Four Things to Say to a Friend After a Bad Breakup

After graduating from college, I went through a rough breakup…

…I had been dating a guy for almost two years; and, after I moved to New York while he stayed in Michigan, we realized we had grown apart. We both agreed to break up (and now I’m so glad we did!)…but at the time, my heart was in a blender. Thankfully, I still remember what people said and did that really helped, and I try to do the same thing for my friends now going through breakups…

Four things to do for a friend after a breakup:

1. Say two little words. When your heartbroken friend is talking about her worries, she’s probably also wondering if she’s annoying you. The best thing you can say to someone who’s spilling her woes? “What else?” You’ll show her that you support her and want her to share all her thoughts–as long as it takes. My friend Colby used to say this when I was upset (“Mmmhmm, I know…what else?”), and I CANNOT tell you how amazing it was. Just those two little words.

2. “You will be happy again.” My mom said this to me in the car years ago, when I was crying after breaking up with my college boyfriend. It was incredibly comforting to hear. When you’re heartbroken, it’s hard to imagine ever feeling differently, and her words made me feel hopeful: I could give myself time to mourn the end of the relationship, but then it would pass.

3. Boost her up. Tell her how smart/funny/beautiful she is! Getting dumped can be a blow to a person’s self-esteem, and she might be thinking that she’s not pretty enough, not fun enough, not love-able enough. So tell her exactly why you adore her and how wonderful she is. Make a list if you want!

4. Get her a massage. My friend Erin recently told me that she gave her best friend a gift certificate for a professional massage, when she was going through a breakup. Isn’t that a brilliant idea? I once read that when you break up with a romantic partner, you often miss the touch as much as the actual person. Your body can physically miss them. A massage would help her feel touched, relaxed and pampered–and help release endorphins to make her feel happier. What an awesome idea.

What do you say to friends who are going through a breakup? What has helped you when you’re in that situation? Have you ever been through a really tough one? Are any of you going through a breakup right now? We’ve all been there!!

(Photos by Virginia Galvez and Ginthefer)

  1. Anna says...

    hello Joanna,

    I wanted to share the article with my nice but the lattes comments about some spells (it this spam?!) are preventing me from doing this… Is this something you can ‘clean’?

    Thank you,

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      yes, will do right now!

  2. Confused says...

    I met a very nice man whom a few months before that his girlfriend whom he called wife took the kis & jus up & left to Canada to stay with her parents. My friend whom I’ve been seeing & having an amazing time together so amazing. He makes me laugh & smile & get all warm & fuzzy inside as he says…. Well he has been heartbroken over his little boys. He misses them dearly I mean he’s jus not dealing with it well. Oppose to him telling me that he’s never loved the kids Mother but has tried to get them to come home. Repeatedly he would tell me he doesn’t want her but pretty obvious that if they were to come back they would of course still live with him cus that’s there home. Well this guy seems to really like me as well….. I need a little advice on should I back off a little or?

  3. Me I think I’ll just make my friend the homemade pizza she wanted and dye my hair purple since she wanted to see that too no harm done there since I’m totally bad with words to help her out.

  4. J says...

    What to do when your best friend calls you from halfway across the country bawling: find this post and proceed. Thanks for your lovely words, as always, Joanna! Love coming here for thought provoking, wonderful posts.

  5. I’m in the midst of a horrific breakup right now that feels like a divorce, and “What else?” is GENIUS. So is the massage… such a comfort. What also helps so much is just being there… I’ve had friends fly in and take turns spending weekends… friends come spend the night… even friends who just let me lay in their lap and cry. It’s just good to know people are here, even when they may not have all the right words or the right answers, because the loneliness and silence makes the heartbreak so much harder.

    • Beatrice says...

      How are you now, much better I hope? I was left by my boyfriend 2 months ago, the relationship was not very long but everything seemed perfect so the break-up was completely out of the blue. The most mysterious break-up I have had… And I still feel the pain… Even though I am doing a little better everyday.

  6. I would have loved a friend like yours! After my break up my friend told to come over to her boyfriend’s house to try and distract me, then when I arrived she handed me a Christmas card with goofy pictures of the two of them on it. (the card may have been thrown out without being opened…). My ex had been one of my best friends before we dated, and one of the few people I could trust with anything, and the first guy I loved, though he doesn’t know, and the thought that I was losing him, and probably would never have him in my life again was earth shattering for me. I really needed to let it all out without feeling like a stupid emotional girl who was over reacting.

  7. nice blog btw Jo !!!!

