How To Help Your Friends Through Breakup Heartache

Grieving a breakup is never fun. Whether the breaking up is due to distance, infidelity, wanting different futures, or any other reason, we all know that breakups are painful — just ask Taylor Swift, the queen of breakup anthems. And it's typically an emotional experience for both the person deciding to break up and the one getting broken up with. "If someone is broken up with, they expect to feel some level of anxiety ... But if you're the person doing the breaking up, you may not think that those feelings are going to happen — and they do," Rachel Sussman, a licensed psychotherapist and relationship expert, told Well + Good. But what if it's not you experiencing it this time — rather, it's one of your friends going through a rough breakup?

Part of being a good friend is having your friend's back when they're going through a not-so-great period in their life, and a breakup 100% qualifies as one of those not-good periods. Of course, what every individual needs to get through a breakup will vary, but there are plenty of ways you can support your pals when they go through heartbreak. Here are a few things you can do to show them you're in their corner.

Be there to help

One of the easiest and most important ways to support a friend through breakup heartache is just to be there. Be around whenever they want to talk — or not talk. Genuinely listen when they speak about it, answer their calls whenever you can, and try to make yourself available whenever they want to meet up or video chat. And try not to appear uncomfortable when your friend starts getting emotional.

"Sometimes people feel they have to move through their grief quickly, or put on a happy face, to make other people feel comfortable ... But the best way to get over a breakup is to feel the authentic feelings and not override them," Dr. Alexandra Stockwell, a relationship and intimacy coach, told Psych Central. So as with any form of grief, let your friend feel all the painful yet necessary feelings that come with their breakup — even if the anger, sadness, stress, and emotion that your friend shows make you feel awkward or stressed. As their friend, you can help by letting them feel what they need to feel without judgment.

Don't be nosy

While it's crucial to be a listening ear when a friend going through a breakup is talking about it, it's equally important to avoid overstepping. Maybe a friend wants to see you frequently after the breakup but still hasn't told you too many details. It might be tempting to ask your friend exactly what happened, but you shouldn't pry. Trying to push your friend to tell you more than they are comfortable with will likely only upset them, making them feel worse, not better, about the situation. Instead, let them tell you as much or little as they want to share with you — whether that be every tiny detail or only the fact that they had a breakup and that's it.

Furthermore, you should let your friend vent as much as they want, but you shouldn't be the one to bring it up. The goal is to help your friend move forward from the relationship and breakup, and dwelling on their former partner or the breakup itself will do the opposite of helping your friend move on and feel better. For instance, if 20 minutes after crying over their ex, your friend starts talking to you about recipes, shopping, or sports, don't backtrack — enjoy the topic change.

Take them out for a fun night

A classic way to cheer up a friend after a breakup is to take them out for a fun night. This strategy is typically more of a quick fix that will take their mind off it at the moment rather than something that will help them move on in the long term, but it's always worth a shot. In April 2023, influencer Alix Earle posted a video sharing how she planned a whole girls' night out for her sister to cheer her up after a breakup and celebrate her birthday, so why not do something similar for your newly single friend? After a breakup, a night of partying can help your friend blow off some steam.

If you do take your friend out bar hopping or clubbing, you should be the responsible friend that night. Even if you're not usually the "mom" friend who makes sure everyone doesn't get into trouble and gets home safe, you should take on that role this time and let your friend just focus on having fun and relieving stress. Be the designated driver — or be the one who orders the Uber — make sure your friend doesn't drink too much, and ensure they're okay if they start to seem upset or emotional. And if your friend isn't about the party scene, take them out for another type of fun night — whether that be to a dinner, a movie theater, or an arcade.

Be patient, mindful, and considerate of your friend's feelings

When supporting a friend going through a breakup, you need to be patient, even if you're getting tired of them talking about their ex or crying non-stop, or if their heartbroken attitude is bringing down your mood. Ultimately, true friends should be there for each other, so give your friend time to heal, and be grateful that they value your friendship enough to see you as someone they can vent to and trust with their feelings.

