Several late night conversations with friends and family lately have encouraged me to create a new series for my column called ‘Friendly advice on friendly advice’. This series is geared not to the people going through troubled times, but instead to the friends and family who are doing their best to be supportive for troubled loved ones. Sure, there’s a time and a place for simply telling someone that ‘there are other fish in the sea’ but that time is truly not the first thing you should say when you hear that your friend and her significant other have broken up. You also don’t want to tell her that he’s a schmuck and you never understood what she saw in him anyway.
Talking with people lately, those two reactions seem to be the most likely first responses. The first one is meant to be encouragement that there is someone out there to love us, and the second one is designed to show approval for our not being with someone anymore. Both are said out of love, and unfortunately practically dictated by the social contract. Even my friends have gone through both of these reactions, which served only to upset me more because they weren’t what I needed to hear, and my friends should know me well enough to know I hate the social contract with close friends.
So if the newly heartbroken don’t need to hear these common platitudes, what do they need? There are a couple of directions that you can go, and if you truly know your friend, you’ll know which one is right. Here are some ‘do’ and ‘don’t’ guidelines:
Do say –
- Do you need me to come over? (A hug or sharing ice cream go a long way!)
- When you’re ready to talk, I’m here. (Don’t force them to talk if they just want to cry and get it out.)
- I love you, and I know you’re going to be okay. (Knowing someone loves you does help the pain.)
- Tell me what happened. (Sometimes purging the pain and anger helps clear the mind.)
- What can I do to help? (Maybe it’s help coming up with a place to live, or help drinking a bottle of wine. The important thing is giving them a chance to tell you how to help them.)
Don’t say –
- I knew it’d never work. (Now is not the time to point out someone’s poor judgement.)
- You’ll find someone better. (Most people aren’t ready to think about making themselves vulnerable again.)
- I never understood why you found him/her attractive anyway. (As if you finding their love attractive matters…)
- Everything will be fine. (Most people want some sympathy, not a brush off.)
- Everyone could see this coming, (That doesn’t make any difference to how much someone is hurting now that it’s happened.)
There are a lot of variables that determine an individual’s healing timeline. Everyone deserves their time to grieve a lost relationship and you need to be patient and let them have that. Working through the aftermath of a broken heart and shattered dreams is important to being able to build new relationships and new dreams. Mood swings ranging from grief to anger are going to happen, possibly for months. Some people will rush out and start dating to reassure themselves that they are attractive, and some will seek refuge in being alone for a while. You may want to encourage them not to rush into a new relationship, and after a few months you may want to encourage them to begin meeting new people even if they aren’t ready to get serious with anyone.
Don’t expect other people to heal on your timeline, but be sensitive to the clues they give you about what they need.
If you like my articles, please subscribe so you’ll never miss another one! Find me on Twitter and Facebook!
Nan Clegg, Rapid City Womens Relationship Examiner
Promote your Page too