  8. When my sister asked me if she should break up with her abusive boyfriend, I took her hand and looked at her and said …. Sweetie, at any moment in life you have will always have the choice to say ‘this is not how I want my story to end’. She said it helped to make a decision, which was to break up. Now she came to me for advice on how to move forward and I said …. ‘maybe start writing your new story for each day’ and she does, she literally is writing each day just about what she wanted her story to be that day only – then she calls me and tells me her story for the day and what she did etc… So not sure if that helps anyone but it appears to be working for her (well that and I have my phone on me 24/7 is she wants to talk ;)

  9. I just had a friend go through a break up and I had no idea what to do. Then I remembered this post and it really helped. Thank you so much for sharing this wisdom.

  10. Anonymous says...

    My favorite friend in the world has just called me to tell me that her 8 year boyfriend broke up with her, I can’t be with her for I just moved to a different continent so I didn’t knew what to do, these four simple things are a great advice, THANK YOU!

  11. Mary says...

    my boyfriend and i broke up a little more than three weeks ago and number four is absolutely true. i miss the touch a lot.
    those are great tips, just reading them helps a little, thank you.
    i love your blog, i read it daily!

  12. Jo, thank you so much for this post. I was looking for a way to comfort a friend today. I am trying to learn how to be good with words during hard times. Actually, I’m trying to learn to be a better friend in general. I think your blog will be on my “favorites” list from now on!

  13. Wow! This post was incredible and I learned a lot from your post. Breaking up is very difficult, I experience that and I cried a lot. But after that I thought and realize that every happens for a reason. A lot of thanks for sharing.

    Charles A

  14. Anonymous says...

    i’m currently the friend that needs the support. strangely, even reading this was comforting. the hardest part is believing that i’ll be happy again. it’s important to be reminded, again and again and again.

  15. This is great. Something I think we should add is the one MAJOR thing NOT to say…no matter HOW UPSET your friend is. Do NOT tell them that you never liked him, that they deserve better, that he didn’t deserve her, NOTHING that badmouths him, EVEN if she has been ripping him apart herself. She is in a different mind set and you really do NOT want to be the friend who was trying to commiserate but stuck your foot in your mouth when they get back together in a week, a few months, etc. They will remember you saying that you didn’t like him.

    Student Driver

  16. Hi Joanna…I’m visiting from Gussy Sews and it’s my first time here. Lovely blog. My 28 yr. old daughter recently experienced a break up with her boyfriend of about a year. Things fell apart very quickly so it was a bit of a shock. In the span of 3 weeks they went from buying a ring to no communication at all. She was stunned and so very sad. As a parent, no matter how old your children are, your first instinct is to just fix things. Well…I couldn’t. I honestly think I was just as sad as she was but on a different level. Your words of advice are wonderful. I spent a lot of time listening and encouraging. The one thing I’ve learned on this ride called parenthood is that at the end of the day your kids need to stand on their own two feet. If they can’t…you haven’t done your job well. My daughter picked herself up and dusted herself off. She is fine and ready to date again. Things have settled down…at least for now!

  17. Anonymous says...

    for a while, my friends and i would take turns bringing over ice cream and sex&thecity to watch whenever we’d have break-ups. it was kind of the best thing ever.

  18. I once told a friend that she was “one man closer to finding the man of your dreams” after she broke up with her longtime bf. Later, she told me that hearing those words gave her hope for finding Mr. Right…. And she did!

  19. I think just making yourself available to them during their downtime is the best medicine. During my bad breakup, I wouldn’t know what to do if my girl friends didn’t sit there and just watch me cry, they just hanging around and kept my company really helped.

  20. Great article and feedacks, as always!I always say ‘be proud of having loved that much and learn from this!’ Joanna, u are such a great inspiration to me. Well, I’m just getting started here:


  21. Very great and simple advice! I love what your mum said, it’s true…everyone WILL be happy again :)

  22. Great post :) I think what is most important to a heartbroken friend is to let her know that you are there for her/him, no matter what will happen. After my own bad break-up I was not in the mood to speak to anyone, not even with my best friends. And I was so glad that everyone accepted it. But they never gave up and I knew always that they would be there and listen. This helped me more than anything else!

  23. Helpful advice – it’s always tough to be a friend (especially if you yourself like the two of them together.) Cocktails seem to cure everything. :)

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  25. At the very start of our relationship I had broken up with my now husband. I had never felt so heartbroken. I wanted to tell everyone – even the newsagent man – all about it! My would tell me that I would be happy again – and that helped but all I wanted to do was talk talk talk!

    Maria xx

  26. When my (very nice) first boyfriend and I broke up after 4 years, my mom said to me, “Well, you learned a lot from each other.” That helped me to value our time together and to let it go. Even thought it was over, it hadn’t been a waste.