8 ways to *actually* support a friend going through a breakup

Breakups and divorces are common (and painful!), and recent research shows that divorce rates in the UK are set to surge by more than 50% in 2022 as the new ‘no fault’ law is introduced in April. But for something so common, we are not shown healthy ways to navigate separation and move forward positively, so we can come out the other side thriving and with our sanity intact.

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After my divorce, I felt broken. Yes, it was my decision, but that doesn’t mean it was an easy decision to make, or that I was immune from all the subsequent emotions of the massive change that I was experiencing. I was grieving. Grief is unique and multi-faceted and can show up differently in everyone. This means, not everyone needs a tub of Ben & Jerry’s, a bottle of wine and a rom-com to heal. If only it were that easy!
 
I also got divorced in my early thirties; a time when all my friends were having babies and progressing happily through the game of life. If life were a game of snakes and ladders, I felt like I just landed on the biggest, fattest snake and slid all the way back to square one. Nobody from my friendship group had experienced divorce, so I felt alone and like they just couldn’t relate to what I was going through. Some of them retreated, maybe cos they didn’t know what to say or how to respond? This added to my feelings of hurt, disappointment and loneliness.

Having come out the other side with a lot of wisdom and learnings, I realised the things that I needed during that time and the things that didn’t work and I would now feel equipped to really show up and support a friend going through the same. I wanted to share these in the hope that they will help you support someone you love navigating a breakup or divorce.


1. Acknowledge that whatever they are feeling is totally normal and valid

They will be experiencing a rollercoaster of mixed emotions right now: fear, uncertainty, self-doubt, relief, grief, sadness, hurt… you name it, they’re feeling it. Whatever they are feeling, reassure them it is totally okay to feel as they are, and no matter how hard it feels now, it will get easier and they will get over it. Everything is temporary.

2. Check in on them

Even if it's just a quick text of “Hey, how are you doing?” this will let them know you’re there, you care, and they have someone to listen. Something so small can go a long way.

3. Suggest joining them on a fun activity

This could be running or joining a dance or circuit class. Not only will it give them a much-needed endorphin boost, it will make you feel good too! My friend joined me at a ‘Clubbercise’ class where we danced with a pair of glow sticks. In a dark time, it brought me so much joy! 

4. Encourage them to treat themselves with love and kindness

It’s so important they nourish their mind, body and soul at this time. It’s easy to neglect all three of these things - beating yourself up in your own head, thinking self-deprecating thoughts, eating food that's bad for you and drinking alcohol to numb your feelings. It could be as simple as saying “be kind to yourself” or you could send them a fresh healthy food parcel or a self-development  book that will support their physical and mental healing.

5. Avoid boozy nights in or out

As tempting as a big night out is, they can be counterproductive. Alcohol is a depressant. The short-term high of being surrounded with friends and knocking back espresso martinis will soon be replaced with an almighty low when they are back home on their own feeling the beer fear. Suggest coffee, cooking together, or go alcohol-free instead.

6. Consistently remind them that they have NOT failed

This is a biggie. Not only are they grieving the loss of a partner, but often friends, and the life they knew, but the feeling of failure can be overwhelming. It was one of the heaviest and most challenging feelings and beliefs that I carried after my divorce. It was such a relief to let that go and realise that it would have been a failure to stay in a relationship that didn’t feel aligned or fulfilling. Remind them that their relationship is not a reflection of their success in life.

7. Encourage them to spend quality time on their own

This may sound like an odd one, but distraction can be a coping mechanism to avoid feeling their emotions by filling every minute either with people or doing things. Having the space to acknowledge and feel all their emotions is essential to their healing. Spending time alone also allows them to get to know themselves and start to rebuild their relationship with themselves.

8. Support their reinvention

Breakups can really make you question your identity. I didn't know who I was when I came out of my 10-year partnership. We can be so bound to a partner that when they’re gone, we feel disconnected from ourselves, lost, and we question who we even are without them. Help them re-decorate or explore things they can do this year to add a new exciting dimension to their life that will keep them looking forward positively.


Finally, it’s really important that as one of their friends, you take care of yourself and have your boundaries in place. You cannot give from an empty cup. Be clear about the time and energy that you have for listening and being there for them. I guarantee that by offering up at least one of these, they will be so grateful and it will go a long way in supporting them through a really tough time.

Life Coach Directory is not responsible for the articles published by members. The views expressed are those of the member who wrote the article.

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Holmfirth, HD9 7BA
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Written by Julie Wild, Qualified NLP Coach specialising in Breakups & Divorce
Holmfirth, HD9 7BA

Julie Wild is a qualified NLP Coach based in Yorkshire. Her journey has led her to discover her life’s purpose; to use the experiences, wisdom, insights and lessons learned to support and empower other women navigating a breakup or divorce, so they can heal in a healthy way, rebuild confidence and not just survive, but THRIVE in their next chapter.

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