A couple of weeks ago, one of my good friends called me up sobbing — her boyfriend of almost a year (who was awful, by the way) had just broken up with her. From the minute I picked up the phone, despite knowing this was a good thing, I was immediately put into the "friend-of-the-broken-hearted" role and all its responsibilities. As the friends of people who have been broken up with, it's our job to try and help them get through it. But, how do we really do that?
When someone is upset or grieving, it can often be really hard to know what to do or say, especially if you're worried about only making it worse (because patting them awkwardly on the back as they cry probably isn't gonna cut it). Even if you know for a fact that this breakup will mean good things for them, we have to let them get over it in their own time. So, what it really comes down to is how well you can console someone, and very importantly, knowing what to say and when during the delicate and volatile breakup process.
Based on my own experience with helping my loved ones deal with their broken hearts, as well as a little help from some trusty friends on TikTok, I've outlined a rough guide to help you help your friend through their next bad breakup.
Listen, but don't offer advice
In the first few weeks of the breakup, logic is probably going to go straight out the window. Your friend is almost definitely going to be running through scenarios with you to make sense of the situation, replaying the relationship and the breakup to try and understand what really went down.
They may even be asking you a bunch of questions like, "What do you think went wrong?" and "What do you think my ex meant by this?". Despite this line of incessant questioning, your job here is actually just to listen and offer as little advice as possible — because they probably don't actually want or need that just yet. During this hard and confusing time, what they really need, quite literally, is a shoulder to cry (and vent) on.
Avoid saying things like "There are more people out there," and "This is a good thing", even if they're completely true. The likelihood of your friend being ready to hear these affirmations is low, as this is the stage where they need to just process what's happened on their own, and use you as a sounding board for their own thoughts.
They're also in a very vulnerable place right now, so any advice — good or bad — is going to confuse them further or, at the very least, go through one ear and out the other. Agree with them about the things that hurt them, and validate their feelings. Save your real pearls of wisdom, comforting or harsh, for the time when they're really ready to receive it.
If your friend is seriously struggling at this stage and you think they might be at risk, suggesting they see a mental health professional to talk about the breakup is a really good idea for both of you.
Prop up their ego
After the initial shock and sadness have passed, this is the time to really gas your friend up. Think of it as propping the pieces of them up while they fuse back together! Be prepared to tell them how amazing they are, how hot they look, and really build their confidence back up after the crushing rejection they just faced. Convince them of their worth, whatever it takes.
This is also the phase where they might want to indulge in some, ahem, interesting behaviours to get over their breakup. As their friend, this is a delicate time — by supporting them in whatever they need to do to feel better, but also looking out for them and making sure they're okay. So get ready to take them on a wild night out, but also be ready to guide their drunken, sad self back home and safely to bed.
Remember that throughout all this, you also need to look after yourself. You might even be getting a bit over it by this stage, which is completely fair and certainly doesn't make you a bad friend. Just stay kind and patient with your friend, while also making space and time for you. You don't have to drop everything just because your friend is going through a breakup.
Introduce logic and wisdom
After some time has passed, this is when you can start to be a little more honest and offer some of that wisdom (and maybe even tough love) you've been saving. During this stage, we still humour their thoughts and feelings (even if they're a bit delusional), but slowly start to offer some real insight.
This is the time to give veiled advice such as, "Sure, you're a total catch and they might want you back, but don't hang all your hopes on them. In a few months, you'll probably have forgotten all about them." You get the idea. What you're really trying to impart is that time heals all wounds, and they're going to be just fine, even if they don't quite believe it yet.
You can also start to be more honest and critical here (in a kind way) and help your friend to understand both their own and their ex's role in the breakup. This is where our friends will really start to face reality, and we can be there to help them come to terms with it.
Get angry with them
Eventually, after all that time of deliberation and revelations, you'll be able to say what you were probably thinking from the very beginning; "I never liked them anyway!". Now you've reached the stage where you can get mad about their ex, look at the breakup with fresh perspective and be righteously angry and happy that it's over, together! Recall memories of their ex's most embarrassing moments, point out all the reasons they weren't right for each other, and laugh off all the pain.
Once your friend has been able to take the rose-tinted glasses off about their ex, they need to be able to recognise all the reasons they really are better off. And they'll also know just how lucky they are to have a good friend like you.