them that there’s a lot ahead of them that they haven’t experienced yet. In addition, new things are fun, and they might take your friend’s mind off their ex.
If your friend and their ex lived together, or there are a lot of reminders in their home, offer to help get rid of them. Your friend doesn’t have to say goodbye to everything, just make sure that it’s packed in a box and left somewhere out of sight.
13. Don’t smother them.
While it’s important to make sure they don’t have huge amounts of free time to dwell, don’t take it too far the other way, either.
Keep them company, but don’t feel the need to constantly be talking to them about the breakup or asking them how they’re feeling every five seconds.
Just your presence is enough, and they don’t even need that all the time. Let them be alone if that’s what they prefer.
You should definitely keep checking up on them and suggesting things, but when you sense that they need some time to themselves, let them be.
Don’t smother them with your attempts to make them feel better. Sometimes people have to feel bad for a while so that they can feel better again.
Avoid rushing the process and give your friend as much time and space as they need.
14. Don’t force them into things.
It’s good to be proactive and make suggestions, but don’t make them feel obliged to do anything that they don’t feel like doing.
When they’re not so open to your suggestions, don’t persist in trying to convince them to go along with them. Even if you’re sure that what you’re suggesting could help your friend, don’t insist if they’re not interested.
Just like you shouldn’t force them to listen to your suggestions, you shouldn’t force them to listen to your advice or opinion.
Don’t tell them what they should do with their life if they didn’t ask you. Your ideas might be better than what they’re doing, but it’s still their life, and they get to decide what’s right for them.
You especially shouldn’t force them to start dating again if they didn’t say that they’re ready. Setting them up with someone new might sound like a good idea, but it could be a really bad one.
15. Don’t set them up with someone new.
It’s probably going to be quite a while before your friend is ready to meet someone new. If they ask for a set-up in the early days, don’t do it. It’s best for them to find a rebound relationship all by themselves.
If you do have someone in mind for them, wait until you’re sure that they’re truly ready to move on before introducing the two of them.
Usually, people start dating again before they’re actually ready for it. This is why rebound relationships happen, and they aren’t meant to last.
The first person your friend dates after the breakup probably isn’t going to be their happily ever after love. They’ll probably still have feelings for their ex and won’t be in the right headspace for a new relationship.
Help them find someone who’s right for them after they’ve had their rebound relationship and you’re sure that they’ve moved on.
16. Don’t assume you know what’s best.
You’ve got their best interests at heart, but you don’t really know what’s going on in their mind… and you’ll never understand every tiny detail of the relationship.
It’s great to offer an opinion, but don’t be surprised if they do the complete opposite of what you advise. Don’t take it personally either.
Your friend has the right to deal with this in whichever way they want. Even if your ways are better, don’t assume you know what’s right for your friend.
You weren’t in a relationship with them, and you didn’t experience their breakup yourself. In addition, you have to respect their freedom to live their life the way they want to.
17. Let them know you’re there.
Your friend needs to know that, partner or no partner, they’re not alone in the world. Reassure them that you’ve got their back and aren’t going anywhere.
Even if they don’t want your help, let them know that they can ask for it if they ever need something.
Keep in touch with them and support them through text messages too. It might be easier for them to open up through texts than in person, so let them.
Most importantly, don’t ever bail on them. If you already committed to being there for them, actually be there.
You’ll probably have to listen to them talk about their ex for a while, but be patient with them and let them vent to you.
Be the kind of friend that they can call in the middle of the night when they wake up from a bad dream. Be the friend that doesn’t mind helping them clean the apartment after they’ve spent days not being able to get out of bed in the morning.
18. Let them know you love them.
You probably care about your friend since you want to help them go through this. So, let them know that you care.
They might be feeling more than a bit unlovable right about now. Granted, it’s not the same kind of love, but love between friends can be just as strong and is just as important.
Don’t be afraid to tell them that you love them, and let them know how important they are to you.
Knowing that you still matter to someone can help a person heal from a broken heart. Talk about all the things that you love about them because they might not be able to see their good side right now.
A breakup can seriously damage a person’s self-esteem, so boost your friend’s confidence by talking about their good qualities.
