Your friend is in the middle of heartbreak. Yuck. It hurts to watch a friend suffering. True physical, mental and emotional pain exists in heartbreak. Love floods the body with oxytocin and other feel-good and energy chemicals. Loss floods the body with cortisol and other chemicals that harm the body and create fatigue. They do genuinely physically hurt.
Heartbreak is difficult for everyone. It is pure rejection on an intimate level. No one likes it. However, it allows you to be a stellar human. Your friend needs help, and you are reaching out. You are stellar!
Here are 5 ways to help your heartbroken friend.
- Listen. This is the first thing and most important action for you to take. The heartbroken person will need to tell their story over and over again. They may tell it differently. They may change it slightly as realizations occur. Telling the story is an important part of processing grief. Sometimes we don’t want our friend to suffer a moment longer, so we try to move them on too quickly. Be patient but, prepare yourself. On some level, grief can last years. It is not easy to repeatedly hear the story, so set some time boundaries. Time boundaries around when you talk and for how long you talk to your friend. Listen for understanding so you can ask good questions.
- Ask questions. Please consider ‘asking questions’ as an extension of listening. Asking probing questions are great ways to help your friend talk it out. When they talk about their ex ridiculously spending money, you can ask, “how does that make you feel?” Help them continue to process. Suppose you want to step away from the ex as a topic. Focus your questions on activities. Examples can be something like, “what are you doing just for you?” “Are you eating healthy?” “Would you like to go for a walk?” “Are you planning a vacation?” Help your friend see the future using questions and encourage them forward.
- Encourage. Encouraging sad people can be difficult because they are genuinely stuck. Please encourage them by acknowledging the positives. However, avoid saying it could somehow be worse: look at what this person went through, or this is what I went through; it was so much worse. That is not helpful. Additionally, you can help them focus on their blessings and the positive things in their life. Try saying something like; I know this isn’t easy; let’s take a moment to look at all that is positive right now, or I have faith is it going to work out in the end.
- Get your friend moving. Plan activities and encourage new experiences. Go with your friend as much as you can and include as many people as appropriate. Try trivia night, bingo, take a pottery class, learn to tie flies, go to the gym, hike, any activity other than over-consuming food or drink. Activities are not to keep your friend from processing, but rather create new experiences and new friends. Activities simply put some distance in the rearview. Time helps people see clearly.
- Learn. If your friend wants to return to the dating scene, you also need to learn about dating. Differentiate with them attraction vs. love. Help them define their feminine/masculine appeal. Learn about dealing with ghosting. Help your friend avoid getting hooked on the fantasy of a person they have not met, get love-bombed, or even scammed. Learn what that looks like so you can continue to ask good questions.
- Use experts. A person’s grief can become unmanageable. If your friend seems withdrawn or sad longer than you feel is healthy, encourage your friend to get some expert help. A mental health professional, counselor or therapist, can help deal with clinical depression and grief. A dating coach is another great option to help someone reboot after a breakup. Finding a great partner and dealing with the baggage from the heartbreak requires an expert plan. Use a dating coach to help your friend move forward with a plan. Especially because what they did the last time left them heartbroken.
You are a great friend and a stellar human.