How do I help a friend cope with a relationship break-up?

Some background, some drama

What can you say? What should you do? You care about your friend, but you know trying to be there for your friend is fraught with no-win situations and conflicts. You can see much more clearly than they can what should or shouldn’t be done, but everything you say seems to fall on deaf ears as your friend just continues to become more distant and depressed.

Do’s and Don’ts

Listen to your friend. Be patient. Be supportive. Involve your friend in fun activities. Just be there…The “How Do I" series tries to list down a few Do’s and don’ts to guide you to help your friend handle a relationship break-up.

Do’s

  • If your friend has been decimated by a breakup nothing you can do will speed up the grieving process. Remember grief that is avoided or repressed doesn’t just disappear; it shows up in unbearable ways. Allow them the space until they feel ready to live again.
  • Your friend is grieving and therefore not likely to be able to see past him/herself at this stage. Be patient. You will have to handle them at their worst- experiencing pain, fear, despair, disappointment and shame. Remember it’s important to just listen, be there and help your friend feel understood.
  • Remember that your friend has to find their own way through, in their own time. Be a sounding board. Offer advice to help, but let them find their own path to recovery.
  • Grief is all-absorbing. Offer to help them in small ways and do chores for them. Your efforts may not be recognized now but in the long run he/she will appreciate you.

Dont’s

  • Don’t let them rush blindly into another relationship.
  • Don’t make your friend control his/her emotions. In most people’s grieving process, anger comes after the confusion, denial, and sadness involved with a breakup. Anger usually means your friend has accepted the rejection and moved past the immediate loss.
  • Don’t allow your friend to give in to addictions: drugs or alcohol.
  • Don’t allow your friend to threaten dire consequences or suicide.
  • Don’t encourage your friend to contact his/her ex. What’s over is best left alone.

Last words

We all feel powerless in the face of breakups and often feel even more powerless when it comes to helping friends through breakups. One of the biggest steps of helping a friend through a breakup is realizing that you cannot simply change or fix the situation. From there, helping your friend get back on track is mostly a process of listening and providing a safe place for him or her to grieve. A breakup isn't easy for anyone involved—and that includes you, looking in from the outside, trying to cushion the fall. It’s important for you to maintain your boundaries, manage your frustration and maintain your patience.

Sources and citations