Breakups can be rough, especially when you’ve been with the person for a long time or if you’re the one that got broken up with. During these times, a strong support system can make all the difference between getting stuck in the past and seeing a bright future.
If you’re wondering how to help a friend get over a breakup, I first want to applaud you for being so supportive. Now, let’s dive into the 36 ways you can start to help your friend heal and move on.
Most important things to remember
Before you begin to help your friend navigate their post-breakup world, there are a few key things you should keep in mind.
- Do listen before you help: We have two ears and only one mouth for a reason. Now is the time to focus on your listening skills and let your friend lead the way in conversation. Not only will this help you understand what’s going on, but your friend will also be able to work through their emotions better by verbalizing them to someone else.
- Do adapt to their process: Your friend may need time alone or they might prefer to be out with pals every day. A supportive friend will need to adapt to their process, no matter what it may be.
- Do let them know you’re there for them: Whether you see them every day or only once a week, it’s important to let your friend know that you’re there for them. Whether that be through phone calls or physical hangouts depends on your schedule, but now is the time to make sacrifices and be there for someone who needs it.
- Don’t add to their anger: You can validate your friend’s feelings of anger without adding fuel to the fire. This means limiting how badly you speak about their ex or the situation. Remember – you want your friend to focus on the hope and possibilities of the future, not the harm of the past.
- Don’t compare breakups: You might have gone through a breakup yourself, but that doesn’t mean your friend is in a similar situation. You can empathize with the pain and loss, but don’t make other assumptions about how they feel or what their situation is like without asking them first.
36 ways to help a friend get over a breakup
Choose a few ideas from this list to help your friend get over their ex and move forward to new adventures!
1. Follow their lead
Breakups affect everyone differently – one partner could be crying into a pillow while the other is out celebrating. To make sure your reaction is appropriate, follow your friend’s lead when they tell you the news.
You can ask them why it happened and how they’re feeling to get the gist of things. If they call you crying, you know you should be empathetic and supportive. If they call you raging, you’ll likely respond with shock and indignation.
Feel out their vibe and go with it during the initial notice. You may have to calm them down later on, but the first wave of emotion has to be felt in full.
2. Give them what they need
Friends are supposed to make up social support systems, and the best way to support a friend during their breakup is to ask them what they need from you. Remember that you may respond differently to a breakup than they would, so never assume you know how to best support them.
If your friend is feeling too emotional and responds with “nothing,” offer certain things instead. You could ask them if they want to be distracted from the situation, vent about it, cry about it, be alone, or be with others.
Everyone will have different needs during this time, and this is the ideal way to find out what your friend could use from you.
3. Plan some fun events
Crying and solitude are two parts of grieving a breakup, but they shouldn’t be the only parts. If your friend is up for it or can be convinced, plan some fun events for them to look forward to.
These could be simple occasions, like a movie night with your crew of close friends or it could be something more memorable like a big concert or event that’s planned in your area. Get your friend on board and chat about the event to lift their spirits in the meantime.
4. Remind them that the world is good
If your friend was the one who was dumped, they’re probably feeling pretty bitter about the world and everyone in it. Even if they were the one to end the relationship, it’ll still leave a pretty sour taste in their mouth.
To remind them that the world is full of good things and people too, be that person and show them examples. You don’t want to mention perfect boyfriends or girlfriends too much, but you can point out the kind acts of others – both single people and those in relationships – to restore hope and remind them that they can still find many good people out there.
5. Don’t talk (too much) smack about their ex
A lot of advice columns say you shouldn’t talk negatively about your friend’s ex at all, but I disagree. If your friend is venting about a no-good rotten ex who did them wrong, it would be unnatural for you to disagree or not say much. Any supportive friend is going to agree that the ex was a good-for-nothing waste of space.
The line is drawn when your friend doesn’t say anything negative about their ex but focuses on the situation. It’s not your place to say that their ex sucks if they are crying because they’re still in love with them. This could plant you in an uncomfortable situation if they get back together, so only talk smack in the form of agreeing with your friend’s negative commentary.
6. Be the optimal listener
Humans are natural chatterboxes. We love to talk and, more often than not, only listen with the intent to reply. Instead of doing this, try your best to be the optimal listener.
Listen without thinking of your response. Instead, respond with empathetic statements and open-ended, reflective questions.
Empathetic statements show you understand your friend. This is as simple as saying things like, “That must be so hard,” or “I can see that’s really difficult for you.”
