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15 Secrets to Help a Friend Heal from a Breakup & Feel Happy Again

Watching a close friend deal with a broken heart can be tough. Learn the dos and don’ts of helping a friend through a breakup.

How to Help a Friend through a Breakup

Helping a close friend go through a breakup is almost as hard as going through one yourself. 

There is nothing worse than seeing your bestie devastated as they go through the cycles of a breakup: questioning their own worth, wondering what they did wrong, etc. This hurt is especially compounded if the breakup was caused by cheating. 

You are a good friend, and you want to be there for your best friend as they recover from heartbreak. But some techniques can actually do more harm than good. Read on for tips to help your friend move on from a breakup, without getting sucked in yourself. [Read: 18 ways to build lasting friendships]

15 dos and don’ts of helping a friend through a breakup

So, if you’re wondering how to help a friend through a breakup, let’s explore 15 steps through the various stages of a breakup.

1. Do not immediately insult their ex

When someone hurts your best friend, you want to come at them with guns blazing. It’s a natural reaction, but not an ideal one right away. 

When you first learn of the breakup, especially if betrayal is involved, try to quell the knee jerk desire to bash your bestie’s ex in the early stages. They probably still have feelings for them, and are shocked and horrified by this turn of events. No matter what the ex did, your bestie is probably not quite at the outward anger stage yet.

Don’t worry– the time to bash on her ex will come. In the meantime, try to focus on supporting your best friend and being there. When dealing with the early shock of a ending relationship, your friend probably needs a shoulder to cry on more than an angry tirade against their ex. [Read: How to survive the first 168 hours after a breakup]

2. Ask your friend what they need from you

It might sound like a ridiculous thing to ask, but simply vocalizing that question shows that you’re there for anything they need. That in itself is extremely comforting.

Your friend will probably say something like “help me,” “take the pain away,” or “just be there.” While you can’t take away the pain, you can do your best to be a rock for them to lean on. Understanding how to help a friend through a breakup isn’t always about knowing the answers, it’s about asking them how you can help them right now. [Read: The 9 golden rules you should follow to become a better person]

3. Be prepared to crack open the ice cream *or the wine*

At some point there is going to be a hugely emotional session, possibly multiple, and it will require ice cream and wine too. During these outbursts, remember that your job is often just to listen. Let your friend pour out whatever is in their mind and heart, and provide a sympathetic ear. 

Much of the time, we don’t really take the time to hear the words and feel the emotion of what someone is saying. During conversation, most people don’t listen– they just wait for their turn to talk.

This is a situation that requires a true listener, and if you love your bestie you will be that for them. Don’t judge, don’t interrupt, don’t try to shift the conversation to something that happened to you *even if you think that will help*. Just let your friend get it all out. Once your best friend feels they are truly being listened to, the healing can begin.

4. Advise them to cut all contact with their ex

In the aftermath of the breakup, your bestie is probably going to want to get in contact with their ex in some way. They will be stalking their social media accounts or threatening to text or call at any moment. 

While you cannot control what your best friend does, you should do your best to discourage them from contacting their ex. Whatever they say will come from a place of anger and hurt– they are flailing, trying to get a reaction from the person who hurt them, trying to displace some of the pain they are feeling. 

This kind of reaction never ends well. Try to remind your friend that nothing they say is going to change the situation. In fact, that text or phone call is more likely to make them feel worse, not better. Of course, it’s up to them what they do. You can’t force them. But a strong chat about the perils of social media stalking and drunk texting can certainly help. 

Remind your friend that they are not going to heal while there is the possibility or temptation of contact. They are not going to like you for it. In terms of learning how to help a friend through a break up, a little tough love is sometimes required. [Read: 14 powerful ways to unloved someone and conquer the impossible]

5. Set boundaries

You cannot light yourself on fire to keep someone else warm. It might sound heartless, but you need to ensure that your best friend’s crisis doesn’t completely overtake your life. Of course, be there for them and let them know it. But don’t neglect your own responsibilities such as your own relationship, family, job, hobbies, downtime etc.

You can’t be strong for your friend if you’re not nourishing yourself too. If your best friend is truly your best friend, they will understand that you need time to yourself.  [Read: How to set boundaries and feel more in control of your own life]

6. In the immediate aftermath, don’t let them do anything stupid

When the breakup first happens, there is a high chance for stupidity occurring. Sometimes, when people receive a shock, their logic gets an override from emotion and they can react in sudden and bizarre ways. These reactions can run from cutting their own bangs to committing a series of crimes. 

When helping your friend through a breakup, it is important that you be there to discourage all actions which your friend will regret in the future, or even the next morning. If something does happen, do your best damage control. Your friend will thank you for it when they are thinking straight.

