Breakups will always suck. Whether they ended amicably or the breakup came out of nowhere, it’s going to hurt just the same, and oftentimes, elicit feelings of unworthiness and intense sadness. It hurts to watch anyone go through a heartbreak, especially when they are close friends. But how exactly do you go about making them feel better when you know nothing you say can truly change anything? Is it too early to call him dumb? Is it better to avoid the subject? While I do not speak for everyone, through my own experience, here are four things I have learned not to say to my friends struggling to move on after a relationship has come to an end:
- Don’t give advice unless it is asked for.
It is almost human nature to solve problems when we see others are facing an obstacle. However, after a breakup, we often just need someone to talk things through with, to cry with and to feel less alone with. Think of yourself as a sponge; just absorb the information. There is no reason to react or assert your opinion unless it’s asked for. Definitely give affirmations, but especially if your friend just broke up with a significant other, let them wallow without a future plan, let them carve their healing process by themselves and ask if it’s okay before asserting your opinion.
- Don’t insult their ex.
Obviously you see your friend hurting, so feelings of anger will probably build up for the person who hurt them, and you may want to make those feelings heard. However, it is sometimes better to keep those opinions to yourself- at least until you see they are ready to hear it. You have to remember that your friend once spent many hours of her day with this person, maybe even fell in love with them. From my own experience, when my friends insulted my ex, I took it personally. I chose to spend time with this person that they were saying terrible things about. I am crying about this person that they have said terrible things about? So what does that make me? Rather than insulting their ex, try uplifting them instead. When they begin to insult their ex and make jokes, only then is it okay for you to do the same.
- Stay away from cliches.
No one wants to hear that “There are many fish in the sea” or “If it’s meant to be, it’ll happen.” Just be genuine. Tell them “Yes, this sucks, but I am here for you.” Tell them that they are strong.Text them good morning or goodnight, or anything that you think they would need to feel less alone. Because while our words can not fix our friends, they can make this process so much easier if we are here for them in the ways that they want us to be there.
- Do not give your friend timelines.
This one is really important. Do not tell your friends to move on already or to get over their ex already. Firstly, they could if they would, and secondly, that is the best way to make their feelings feel invalidated. There is no timeline for how long someone should spend feeling heartbroken. Let them feel how they feel and move with their pace rather than giving them an arbitrary timeline for emotions.
Breakups are heart-wrenchingly terrible, but having your friends around makes just the healing process just a little more bearable. As friends, we obviously cannot control the situation, and our words will only do so much. In the long run, the words and encouragement I received from my friends were what allowed me to heal. So if someone close to you has gone through a breakup, remember to hold them a little tighter and make sure they know that they are worthy, so loved and that they are stronger than they ever believed they were.