As true as "it's not you, it's them," may be after a relationship ends, those type of statements don't seem to help much when a friend is hurting after a breakup. Trying to make someone understand that the pain will pass, despite how horrible everything seems at the moment, can feel totally impossible, especially if they are on a fast downward spiral. What can you do other than reuse the same useless platitudes we all hear so often? Sometimes it can be an awkward place to be in as a friend.
When my last relationship ended, I went bonkers by all accounts. My best guy friend told me, "I could see being this upset if you weren't such a catch and he was your last hope. But you are a catch, and he isn't your last hope. His loss. Next!" It was straightforward and helped pop me out of the funk I was in. My girlfriends took a different approach and encouraged me to watch Sweet Home Alabama and cry into red wine. That was productive in its own way, too.
One of the worst breakups I've ever witnessed wasn't even a friends' — it was one of my clients whose wedding I was planning. The breakup was very sudden and obviously unexpected, and it happened only a month or so before the wedding. I talked to her maid of honor, and asked what she was doing to help the now-former bride. I've listed some of her tips below as well as others I've used in my real life that have seemed to actually help.
1. Be The Voice Of Reason
Any friend will be seriously thankful that you didn't let them send one of those awful "I miss you so much why don't you love me anymore" texts at 3 a.m. Yes, you may have nearly had to put them in a headlock to take their phone away, but ultimately, your friend will realize that it's probably for the best. Wouldn't you want someone to stop you from texting your ex if you guys weren't meant to be? Now is not the time to let her get bangs, dye her hair, get a tattoo, or make expensive purchases. And it's probably best not to let anyone go all Carrie Underwood and slash tires or do nightly drive-bys of the ex's house. Be the guardian angel.
2. If You're Going To Distract, Do It Well
Distractions don't always work with a breakup. But when a friend is staring blankly at a wall, silently crying, sometimes a distraction is in order. The last time I was reeling from a guy, my friends took me to a gay bar and it was an absolute blast. But you don't have to pound shots all night to help a pal forget their ex. In fact, this can backfire when or if they turn into a sad drunk. Take them to do a new activity (beach volleyball, a pottery class, or a paddleboarding lesson) to get their mind of What's-His-Face or She-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named.
3. Cry It Out
Sometimes, you just want someone to sit there and hold your hand as you cry. It sounds so awful, but sometimes that's all you really need. Encourage your friend to get it out of their system. Go on a long drive, turn up the music in your Sad Songs mix (wait, am I the only person who has a playlist dedicated to sad songs?), and cry it out.
4. Be Vulnerable
In Eat, Pray, Love, while Elizabeth Gilbert is learning Italian, she comes across a new phrase: L'ho provato sulla mia pelle, which literally means "I have experienced that on my own skin." That phrase has stuck with me over the years, not only for its beauty, but its truth. What more powerful thing can you say to someone than to say that you too have experienced what they're going through? Sometimes, digging deep and opening up to a friend who's hurting can be exactly what they need.
5. Just Be There
Seriously, just being physically present can be the most helpful thing in the world. In our digital world, it's easy to forget that a text isn't a replacement for face-to-face bonding. Bring over some gossip mags or a case of beer and just hang out. I think we all know that the overwhelming feeling of being alone post-breakup is possibly the worst part. If you can do something to alleviate that feeling, go for it.
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