19. Remind them how amazing they are.
As already mentioned, your friend is probably in dire need of a confidence and self-esteem boost. Remind them of their skills and their strengths. Tell them how amazing they are, why you love them, and that they deserve to have love in their life.
Let them know that they’ll find someone new, but encourage them to love themselves first.
You can help your friend feel better about themselves by pointing out their positive traits. Maybe they’re hardworking, witty, intelligent, and ambitious.
Try to come up with a list of their good qualities that you can occasionally mention to them later. When an opportunity calls for a compliment, give them one.
You want them to feel good in their own skin. Maybe you can help by going shopping together, grabbing a yoga class, or getting a makeover.
20. Don’t call out your friend’s poor judgment.
He or she is feeling bad enough right now. They don’t need to be told that you never liked their partner, or that you always had a bad feeling about them, or thought their eyes were too close together.
Your friend doesn’t need to be made to feel like an idiot for believing the lies or thinking their ex is capable of change.
Maybe you knew that their ex would cheat on them, hurt them, or break their heart. But don’t call out your friend’s poor judgment. Just because something was obvious to you doesn’t mean it was to them, or that it is obvious to them now.
Feelings can cloud a person’s judgment, and we can’t see our situation as clearly as someone else might see it from afar.
Everyone has, on occasion, trusted someone they shouldn’t have. Don’t make your friend feel like a fool, even if they already do.
21. Let them talk more than you talk.
You’re never going to solve all your friend’s problems with your words. So focus on listening to what they have to say instead. Don’t dominate the conversation. Just listen. Really listen.
Let them work things through by verbalizing their feelings and coming to their own conclusions. They should talk much more than you do, and the conversation should be centered around them.
By all means, talk about what’s going on in your life too, but make sure to dedicate enough attention to what they’re going through. They probably don’t want you to fix their problem, but talking about it to you helps them come to terms with the breakup.
22. Try to put yourself in their shoes.
There’s a chance that you are going to mess this up. You might say or do the wrong thing even though you have good intentions.
And that’s okay.
Your friend will forgive any faux pas, because they are grateful that you’re there for them and you’re doing your best.
If you’re not sure what the right thing to do or say is, just take a second and try to put yourself in their shoes. Consider what you’d need from your friends if you were in their situation.
And, if in doubt, just remember to be there for them and to listen.
23. Don’t encourage bad behavior.
A lot of people resort to alcohol or drugs when going through a difficult time. It never makes things better though.
Alcohol and drugs are like putting a bandage on a deep emotional wound that takes time to heal. They might make you forget about the wound for a short while, but they’re not going to help it heal. In fact, most people want to call their ex and say things that they’ll later regret while they’re under the influence.
Don’t be the friend that suggests opening up a bottle of wine and sharing a cry. Think of long-term solutions and encourage your friend to consider their well-being.
Getting fresh air, eating right, getting enough sleep and enough exercise are much wiser choices than drugs and alcohol. If you’re thinking about the long run, you’re bound to make better choices.
Your friend might still choose to drown their sorrows, and you shouldn’t tell them what they can and can’t do. However, make sure that you’re not encouraging bad behavior.
24. Help them find a therapist.
In the end, your friend might not be able to deal with this on their own, even with your help. Include their other friends in the process, but keep in mind that your friend might need help from someone experienced in getting people through breakups.
A relationship expert can guide your friend through the process of recovery. Your friend might even feel more comfortable opening up to someone they don’t know rather than you, their friend. That’s okay.
This is something you can suggest and help them arrange if they are open to it.
Other articles that might help you help your friend:
- Why Do Breakups Hurt So Much? The Pain Of A Relationship Ending.
- 6 Reasons For Breakup Guilt + 4 Ways To Deal With It
- What To Do If You Regret Breaking Up With Him/Her
- How Long Does It Take To Get Over A Breakup? 11 Factors That Make A Difference
- Dating Again After A Breakup: How Long Should You Wait?
- 11 Tips To Move On From A Relationship Without Closure
- If Your Love Has Died, Don’t Tell Yourself These 8 Myths
- Why Some Couples Are Stuck In A Cycle Of Breaking Up And Getting Back Together