“Ohhh, you guys broke up? I’m so sorry. Let me know if you need anything!”
You may have received or sent a text like this after hearing about a friend’s relationship ending. It can be awkward to know what to do when a friend experiences heartbreak. Do you give them space? Do you go sit with them? What do you say?
Like everything else in life, it’s easier to get through with friends by your side. But here are a few things those friends shouldn’t do.
1. Say “I’m Sorry” and Leave It at That.
“I’m sorry” is a fine thing to say, but that’s not what a person going through a breakup needs. They need to know their friends are going to be there for them and love them. Even a simple “I love you so much. I just want to let you know that I’m here for you” is great. The mind can be filled with a lot of dark thoughts during this time, so it’s important to override those negative thoughts with positive thoughts.
2. Say “Let Me Know If You Need Anything.”
Though you probably have the best intentions, this is basically an easy way out of the conversation. It lets you off the hook from actually doing anything and puts the ball in that person’s court. A person who is hurting probably isn’t going to reach out to his or her friends and ask them for stuff. They feel really vulnerable and just want others to reach out to them. Any sort of action that makes you go out of your way is going to mean a lot.
3. Assume They Need Alone Time.
A lot of times after a breakup, people find themselves alone. Personally, I went to the mall by myself right afterward to do some retail therapy. I would have loved it if someone could have joined me. It’s that whole “being alone thing” that your friend is going to have a tough time with.
4. Leave It Up to Them to Reach Out for Help.
Often, people say “call me if you want to talk.” Again, well-intentioned, but an easy way out. A person experiencing heartache does not want to feel like a burden. Calling them lets them know that you really do care and want to hear their heart.
5. Try to Fix Everything.
When you do talk or get together, be willing to just listen without interrupting. Though things like “I guess it just wasn’t meant to be” or “God will bring the right person along eventually” may be true, but they’re probably not what your friend needs to hear right now.
6. Assume That Words Will Be Enough.
I am a true believer in the cure of Ben & Jerrys. Flowers, a card, a journal or something tangible would do too. Getting them something lets them know that they have been on your mind outside of actually talking with them. I mean, who doesn’t love receiving thoughtful gifts? This kind gesture stands out and can go a long way.
7. Let Them Dwell on the Breakup.
Take them to a park, the beach, the mall, fishing, anywhere! Get the breakup off their minds and give them hope that there are better things to come in the future/ Doing an actual activity will get the breakup off their minds.
8. Check In Just Once.
The first day, people care … and then they forget. It’s the next few days that are the worst in a breakup.
9. Invalidate Their Feelings.
One of the most difficult parts about a breakup is not being able to share “the little things” with that significant person anymore—those daily things that happen in small moments that wouldn’t be significant enough to tweet or Facebook, but that you think are funny and weird. Let your friend know they can share those things with you. In reality, they just want to know that someone is going to be there for them.
10. Under-Spiritualize It.
Praying with someone after they’ve had their heart broken allows them to know that God is sovereign and in control. It also allows them to see the big picture and allows them to experience fellowship, which is what they need in that time.
In summary, loving someone who’s hurting is all about taking action. Letting your friend know that you’re there for them when they don’t even ask you to is the best thing you can do for your friend.
Kelsey Nerland is a joy seeker, a list maker, a food lover, a writer and an intentional follower of Jesus with a heart for service. Kelsey is graduating from Azusa Pacific University with plans to attain her MasterÕs degree at Seattle University in the fall. She blogs at keenandthankful.weebly.com, and invites you to follow her on Twitter (@kelseyjnerland) and Instagram (@kelseyjnerland).