Heartbreak

How To Support A Friend Who Is Off The Deep End After A Breakup

young white woman with brown hair closes her eyes, pensive

Watching a friend suffer and be depressed over a breakup is one of the worst things in the world to witness. 

You've been there and you know how much it hurts. Your heart goes out to them.

Helping a friend through a breakup isn't always easy, though. The path to breakup recovery can be an emotional minefield and, as a friend, you want to help them through it, not make things worse.

RELATED: 4 Signs You Should Reach Out To A Struggling Friend

Here are 5 ways to gently, compassionately help a sad friend through a breakup.

1. Consider what you would want if you were going through one.

You might feel unsure about how to help. So, ask yourself what you would want.

I remember when my 13-year-old daughter’s best friend had a terrible breakup. My 13-year-old had never had a boyfriend, but the first thing that she told her friend to do was to get some ice cream.

When she told me that, I knew that that was probably the first thing I would tell a friend as well but I wondered how she knew, considering she had never had her heart broken.

"That’s what I would want if I was feeling sad," she said. Brilliant!

So, think about what you would want if you were in the same place. I know that I would want to cry for a bit and then go out for a drink (or five) with friends and rag on him and then go to the movies.

I would eat Pad Thai and fries and block him on my phone. I would suggest all of those things to my friend and see what stuck.

2. Ask them what they want, too.

Sometimes, what you would want just isn't helpful to your friend. As a result, they could actually feel worse, being forced to do the things that would make you feel better.

So ask your friend what they need from you during the aftermath of a breakup.

Do they want you around or do they want you to go home? Do they want you to help them make a list of how horrible their ex is or do they want to reminisce about how wonderful things were in the beginning?

Do they want pizza or ice cream?

Knowing what they want is the best way that we can help a friend in distress.

Of course, it’s often hard to see what would work when we are in such a dark place, so your friend might say they don’t know what they want. If that happens, go back to what you would want and see if any of those things appeal.

You're friends, after all, so they just might.

3. Give them space.

When someone you love is hurting, the tendency is to hover over them, ready to take care of them. For women, especially, the inclination to make someone stop hurting is intense.

Unfortunately, many people err on the side of too much attention. They hover, waiting to do something that their friend might want. They insist on sleeping over or staying for dinner or they do dishes or laundry or walk the dog, all in an attempt to help their person.

And, often, that just makes their person sadder.

So, pay attention to the signs. Yes, you like to have people around when you're in a dark place but if you see any signs that you're being annoying, act on them. Make yourself scarce.

RELATED: 21 Ways To Support Your Friend Going Through A Divorce (That Will Actually Help)

4. Listen to them, but don’t try to fix them.

The number one worst thing you can do when someone you love is depressed is to try to fix them. You want to help and yet, by trying to fix them, you tend to make things worse.

Think about when you're feeling bad, no matter what the reason. Platitudes don't help much, do they?

Even worse is when people start questioning your choices.

"How can you be crying over that asshole?"

"Eating ice cream on the couch is a waste of time."

"If you just take a shower, we'll go out and you'll feel better."

I 100% percent support you in the desire to help your friend who is depressed after a breakup or for any reason. But thinking that you can fix them or that they want to be fixed will only make them feel worse about themselves.

All trying to fix them will accomplish is to drive a wedge between you.

So, listen to what they say, show empathy, and let them know that you're there — but don’t try to fix them. Accept that they are going to be broken for a while and it’s up to them to fix themselves when they're ready.

5. Model healthy behaviors.

Even if you believe that your friend needs to get out of the house and start living again, telling them so will only push them deeper into their couch.

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So, what should you do, instead? Do the things that you want your friend to do.

Imagine if you were feeling sad and your friend told you that it was time for you to get up and go for a walk with her, that it would make her feel better.

How would that make you feel? Having someone tell you what you needed to do to feel better? Not so good.

Instead, tell your friend that you're going for a walk and getting some ice cream. Paint a picture of what a perfect day it is for it and how good that chocolate chip is going to taste.

By doing this, you're using the power of suggestion, planting the idea in her head that these things might be fun instead of telling her. That way, she might actually decide to go because she thinks that it’s her idea.

And if she doesn’t go that time, she might just go the next time. On her own terms!

Knowing how to help a friend through a breakup is hard, especially if they're also depressed.

There's not much worse than a broken heart. We've all been there and we know. Seeing someone suffer from one is devastating.

But remember, this is your friend’s journey. You won’t be able to fix them. You can be by their side, encouraging them and supporting them, but ultimately it will be up to them to take the steps that they need to take to get past the breakup and move on.

So, be a friend. Be there for them but don’t try to fix them. Ask them what they need and don’t tell them what you think they need. And when they don’t want you around, respect that.

And remember, your friend will be fine. It might take a while, but be patient. You know that no one ever dies from a broken heart. And your friend won't either.

Life does go on, after all.

RELATED: A Quick-Start Guide To Supporting Someone Who Has Serious Anxiety

Mitzi Bockmann is an NYC-based, certified life and love coach. Let her help you find, and keep, love in this crazy world in which we live. Email her at mitzi@letyourdreamsbegin.com and get started!

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This article was originally published at Let Your Dreams Begin. Reprinted with permission from the author.