7. Encourage them to stay busy

There is no quick cure for heartbreak. Only time can heal the emotional wounds your best friend has. But dwelling on the situation certainly doesn’t help either–encourage your friend to fill their schedule with fun activities to take their mind off of the heartache. 

While you can’t be there 100% of the time, you can arrange things to do when you’re free. For instance, plan day trips or a meal, let them know they can call around for coffee. Basically, keep your friend as busy as you can. Enlist the help of other joint friends in keeping your friend occupied when you’re not able to.

The more you distract them, the better they will deal with their emotions and heal. [Read: 20 Wild steps to get over a broken heart & heal like you don’t care]

8. Avoid telling them what to do

There is a difference between advising them and telling them. If you go around being the bossy friend, you increase the chances of a fall out between the two of you. You can’t force someone to do something. You can advise them and explain why you think it’s a good idea. Your friend needs a friend right now, not a teacher or boss.

9. Lift them up

Remind your friend as much as possible how wonderful they are, how attractive they are, how full of talent they are. Be there to remind your friend of their positive points. Lift them up as much as possible.

Whenever a breakup happens, it’s easy to slip into negativity and see all your bad points, and that is where your friend is right now. By reminding them of their worth, you help them heal much faster. You cannot undo the hurt done by your friend’s ex, but you can remind them what an amazing person they are. [Read: How to build confidence: 11 powerful changes to alter your life]

10. Don’t push your friend to start dating again

Setting your bestie up with a new date may seem like a sure-fire way to help them get over their ex. Unfortunately, it isn’t. Dating is fun, but it is also rough– fraught with harsh rejection and disappointment. In order to navigate dating, you need to have confidence and a thick skin. 

Your best friend is in pain, and probably still has feelings for the person who dumped them. They are likely feeling insecure, fragile, and are in no shape to start dating again. A single rejection is going to send them spiraling even lower than they are now. 

Instead, focus on them and their feelings, reminding them of their positive points. Being supportive and encouraging hobbies is a far more effective way through the whole mess than creating an online dating account. [Read: 10 ways to be a better listener]

11. Don’t encourage them to get wasted

Getting drunk because you are sad is fine…once. But getting wasted all the time leads to weight gain, poor decision making, depression, and a whole host of other things that will cause your best friend more suffering than they already have. 

Have a wine and cry night, but make sure it’s just one. Then encourage your bestie to pursue healthier emotional outlets. Maybe you two can start hiking together, or pick up a new hobby. Whatever it is, don’t let your best friend turn to the bottle for comfort

12. Remind your friend that this isn’t a failure

After a hard breakup people struggle with feelings of failure. They get stuck in the past, wondering where it all went wrong and what they could have done differently. Some of this is a natural part of the healing process, but a good way to help your friend get over a breakup is to remind them that they did not fail. 

A relationship is a lesson– not a failure. When they are ready they can take the things they learned and apply them to future dating experiences. They might feel like they failed, but they have you there to remind them they didn’t. [Read: Female behavior & 21 things girls do after a breakup to feel better]

13. End the Pity Party

Your friend feels bad right now, and they are entitled to their feelings. But sometimes these feelings can devolve into a pity party, where your friend wallows in their feelings of hurt and pain until it’s all they can talk about. 

This kind of pain turns malignant quickly, and causes people to push away those they love with their self-pitying, negative attitude. If you find this happening with your best friend, its time for some tough love. Tell them that while you agree they are allowed to feel hurt, they need to put some work into moving on from the situation and not letting it consume them. Life is hard on everyone, and no one likes a downer. 

14. Remind your friend that the best revenge is living well

Lets say your ex got dumped by a major jerk for another partner. After they process the initial hurt and betrayal, they will probably want to “get revenge” somehow. Maybe by sleeping with their ex’s best friend, or spray painting their car. 

As fun and cathartic as that all sounds, it’s best to discourage property damage and poorly thought out hookups. Remind your best friend that causing chaos will not end their pain, only make the situation larger and more traumatic than it already is. 

Even if they have been wronged, stooping to that level is only going to vindicate their ex. Tell your bestie that the best revenge is living well. 

15. Don’t take it all personally

Your friend is probably going to snap at you a few times, say things they don’t mean, argue with you for the hell of it, and generally be quite unpleasant on occasion. Remember that they aren’t themselves right now. Don’t take anything too personally. Simply rise above it.

[Read: How to make your friend feel better when they’re sad]

When asking for advice on how to help a friend through a breakup, you’ll probably hear all manner of suggestions. The bottom line, just be there. When the grey clouds pass, they’ll thank you for being a good friend.

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Nicky Curtis
Nicky Curtis
Having stumbled from one relationship drama to another throughout her 20s, Nicky is now somewhat of a guru in the crazy world of life and love. Telling it how i...
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