Open-ended questions, on the other hand, get your friend talking more about the subject so they can work through their own emotions. Instead of giving your opinion, you can ask things like, “What would be your ideal outcome for this situation?” or “What do you want to happen next and why?”
7. Be careful of your phrasing
Sometimes we mean well but stick our foot in our mouths when talking about a sensitive subject. Post-breakup conversations are usually packed with emotion, making it easy to get swept up in it all.
Think through your responses and phrasing before answering your friend. Avoid saying things like, “I’m glad it’s over,” “Everything happens for a reason,” and “I never liked your ex anyway.” Just because you feel it or believe it, doesn’t always mean you should say it.
8. Remind them of the (true) cliches
Certain cliches, like the one I mentioned above, shouldn’t be said at a time when someone is hurting. When I say to remind them of the true cliches, do so with examples.
If they feel like there’s no one else in the world, you could remind them of a few people who have been interested in them in the past. This isn’t to push them into dating someone new, but simply to remind them that there are more fish in the sea – without explicitly saying it.
9. Never say “I told you so”
You could have told your friend 500 times that their ex was a cheater, liar, and manipulative pile of dirt, but when your friend finally finds out, you don’t have the right to say “I told you so.”
“I told you so’s” are hurtful because they go without saying. They’re only thought or said in situations where someone is hurt, upset, sad, or angry, and that’s no time to gloat if you care about said person.
10. Plan a getaway
If you and your friend can afford it, plan a weekend or vacation week away together. You can even have other friends tag along to make it more fun.
This could be a long weekend at the beach, in the mountains, exploring a new city, or even at a spa nearby. Choose a spot your friend will like and propose the idea to try and get them on board. They’ll be able to disconnect, relax, and – hopefully – reset. After all, who doesn’t love a good getaway?
11. Don’t neglect yourself
Helping hurting friends is a noble thing to do, but you won’t do it well if you’re neglecting yourself in the meantime. There is a fine line between sacrificing your time to help a friend in need and completely sacrificing your sanity to do so.
Make sure to create boundaries and keep your other priorities, like work, school, health, and family, in mind. Everyone needs me-time, so be sure to pencil it in!
12. Be a beacon of encouragement
Almost anyone going through a breakup is going to have moments of feeling low. Whether they are missing their ex, worried about the future, or obsessing over what went wrong, they’re going to need a hand to help them out of the pit of despair.
Try to be a beacon of encouragement by regularly sharing jokes and memes, inspirational stories, or uplifting quotes with your friend. You could also try giving them a call once in a while just to make sure they are feeling ok.
13. Treat them to something
When someone treats you to something, it’s like finding a random $5 bill on the ground – you just can’t help but smile and feel lucky. Treat your friend to something nice to make their day.
You don’t have to spend a lot of money; a simple ice cream, beer, or lunch will do.
14. Don’t rush their process
Some people get over breakups in a couple of weeks while others could take a year or more. This depends on emotional strength and the attachment that was had with the ex. According to some polls, many non-married couples start to get over a breakup within 3-6 months.
Unfortunately, we can’t use this information to guess when our friends will be up and at ‘em again. If you rush this process, it will be done incorrectly and could lead to a lack of closure.
Instead, we should be patient, staying alongside our friend on their journey to healing until they feel like themselves again.
15. Point out the silver linings
In every situation there is a silver lining; it’s all about perspective. There is no such thing as a perfect relationship, and even the good ones require compromise from both parties.
Use these compromises to find the silver linings for your friend. If their ex was the only thing keeping them from moving, traveling, or having another sort of adventure, open their eyes to see that this is a new opportunity for them. You’d be surprised how much someone can accomplish solo compared to when they have to coordinate with a boyfriend or girlfriend.
16. Ask questions for clarity
It’s important to know what happened and why your friend feels the way they do. Asking questions to clarify could not only help you but also your friend as they process their feelings around the situation.
You can ask about the things they learned from the relationship, what they could improve on or do differently in the future, what it is they feel they’ve lost, etc.
17. Help them create boundaries
We all know someone – or maybe we are that someone – who breaks up with an ex and then continues to see them in an unhealthy way. Feelings get mixed up, jealousy arises, and it never truly ends well.
Help your friend avoid this by talking about how they’re going to move forward, especially if they are still talking with their ex. At the end of the day, we are all adults and your friend is going to do what they want, but you can still offer a word of advice and support to help them stay strong if they ask.
18. Open your doors to them
Going out and having fun is a great way to distract oneself from a breakup, but sometimes you just need to sit home, relax, cry, or watch a movie to destress. Open your home to your friend and let them know that they can come over to just hang out if they need to.