In addition to being patient, you should also be mindful and considerate of what your friend is going through. For instance, if you and your friend have a movie night, avoid watching movies about breakups and heartache, as films like that will likely trigger your friend, causing them to feel even more upset. Moreover, if your love life is going great, don't rub it in your friend's face by talking about all the exciting plans you and your significant other have coming up or the expensive present they bought you. Furthermore, is there a specific restaurant or bar your friend and their former partner would always go to, or a song the former couple called "their song" and listened to on repeat? Then, of course, don't bring your friend to those places or play that song in front of them.

Identify unhealthy behavior

While you should support your friend and have a non-judgmental attitude, you should address truly unhealthy behavior and hold your friend accountable if you must. For example, if your friend starts turning to the use of alcohol or drugs for comfort, you need to point out that's dangerous behavior and isn't okay. "Any external coping mechanism, such as the over-use of food, drugs, alcohol, or sex, only numbs the emotional pain of the breakup ... Substance use also goes hand-in-hand with additional risks, such as potential criminal charges, increased substance dependence, sexually transmitted infections, and victimization, among others," Dr. Ili Rivera Walter, a licensed marriage and family therapist and professor of marriage and family therapy, told Reader's Digest.

Yes, it's understandable for your friend to want to enjoy a few nights of binging ice cream or throwing back shots of vodka right after the breakup, but if binge-eating and drinking becomes a habit, gently tell your friend that you're concerned about how they're treating their body. Moreover, if your friend starts stalking their ex, constantly bails on plans, or doesn't take care of their hygiene, carefully address the issues with that behavior, and point them to professional resources, if necessary. Your friend might get annoyed with you at first, but your honesty will help them in the long term.

If you or anyone you know needs help with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

If you or someone you know needs help with mental health, please contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741, call the National Alliance on Mental Illness helpline at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264), or visit the National Institute of Mental Health website.

Try to boost their confidence

Breakups can make anyone feel very insecure, especially when someone is the one getting broken up with — rather than choosing to break up — or if they're breaking up with someone as a result of getting cheated on. If your friend seems to feel down about themself after the breakup and has what seems like a noticeably lower sense of confidence and self-esteem than before, try to help them get their confidence back. Sometimes, a simple compliment, such as "I love your outfit! You look great," or "How do you always get so much done at work? You're such a hard worker," can go a long way and help your friend feel a bit better.

Encouraging acts of self-care can help boost your friend's confidence, too. For example, ask your friend to go shopping and try on some stylish new clothing for a fun confidence boost. A flattering new outfit can make someone feel great — or at least a little better. Or you might go out for mani-pedis, or maybe even a relaxing spa day; the opportunity for some pampering can help your friend unwind and feel more confident.

Show support inspired by your friend's love language

Gary Chapman's famous five love languages include acts of service, presents, quality time, words of affirmation, and touch — and they're not only for dating and romantic relationships! Understanding someone's love language can help you develop a closer and easier relationship with them, as well as help you recognize how to successfully cheer them up when they feel down. Think about your friend's love language, and consider how you can make them feel better based on that love language.

For instance, if your friend's love language is quality time, make an effort to spend as much time with them as possible, and make yourself fully available to engage with them when you're together. But if their love language is words of affirmation, it will be more important to compliment them, text them to let them know you care, and provide genuine words of encouragement. You can surprise your friend with a little present if their love language is getting gifts, but if they're more of an "acts of service" person, try to find ways to help make their life easier during this rough patch, such as giving them rides places, helping out with groceries, or organizing their messy room. On the other hand, if their love language is touch, you can literally be a shoulder to cry on! Give your pal lots of hugs to make them feel loved.

Offer help based on your experiences

When was the last time you went through breakup heartache? While it will likely be unpleasant to think about your breakups, remembering what helped you get through it and move on could be the key to figuring out how to help your friend. Yes, people handle situations differently and have unique actions and methods that work for them, but if something worked for you, there's a chance it may help your bestie, too.

Did a short vacation help you get over your breakup? Consider planning a trip for you and your friend. Or did exploring various hobbies until you found your new passion help you find a new sense of purpose, resulting in healing? Encourage your friend to look into different pastimes you think they'll enjoy, such as baking, book clubs, or an adult dance class. Perhaps reading a specific book about moving on from relationships and breakups helped you; you should recommend that novel to your friend. Whether or not any of those suggestions help your friend in the same way they helped you, your pal will likely appreciate your supportive gesture.