It is hard to see someone you care about go through a break-up. It is hard to know what to do to help. It is sometimes hard to have boundaries and let’s be honest, it can sometimes be really hard to be non-judgemental or stay upbeat. I have some good news for you: there is a LOT you can do to help a friend through a break-up that will help you to support her to move on, show her you are there, and keep your sanity. Helping a friend through a break-up is an intentional act. There is an opportunity to be a force for good in someone’s life, and plenty of potential to be not so helpful as well.
As a break-up coach and someone who has had all sorts of support after break-ups, I have an intimate and personal knowledge of how you can show up right now. I shared some ideas in part one of this series and I will be back with a fun list of ideas in part three. Arm yourself with some knowledge, and get ready to make a huge difference in someone’s life.
Help a friend through a break-up by asking her what she needs
Just like each relationship is different, so is each break-up. It therefore stands to reason that each person will respond differently when their relationships end. Before you jump in to “be there,” ask your friend what it is that she needs. If she doesn’t offer anything specific, you may want to ask if there are any practical things that you can help with or provide company while she gets them done. Life basics such as grocery shopping, cleaning the floors, and getting the car washed can seem daunting after a relationship ends, especially if a person is used to doing such things with a partner. Maybe ordering a pizza and cleaning the apartment together is just what she needs to lift her mood.
If you really can’t get anything out of her, stay present, suggest activities, and look for areas where your support could be useful. The fact that you have checked in will mean a lot and it will also help her to know that when she does need something specific that she can count on you.
Don’t fill her head with your previous misgivings about the ex
Sometimes, helping a friend through a break-up means biting your tongue. Your friend does not need to hear that she had bad taste the entire time, that you never liked her partner, that you’ve been keeping the fact that he or she flirted with so and so months back, and so on. It may make you feel better to unburden yourself or say “I told you so,” but it may have the opposite effect on her. Listen to her and congratulate her for doing so well, but keep the rest to yourself.
If you had previously suggested your friend leave the relationship, keep that to yourself. Make uplifting comments about looking to the future and all of the amazing things that she has to look forward to now that she has been given a fresh start. Encourage her to look ahead.
What advice should you be giving during this time? That your friend listen to her intuition and to what it is that would feel best to her, and to do it. The time after a break-up is an important one to learn how to show up for oneself and to enjoy it. You may even want to make some gentle suggestions here and there or facilitate by sending a gift. Suggesting a bubble bath or massage is easy, but dropping off bath salts or booking a massage therapist for an in-home massage on Saturday morning makes it even easier.
Self-care after a break-up may look like taking time alone. Make sure to be supportive of this choice while remembering to send the occasional “I hope you know you are incredible!” text.
Let her talk
One of the most hurtful things that I experienced after a break-up was being told by a friend that she didn’t want to “talk about boys all night” before our scheduled hang out in the aftermath of one of my relationships ending. While I hadn’t necessarily been looking forward to the night just to talk about what I was going through, I was really in need of a loving ear, and her words triggered a flood of negative emotions, not to mention shame and embarrassment. Yes, it might not be the most enjoyable thing in the world and it can even be quite trying to listen to what you already know about the relationship and break-up, but just listen. Just be there. Let her get it out and show her you are the safe place that she needs right now.
Be patient and have limits
It can be emotionally draining on a friend to see someone they care about in pain. Therefore, it is important that you have boundaries. If you feel yourself becoming overwhelmed or frustrated, it is time to redirect your support. Suggest a distracting activity or encourage a change in conversation. Remember, it is perfectly fine to let your friend know it’s time for a break from discussing the situation.
Can your friend use some extra support right now? Gift her the Broken Heart Repair Kit and I will jump in to love her up and point her in the right direction.