You never know when the overthinking is going to hit and they’re going to need to talk to a friend or just be with someone who understands. By showing them you’re available, they know they have that support if needed.
19. Invite them everywhere
When you lose your partner, whether it came slowly or as a surprise, you’re going to feel their absence. Your friend is going to notice the space where her partner used to be, both physically and metaphorically, which is what makes newly-single people feel lonely.
To counter this loneliness, invite your friend everywhere you can. Whether you’re going out to lunch, a concert, the beach, or the library, ask them if they’d like to join – only if you don’t mind the company, of course.
They may say no to some or many invitations, but that doesn’t mean they don’t appreciate the gesture. When they’re ready, they’ll be sure to jump on board and be grateful for your kindness in the meantime.
20. Be wary of partying
Many newly single people run to bars, alcohol, or drugs to both numb their pain and celebrate their new singleness. While some outings with friends can be fun and a good distraction, be careful of relying too much on partying for the healing process.
Too much partying can end up making your friend feel worse or make decisions that they regret the next day. The last thing you want is for your friend to get hooked on an unhealthy lifestyle or to avoid any feelings of sadness that they must face if they ever want to move forward.
21. Remember that it’s not about you
Providing anecdotes and personal examples are great if your friend asks for them. Otherwise, as tempted as you are to compare their situation to yours, know that they are distinct.
Your friend might be experiencing sadness, which you can empathize with, but there are certain parts of their breakup and past relationship that you’ll never fully understand – and that’s ok. Steer clear of making assumptions or of thinking you know every detail of what’s going on in your friend’s head and heart.
22. Eliminate the emotion
All emotional people need a rational friend. This is the friend who is going to tell you when you’re being dramatic, unrealistic, or silly. This friend will also propose practical solutions to problems you see as impossible because they’re viewing them from an outsider’s perspective.
You need to be that friend. It’s time to step up to the practical plate and offer your friend rational advice when you see he or she is going over the edge with emotion.
23. Normalize the situation
Going through a breakup – especially if your heart was broken – can seem like a unique and isolating experience. It’s easy to forget that millions of people go through breakups every single day. For being social creatures, humans do a pretty bad job of realizing everyone lives a life as complex as theirs.
While it may not provide extreme relief, reminding your friend that they’re not alone and that almost everyone goes through this, survives, and then thrives, may provide some comfort during their moments of sorrow.
24. Respect their decision
Your friend could decide to stop dating for the time being, date someone new way too soon, or even get back together with their no-good ex. No matter what they decide to do, you have to respect their decision as their friend.
Unless they’re putting themselves in a dangerous situation, you have no right to comment on the choices they make as an adult. It’s frustrating and sometimes even angering, but people will do what they want, regardless of whether it’s the best for them or not.
25. Validate their feelings
Breakups are like rollercoasters, including the emotions that come with them. The highs and lows are very high and low, so your friend might seem a bit all over the place at times.
Understand that while they seem to be mood swings, this is a natural part of processing the breakup. To be supportive, you should validate their feelings all the way.
They’re angry about their ex’s approach to the situation? Validate. They’re sad about the circumstances? Validate. They’re suddenly happy it’s over? You guessed right – validate.
26. Remember the stages of grief
The 5 stages of grief are a guideline for how humans process change, protect themselves, and adapt to new realities. These are usually connected with a large loss and can be felt after a breakup.
Not everyone will go through each stage, but it may help to identify which one your friend is experiencing. The stages are denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.
Most are self-explanatory, although bargaining can be experienced as overthinking and over-worrying about the future or past, assuming the worst, and judging oneself, especially about past events.
27. Have a day of self-care
There’s nothing quite like a day to yourself – or, in this case, a day for you and your friend. Treat them to a day of self-care. This would include whatever you and your friend enjoy doing to relax, disconnect, reset, and feel better.
Some examples of self-care could be going to a spa, enjoying your favorite meals, playing your favorite sport, doing your favorite hobby, or just relaxing at home with a good movie. Whatever you choose to do should be fun, relaxing, and generally healthy (no parties).
Let your friend participate in planning the day if they’re up for it or plan it as a surprise if you know them well enough.
28. Pump up their self-esteem
Everyone loves to be complimented, but not everyone needs it as much as a newly single friend. Even if your friend is confident, breakups can shake our perspective and make us doubt ourselves. This is ten times truer if your friend was the one who was dumped or if their ex cheated on them or insulted them as they walked out the door.
