Breakups can be tough, and when a close friend is going through one, it’s natural to want to provide support and comfort. If you want to help a friend who is hurt, let me tell you, figuring out the right approach can be challenging. You want to be there for them, hear them out, but you also don’t want to inadvertently say or do something that might make the situation worse. In the end, you are left puzzled, wondering ‘How to help a friend through a breakup? I need to cheer him up and help him get through the grieving process. But, how?’

In this article, we will address the elephant in the room as we explore eight effective ways to help a heartbroken friend navigate the challenging journey of a breakup. Additionally, we’ll discuss some common pitfalls to avoid, ensuring you stand by your friend’s side as the best possible support system during this difficult time. 

8 Ways To Help A Friend Through A Breakup

The thumb rule to follow here is to steer clear of passing judgment and negative comments. Your friend is already going through a hard time and the least you can do is not to burden them with your opinions.  At a time when your friend is experiencing the ebb and flow of emotions, this would practically be the last thing anyone would want. Instead, you need to understand and respect your friend’s feelings while you offer them much-needed emotional support. Here are some of the ways to comfort someone going through a breakup:

1. Offer them a listening ear

One of the most crucial aspects of helping a friend through a breakup is simply being there to listen to them. Allow your friend to express their feelings, vent their frustrations, and share their memories. Feelings that are bottled up can lead to distress and frustration. On the contrary, talking about the breakup can facilitate emotional recovery and provide a sense of closure. So, lend a patient ear and let your friend know that you are there to listen without judgment. 

I remember when my college friend Emma went through her first breakup at the age of 19. We would spend hours talking over coffee and she would pour her heart out to me. I simply sat there listening to her rants and sharing advice when she asked for it. Only in hindsight do we realize how therapeutic all this was for her, having a purgatory effect. Over time, our conversations became a safe space for both of us to find ourselves again. 

2. Encourage self-care

How to help a friend through a breakup? By encouraging them to take care of themselves. One of the ways to comfort someone going through a breakup is to give them opportunities for personal growth. 

Breakups often leave people feeling drained. It can even lead to lowered self-esteem. A study published in Personal Relationships (2011) suggests that people can feel self-delusion after a breakup; they cannot individualize their identity.  Encourage your friend to prioritize self-care activities that promote the healing process and self-discovery. Offer practical help like:

  • Suggest activities such as exercise, meditation, running or a fitness regime.
  • Gift them a journal with writing prompts to encourage a fresh start.
  • Get them to pick up a new hobby during their free time and, if possible, accompany them to their classes. 
  • Treat them to their favorite meal and remind them how much of a gastronome they were previous to their breakup. 

These are some of the ways to help a male or female friend through a breakup. Helping them reconnect with their creative side will bring a sense of joy and purpose back into their life. If my past experiences have taught me anything, it is that this approach works well.

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3. Avoid judging or name-calling

During a breakup, it’s essential to refrain from blaming or criticizing your friend or their ex-partner. A friend who talks badly, passes judgment and blames is not only doing the wrong thing but is also trying to gaslight you. 

  • Try to understand how your friend feels. Focus on empathy and understanding
  • Validate their feelings and remind them that breakups are a normal part of life
  • Break the cycle of negative energy surrounding them and talk to them in positive, comforting words
  • A simple yet empowering message for a friend going through a breakup can work wonders

Non-judgmental support from you can promote post-breakup adjustment and mental well-being. 

When Jessica, 35, went through a breakup, ending her 12-year-long relationship, she was shattered. It was a relationship which she intended to see its fruition in a wedding. Imagine her mental agony when some people in her social circle started blaming her for the end of the relationship. Not only did she feel guilty, but she was also on the brink of committing suicide burdened by the blame game! 

4. Respect your friend’s boundaries

While trying to help your friend overcome their previous breakup, do not overstep the boundaries. Allow your friend space to breathe in. Instead of lecturing them on the dos and don’ts during a vulnerable time, respect their choices and allow them the time they need to bounce back. Everyone has their own way of dealing with sorrow, and a timeline to embark on a fresh start. Do not rush them into the process. Let them take their time to process their emotions.

Speaking from my personal experience, I’ve spent sleepless nights over my romantic breakups. No comforting words from friends, or family members seemed to work. I took up new hobbies to distract myself. Ultimately, I sought professional help, the wounds in my heart took time to heal and I gradually went into the right mental space where I could, once again, start dating. 

Related Reading: 11 Signs Your Friend Doesn’t Respect You And What You Should Do

5. Encourage them to seek professional help

So, how to help a friend through a breakup? If you are finding it difficult to cheer up a friend going through emotional turmoil (because it is indeed difficult!), then you can encourage them to get professional help.

