This article was co-authored by Klare Heston, LCSW. Klare Heston is a Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker based in Cleveland, Ohio. With experience in academic counseling and clinical supervision, Klare received her Master of Social Work from the Virginia Commonwealth University in 1983. She also holds a 2-Year Post-Graduate Certificate from the Gestalt Institute of Cleveland, as well as certification in Family Therapy, Supervision, Mediation, and Trauma Recovery and Treatment (EMDR).
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It's normal to feel powerless when your friend goes through a tough breakup, but one of the most important things you'll need to do will be realizing that you cannot simply change or fix the situation.XResearch source Instead, try cheering up your friend after a breakup by patiently listening to complaints, providing reasonable and enjoyable distractions, and dissuading your friend from making regrettable choices like excessive drinking or rebounds relationships.
Method 1Method 1 of 2:Helping Your Friend in the Short Term
- 1Listen. Immediately after a breakup—regardless of whether the relationship was six months or six years—your friend is likely to feel confused in addition to sadness. Your friend will likely want to start talking through this confusion almost immediately, and genuinely listening is one of the first and most meaningful steps you can take to show you care.XResearch source
- No matter what reason someone gives us for breaking up, we’re always left with questions—"What could I have done differently?" or "Can I still fix this?" It’s perfectly logical for people to be confused about being rejected, especially if they don’t see the rejection coming.
- 2Be patient. It’s always easier to maintain a friend through the good times, so it’s natural for hard times such as breakups to feel straining and frustrating on a friendship.XResearch source Constantly remind yourself that it’s your job as a friend to be empathetic and involved even if it means listening to the same questions or stories repeatedly as your friend processes the new source of grief. Having patience through the process begins immediately and lasts the entire time.
- If it helps you, remind yourself of a similar time the friend helped you either through a breakup or maybe the loss of a job. Think objectively about how patient the friend was with you during your more difficult moments.
- 3Help your friend feel understood. Obviously, your friend doesn’t want to feel as though he or she is talking to a wall, so make sure you engage with the stories and questions raised to help make the person feel understood.XResearch source During your responses, try to avoid empty cliches and platitudes about breakups, though.XResearch source The last thing your friend wants to hear is that there are other fish in the sea because it invalidates his or her current emotional state.
- In general, you should say things that both reassure your friend and acknowledge that his or her feelings are valid. Avoid telling the friend how to feel such as telling them to stay positive, and avoid immediately giving advice unless you are asked for it.XResearch source
- For example, instead of telling a friend to try to be more positive, acknowledge that the situation isn’t fair.XResearch source
- Now is not the time to give your friend advice. Just repeat back what they say to you to show them that you're listening. Validate their feelings by assuring them that it is okay to feel the way that they do.
- 4Avoid bringing up your previous breakups. While you may feel tempted to compare your friend’s situation to a previous breakup of your own, you should avoid doing so in the immediate aftermath of the breakup. We may see this as relating to the person, but you may accidentally cross the line in the eyes of your grieving friend, making it seem like you’re stealing their thunder or making the situation about you.XResearch source Give the friend time to make it about him or her.
- 5Discourage your friend from contacting the ex. It’s pretty common for someone who has just been rejected to deny the finality of the situation. Your friend may be tempted in the early stages to reach out to the ex in ways that you know aren’t going to help. While you should discourage this course of action when the friend asks, don’t allow yourself to get too involved in the outcome.
- Your friend has likely made up his or her mind to contact the person by the time the topic comes up, so you cannot allow yourself to get frustrated if the person doesn’t follow your advice.XResearch source
- A breakup awakens an irrational part of all of us. Forbidding your friend from contacting the ex is like a parent forbidding a teenager from doing something. Your friend may do it just to spite the voice of reason.XResearch source
- 6Distract your friend within reason. The emotional effects of a breakup represent a grieving process. It’s not only natural for people to grieve, but it’s also necessary if the person wants to move on in a healthy manner. You may be tempted to immediately begin getting your friend out of the house to bombard the person with distractions from the pain and sadness, but you must allow your friend to grieve instead of constantly making him or her ignore or forget the breakup.XResearch source Due to this, only use distractions sparingly and within reason.
- While taking the friend out shopping or to a baseball game occasionally is a good break from the stress of the grieving process, attempting to subject the person constantly to outside stimuli will only prolong the process or possibly even lead the person to repress the emotions he or she needs to work through.XResearch source
- Don't try to set your friend up on a date or push them out into the dating pool. Finding a new partner right away may not be the answer for them.
Method 2Method 2 of 2:Helping Your Friend in the Long Term
- 1Allow your friend to find his or her own path. Everyone grieves in a completely different manner and over a completely unique time period. Don’t focus on how long the grieving period should take based on the length of the relationship or anything else like that. Accept that your friend will need to find his or her own way and in his or her own time.XResearch source
- This process is likely to continue testing your patience, but you simply cannot force the situation to click. It’ll click when the person is ready for it to.
- 2Help with day-to-day details. Grief often feels all-encompassing in a way that may make your friend put off going grocery shopping or keeping up with other errands that we all hate to do even when we’re not getting over a breakup. While you shouldn’t mother your friend completely, offering to pick up some basic necessities or even help with the laundry can mean more to the person than you might think.