Pump up your pal’s self-esteem by giving them genuine compliments about the things that make them great. This could be physical so much as internal to remind them of all they have to offer the world.
29. Be observant
As social as we are, most humans are not effective communicators. If your friend falls into this category, they may not be good at telling you how they feel or what they need. In this case, you should be observant and notice signs that point to how they’re feeling.
For example, if they’re normally extroverted but seem to be isolating themselves, it may be your cue to jump in and help get them out of the house. On the contrary, if they seem to be suffering out in public, you could provide them a safe space at home or somewhere quiet to process their thoughts and regroup.
30. Let them grieve
Whether the ex was a good person or not, your friend is going to feel some sort of loss when it comes to the breakup. They have the right, as with any loss, to grieve it for a while.
Be sure to give them space to be sad, especially during the first few weeks. Encouraging them is one thing, but don’t tell them they should look on the bright side or start to move on until they’ve at least had some time to feel the sadness that comes with the situation.
31. Be sensitive to their feelings
It’s not always easy to hang out with a hurt person. They could lash out, be bitter, or go from angry to happy and back in less than an hour. To be supportive, you’ll need to be sensitive to your friend’s feelings.
Stay in tune with their facial expressions and comments. Notice if they seem spaced out or not present. Sometimes you’ll ask if they’re ok, while others you’ll just hug them or offer to grab an ice cream.
Approach any apparent mood swings with patience and kindness. If your friend gets to be too much, head home to give both of you some space for the evening.
32. Reframe this as an opportunity
Being a single person comes with its perks. The biggest one is that you can make selfish decisions without them being selfish.
You might not be able to go out any day you want when you’re in a relationship, backpack through Asia, or move to that city you’ve always dreamed of. Your friend likely has something they wanted to do but couldn’t because of their past relationship, and now could be the time to go for it.
Reframe the breakup as an opportunity for them to achieve their goals. They could even use this as a time to reinvent themselves. This could be style-wise, like changing up their hair and clothes, or life-wise, by exploring new hobbies or making a career change.
Of course, if your friend does want to reinvent themselves, don’t forget to also be the rational one who makes sure they don’t get unsightly bangs or quit their job with no plan in place.
33. Check in often
While they may seem fine one day, it’s easy to take a trip down memory lane and feel down in the dumps the next. This is why it’s important that your friend notices your presence and realizes that they can come to you in a time of need.
Whether they prefer to be alone with their thoughts or out with friends every day, it’s important to check in with them post-breakup. This could as simple as sending a message that says, “I’m thinking of you, let me know if you need anything.”
You could also send funny memes, GIFs, inspirational quotes, or interesting videos you know your friend will appreciate. Of course, be sure your friend is in the mood for these types of things before sending them a caring message.
34. Revive hope
Everyone experiences fleeting thoughts about not finding the right person, especially those who have just become single. If you notice that your friend is feeling hopeless when it comes to their prospects – both romantic and not – it’s time to revive their hope.
Some of the best ways to do this are by connecting your friend more with others. For example, help them reconnect with friends or people they haven’t seen in a while by planning an outing.
Another way to revive hope is to help your friend connect to their greater purpose. If they have a passion in life, try to get them to reignite it post-breakup.
Last, but certainly not least, help your friend with their emotional regulation. If we continuously think we’re hopeless, we’re going to continuously say it, and this perpetuates a negative, self-sustained cycle. Point out flaws in your friend’s way of thinking by providing concrete examples of good things in their life.
35. Suggest professional help
If your friend is really down in the dumps and it’s been quite a while since the breakup or they’re feeling dangerously emotional, you may want to suggest therapy.
I’ve found that the best way to suggest professional help to someone else is by mentioning how it’s helped you or someone you know. If you have gone to therapy or counseling in the past, you can share with your friend how it helped you and then ask if it’s something they would ever consider. This avoids your friend jumping the gun and thinking that you’re implying they’re mentally unstable.
Every person responds to this suggestion distinctly. You know your friend best, so think this one through before suggesting it.
36. Focus on the present
It’s easy to get caught up in the “what-ifs” and even easier if you’re experiencing a big change in your life. Help your friend avoid the self-inflicting pain of worrying about the past by refocusing on the present.
Gently remind them that the only thing they can change is what’s happening now. Have them focus on what they have in front of them, like work, family, and life circumstances apart from their past relationship.
By focusing on the present, they will be more likely to look toward the future instead of staying stuck in the past.