Have you ever answered a phone call from a close friend expecting to laugh, but you’re met with a shaky voice and tears? I have, and it sucks. Having someone close to you get broken up with can be hard to watch, and it can be even harder to help them. Let me provide you with some tips so you never have to answer that phone unprepared.
The most important thing you can do is listen. You might feel the urge to feel the tear-filled silences with words, but in that moment, your friend quite literally needs a shoulder to cry on. Giving your friend the space to feel their emotions is important and very much a part of the grieving process. This is the time to be intentional and thoughtful with your outward behavior. This can mean nodding your head, giving hugs and asking questions. It might be difficult for you to watch someone you care about in so much pain, but imagine being in their shoes. They are dealing with something that has an emotionally large magnitude conjoined with the sometimes awkward need to seek out support and companionship. Your job is to provide comfort in spite of any difficult feelings that may arise in you. The best and arguably most important step of this process is to listen and let your friend be heard. Let them cry. Let them talk. Let them sit in silence. Just be there, even if you do nothing. Your presence is the best thing you can do to help.
- Be intentional.
Whenever someone goes through a breakup, life is altered right in front of them and the normal daily things can become foggy and deluded with the heartbreak. They may start to overthink the everyday things and may be apprehensive in other relationships, including your friendship with them. That is okay. That is natural. Right now, they are wondering if others will leave them the way their partner did. They are submerged in that grief and it is spreading into the cracks of the different areas of their life. One thing that can help is showing that you are there for them and will continue to be there for them. Show them you are not leaving. Make them one of their favorite meals. Invite them over to watch a movie. Go to the convenience store and get face masks and nail polish. This act of support and trust can then lead to them talking through their emotions and push the healing process along. Being intentional and deliberate with your time and energy by doing these things for them shows you care at a time where they don’t feel cared for. That is powerful.
- Practice respect.
It may be hard to respect this person’s boundaries when they are hurting so much. You may feel the need to bombard them with text messages and phone calls to check in and see how they are doing. This can sometimes be too much. People cope with these things differently, and at some point, it is very possible your friend doesn’t want their breakup and feelings to constantly be the only subject of conversation. Respect their boundaries. If they do not want to talk about it, don’t try to coax it out of them. Respect their space, respect their mind. If they ask to talk about something else, talk about something else. There is a fine line between being overwhelming and being intentional. Tread carefully and truly listen to the needs of your friend. Your job isn’t to fix them or the problem, your job is to support. Make sure to keep that in mind when approaching your recently heartbroken friend.
4. Take Care of Yourself
An important aspect to helping your friend through their breakup is making sure you take care of yourself. It may seem counter intuitive, but the only way you can be of any help or assistance to your friend is by ensuring you are in a proper mental and emotional state. If you yourself are struggling or going through a difficult time, it can be hard to help your friend effectively. Take the time to sort through your emotions before helping out another. Sometimes, it may be too difficult to take on the task of helping someone else when you are facing your own struggles. That is okay. Like I said earlier, your job isn’t to fix someone. It’s not your job to resolve their grief. If helping them is taxing on you, it may be necessary to set up some of your own boundaries. As much as you want to help, it is incredibly important to make sure that you prioritize your own feelings. Make sure your own cup is filled before you fill up another’s.
5. Give Yourself Grace
Just caring is enough. If you’re reading this, it means you want to be a good friend. You’re already on the right path. Grief is often a complex and extremely independent emotion to work through. There will be a time where you may feel like you are not doing enough. Give yourself grace as you go through this process. You may not always say the right thing or do the right thing, but being there is enough. That effort is enough. And at the end of it all, your friend will thank you for it.
Breakups are difficult. You can be an amazing friend and help others through them. Share your experiences, love your neighbor, be intentional in your help. The next time you get one of those hard calls, you’ll know just what to do!