As per a study published in the National Library of Medicine, a breakup can lead to depression-like symptoms. It might begin with an overwhelming feeling of rejection and failure which can eventually engulf the person with self-annihilating thoughts. Sometimes, the support of friends alone may not be enough to help your friend through a breakup. Encourage them to seek additional resources:

  • Get them self-help books that keep them motivated  
  • Share online articles or inspiring stories with them
  • Help them join support groups that focus on healing after a breakup
  • Suggest seeking professional help from a therapist or counselor

Professional help and resources can provide practical strategies and insights into coping with mental agony. 

6. Offer positive distractions

If you do not know what to say to your best friend after a breakup, then you can simply provide them with opportunities for positive distractions. Engaging in positive and enjoyable activities can help your friend shift their focus away from the pain of the breakup. Offer to engage in activities together that bring joy, laughter, and a sense of adventure. As per a research study published in Frontiers in Psychology, people engaged in newer activities and experiences are less likely to be stressed or anxious. 

Try offering distractions that can provide moments of respite and create new positive memories to counterbalance the challenging emotions.

  • Try a new hobby together
  • Attend a fun event or music concert
  • Go for a weekend getaway
  • Visit an amusement park and relive your childhood
  • Catch up with your old mutual friends 

When Ron, 29, broke up with David, 32, he was completely shattered. Not only did he feel sad, but his sorrow was also turning counter-productive. He loathed himself, harboured suicidal thoughts, and was gradually succumbing to depression. It was then that his sister Amanda decided to take a cooking class together with him. Neither of them was particularly skilled in the kitchen, but it turned out to be a hilarious and enjoyable experience. They shared cooking mishaps and culinary adventures. It not only provided a much-needed distraction for Ron but also strengthened their bond.

How to help a friend through a breakup

7. Offer them a different perspective

During a breakup, it’s common for individuals to get caught up in negative thoughts and emotions. You can cheer up a friend with a different perspective which can act like a breath of fresh air for them. You might still be wondering, ‘What to say to your best friend after a breakup? How to make them see things from a different point of view?’. Here are a few things you can try:

  • As a supportive friend, you can help provide a broader perspective. 
  • Remind them of their strengths, accomplishments, and the positive aspects of their life outside the relationship. 
  • Encourage them to focus on personal growth and remind them that this experience can be an opportunity for self-discovery. 

Something as simple as sending a reassuring message for a friend going through a breakup can assist in self-discovery. Helping friends gain a new perspective can facilitate the post-breakup adjustment with self.

8. Offer practical help

To help a female friend through a breakup, it is always easier to ask “What can I do?” or “How do you want me to help?”. But instead of simplifying things for them, it places the onus on them to find the solutions. Rather, cheer up a friend and offer them tangible, practical help. Practical support can go a long way in helping your friend through a breakup. Offer to assist with tasks that may feel overwhelming to them.

  • Organize their living space
  • Help them declutter, and do away with old pictures, gifts, or anything else that might remind them of a past relationship or ex-partner
  • Run errands for them, get them groceries or supplies
  • Practical help can even be in the form of blocking them from social media, something that your friend might be finding difficult to do. A study published in Information, Communication, and Society points out that seeing your ex’s posts on social media can add up to the distress felt after a breakup. Make sure your friend is not subjected to such content that will make them more miserable.  

Helping in practical ways not only gives a sense of stability during difficult times but also ensures them that they are not alone. 

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What Not To Do When A Friend Is Going Through A Breakup

While you wonder aloud, ‘How to help a friend through a breakup?’, do not forget that there are a few sacrilegious things to avoid saying to your friend. We know you are concerned and genuinely want to help, but things can go murky if you do any of these things. Avoid falling into the pitfall of:

  1. Disregarding your friend’s feelings: Do not dismiss their feelings as their fantasies. Avoid rushing them into the healing process. Allow your friend to go through the essential stages of grief as they deem best, giving them their due space and time
  2. Bashing their ex: Avoid criticizing or talking negatively about your friend’s ex. If you talk badly about your friend’s ex, things may backfire in  an ugly way. Name-calling and blame-shifting will not help your friend feel better. Don’t worsen the matter by fueling resentment
  3. Do not force them to enter into a new relationship: Respect their timeline to get back to dating. Let your friend choose for themselves, and even if you have someone in mind for them, wait till they are ready for it. Rebound relationships often do not  last
  4. Do not share their personal details or breakup ‘stories’ with others: Avoid gossiping about their breakup or relationship status. Confidentiality and trust are the least that you can offer them during such a vulnerable time. You are there to provide emotional support to them , not make them the gossip-buzz of the entire city
  5. Do not lead them on to the ‘silver lining’: The elusive ‘silver lining’, for most people, is illusory. Do not encourage your friend to look at the ‘positive’ things just for the sake of cheering them up. If you don’t know how to help a friend through a breakup, refer to our pointers above, instead

Helping a friend through a breakup requires empathy, patience, and understanding. By being a supportive listener, offering emotional and practical assistance, and respecting their boundaries, you can provide the foundation for healing and growth. Remember, each person’s journey is unique, so tailor your support to their individual needs. As you navigate this challenging time together, you have the power to make a positive impact and help your friend emerge stronger and ready for new beginnings.