- By offering briefly to take something even so simple and mundane off your friend’s plate, you will help in a way most others won’t even offer.XResearch source
- 3Keep having fun together. While you should allow the friend to work through the pain and sadness in the short term, don’t feel as though you cannot have fun together in the weeks and months after the breakup. Especially in cases of long-term relationships and cohabitation, being single again can feel a bit to anyone as though they’ve lost part of themselves or their identity. If you and the friend had standing dinner plans on the same night every week or other common friend rituals, resume them as soon as the friend seems ready.
- These gestures can reestablish a sense of normalcy that helps the friend move on.
- Remember that getting over someone isn’t a perfectly linear process. Even after resuming fun routines, your friend will still have good and bad days. Resist the urge to push or cajole to get the process back on track. The friend is still seeking a safe, nonjudgmental place in your friendship.XResearch source
- This may be the perfect time for you to try out a new adventure together. Sign up for a new experience, like a hot balloon ride, or leave town for the weekend.
- 4Watch the person’s alcohol consumption. While not advisable, we all know it’s perfectly normal give in to a night or two of too much to drink after a breakup. However, as the immediate breakup turns into the long process of moving on, ensure that your friend doesn’t appear to be finding too much solace in drugs or alcohol.XResearch source
- In addition to the risks of dependence, a healthy body will help lead to a healthy mind much more quickly, and no one sleeps, eats, or exercises enough when they party too often.
- 5Focus on what helps your friend feel better. Though your friend should not avoid or repress the pain and sadness of the breakup, those feelings often find other outlets in the weeks and months that follow. Channeling negative emotions into positive activities is a process referred to as sublimation. Find out the activities your friend is using to sublimate the hurt feelings and encourage them.XResearch source
- The person might be exercising more, taking up painting or an instrument, or even doubling down on working toward a promotion. Offer your friend plenty of positive reinforcement for the productive ways in which he or she has managed the situation.
- 6Let the friend get angry. 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. While your friend obviously shouldn’t be driven to negative or violent action based on his or her anger, being mad alone is not a sign of backsliding.
- However, discourage your friend from thinking that all women or men are evil or fickle. Not everyone is evil when just one person hurts you.
- 7Dissuade the person from rushing into another relationship. In the absence of being loved and needed by the ex, your friend may seek it in another, ill-advised relationship.XResearch source. This is a terrible idea for the same reason that offering your friend too many distractions is a terrible idea—distraction versus dealing.
- Try to dissuade the person from jumping into another relationship if it looks that way, but remember to approach it the same way you approached the person trying to contact the ex. In other words, don’t get so invested that you’ll be upset if the person does it anyway, and don’t forbid it so harshly that you tempt them to do it to spite you.
Expert Q&A Did you know you can get expert answers for this article?Unlock expert answers by supporting wikiHow
- QuestionMy online friend broke up with his love interest, and he can't get over it. How do I help him?Klare Heston, LCSWKlare Heston is a Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker based in Cleveland, Ohio. With experience in academic counseling and clinical supervision, Klare received her Master of Social Work from the Virginia Commonwealth University in 1983. She also holds a 2-Year Post-Graduate Certificate from the Gestalt Institute of Cleveland, as well as certification in Family Therapy, Supervision, Mediation, and Trauma Recovery and Treatment (EMDR).
Licensed Social WorkerLicensed Social WorkerExpert Answer
- QuestionWhat do you tell your friend when she thinks the breakup is her fault?Klare Heston, LCSWKlare Heston is a Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker based in Cleveland, Ohio. With experience in academic counseling and clinical supervision, Klare received her Master of Social Work from the Virginia Commonwealth University in 1983. She also holds a 2-Year Post-Graduate Certificate from the Gestalt Institute of Cleveland, as well as certification in Family Therapy, Supervision, Mediation, and Trauma Recovery and Treatment (EMDR).
Licensed Social WorkerLicensed Social WorkerExpert Answer
- Make them laugh every chance you get. Put a smile on their face.
- Let them know that you're there for them; that little thing can mean the world to them at a time like this.
- Don't force them to tell you what happened. They will tell you when they're ready.
- Give them time to themselves if they need/want it, they may have to clear their head.
- Give your friend a hug every time they cry, and tell them you love them and that you are always there for them.
- Refrain from getting too many friends all together "helping" all at once because it might seem overwhelming. One or two friends is best.
- Give them little notes of encouragement and plenty of hugs. Make sure they know you're always there for them and let them know that they can get through this tough time.
About This Article
While it might seem like nothing can cheer someone up after a break up, you can make your friend feel better by genuinely listening to them and helping them work through the questions they have. It’s your job as a friend to be empathetic and involved, so be patient and help your friend process their grief, even if they keep telling the same stories over and over again. If you start getting frustrated, remind yourself about a time when a friend helped you through a break up or something just as painful. To help them move on, take them out shopping or to a baseball game as a stress-free distraction. However, use distractions sparingly since your friend needs time to process their emotions and too many distractions can lead them to repress their feelings. For more help from our co-author, like how to help your friend in the long term, scroll down.
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