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. Very sweet post. : ) I think the universe/god/karma sometimes gives us a kick in the right direction, and is always moving us toward a better place, toward good. I know so many stories (my own included) where people were trying, trying, working, striving and never arriving at their heart’s desire, but who look back now and say “thank goodness!” they separated from whatever it was that held them in throes.

    If we aren’t able to do it on our own (because we are blinded by trying so hard to be “good”), sometimes the universe gives us a swift little, temporarily unpleasant, nudge – fired, left, evicted, abandoned – all sad at the moment, but ultimately moving us toward where we really ought to be.

    I find sharing those stories sometimes helps (we all have them don’t we?) and provides a little happy glimmer of hope. Together we can look back at the ‘what ifs’ and weave the trail toward our own happy endings – even if it takes a form we never expected – don’t you think? The key is to believe that all events – no matter how unnerving at the time – are leading us in the right direction.

    We just need to have faith, relax into the present and enjoy all of the good things we have in each and every moment, e.g. good friends like all of these posting here who love us. xo

  2. #4 is so true. it’s probably one of the most difficult things after a split–the absence of touch. i’m currently in the post break-up process and it sucks.

  3. When someone tried helping me after breaking up, telling me i was superduperfunnysmartbeautiful, this used to sound to me the worst thing to hear!I remember my last broke up (I felt bad for more than 1 year!) but the only illuminating sentence I got was from my brother: “Did you see him as your husband???”, meaning he was just not the person my brother desired for me. It just made me come to reality.

  4. I usually tell my friends that “he isn’t -the one-“. And remind them how much fun they’ll have looking for Mr. Right. I also let them know that they are far too wonderful to waste tears and energy over the situation.

    I love how you suggest “what else”. :)

  5. i wish i could just “like” button this post.

  6. Johanna, you are completely right! When my bestie had her heart broken,I was there for her and I just let her speak. The best way is to listen and let her tell everything that’s hurting her, she will feel better.

  7. Anonymous says...

    This is all great advice. I would, however caution, that trying to equate one’s college breakup to a real live horrible adult one, is not a good idea. I’ve been going through a painful split with my partner of many years, and when my married friends try to tell me they understand because they had a bad breakup after college, it really doesn’t work. Totally different situations. Having a breakup post-college, which we’ve all had, is bad. Having a horrifying split with your life partner while in your 30s or 40s. Totally different in every way.

  8. When my boyfriend dumped me in college, my best friend ran out and bought a 12 pack of Smirnoff ice (everybody else hated it but I loved it [I know, I know] and I was underage so I couldn’t buy it for myself} and then played me “It Must Have Been Love, But It’s Over Now” on repeat.

    I crack up whenever I think about it. Luckily, this guy and I weren’t that serious so I was able to laugh about it then, too. Some friends are good for listening, some friends are good for making you laugh when you need it. She’s one of the latter and is still good for it.

    Cheers to good friends!

  9. i have depression/anxiety issues – and think tip #3 is especially important, i have negative thoughts constantly about myself…. it’s what my mamma has been doing since she found out, and it does help, she says why i’m so important to her, and it gives me purpose again…

    but it’s no good to just say it for the sake of saying it – of course, it’s gotta come from the heart.

  10. I think that’s some brilliant advice. When I had my first breakup, in high school, I was devastated–I had been dumped out of the blue. I think the best words I ever heard were from one of my guy friends at the time–he said I was too pretty for the ex anyway (he had no interest in me, either, which made it that much more kind). It didn’t matter that it wasn’t entirely true, just that someone reaffirmed that I was still pretty, still beautiful, still desirable.

  11. darkness. i was talking with a dear friend who had just left her husband after years of being the only one trying in the marriage. she was exhausted and devastated. we had just bought some good cheese and wine, and were settling into the couch when my neighbourhood experienced a mega-power-outage. we lit candles, and in the safety of the dark, she was able to really let loose, cry her face off, say all the scariest things she’d been afraid to voice… and i cried right along with her. it was really liberating. that blackout was a total blessing. it took away all the rational barriers that were telling her to be composed. it was an amazing night.

  12. A coworker yesterday said, ‘Every relationship will end, except one (hopefully).’

    I had never thought about it like that before. I’d always been apprehensive about beginning a relationship because I didn’t want to have to deal with the pain and awkwardness of the inevitable breakup.

    I guess the pain and awkwardness are natural and necessary for eventual happiness!

  13. Good advice for sure. When I lived in NYC my boyfriend of 3 years and I broke up. My best friend and I spent a month or two touring all the gyms in the city getting 1 week passes for each. It was an amazing way to get over my break up! We spent the rest of the winter working out and using saunas and steam rooms.

    I heard working out releases the same chemicals as you do when you are in love. So I think it really really helped!

  14. And another awesome (and useful!) post!
    I just really love to read all of your posts, Jo!
    They’re amazing!
    I clicked on the post of your Alex and Toby, looking at the pictures, I cried a little.. Your posts are made with so much love! Thanks for that! It makes my day to see such pictures and read such posts! :)

  15. I am about to get divorced from my husband of 1.5 years. It came all of a sudden and opened up Pandora’s box in a way I’d never have imagined. Today I am questioning every minute I ever spent with him and trying to untangle the lies from what actually might have been the truth – a task more painful than sensitive.
    After four weeks of struggeling with myself and what was left of trust and love and passion, I ended it and my first fear was, that from now on it’d be just me, all alone. A thought that filled me with an overwhelming fear. But it didn’t last, because the instant I needed them, they were there. Friends came over to be with me, listen to me, even let me yell at them when I felt misunderstood. They hugged me, allowed me to cry into their favourite sweaters over and over again. I did not feel alone for even a second. I know, they all got my back and would do everything they could to console me and make me happy.
    What helps me best is change. The first day he was gone, I put all his stuff in waste bags and stuffed them into the basement. I rearranged the furniture, cleaned the whole flat from top to bottom; later I had a wall built into our huge living room,thus having an extra bed room now, I found a roommate, got a dog and am seeing a therapist. My friends are still there and that’s what turned out to be most important: just be there and let your friend know that she is allowed to grieve and cry and sob as much as she wants to and that no matter what, you love her the way she is and that you’ll be there for her whenever she needs you. She might not call you in the middle of the night, but knowing she could, is really comforting.

  16. I just broke up with my boyfriend 3 months ago, we’ve been in a relationship for almost 3 years and it tore me apart cause we are not together anymore. But this post is really great! Even though my friends didn’t do this for me, at least I know how to cope with breakups and next time if a friend of mine experiencing this same thing, I know how to make them up again. Thank you for posting this!

  17. Great advice and one more thing, in the “what not to say” category:

    Don’t speak badly about the guy, a joke here and there at his expense is ok, but don’t go on a rant about how terrible he is. Chances are your friend still has feelings for him and saying he is a creep will not make her feel better.

  18. We’re getting a divorce after a 5-year marriage. We still love each other (at least on my part) but the family and other issues got in the way. i couldn’t tell how horrible I am feeling about myself right now :(

  19. I just went through a breakup… My dad cheered me up quite a bit when we were talking on skype. One of the first things he said to me was: “Russell Brand and Katy Perry are getting divorced… Have you heard? That’s so sad. I like Russell Brand, he’s such a cool and funny guy. Don’t you think this is sad? ” He said this in such a serious yet ironic way… Made me giggle! :)

  20. This is a beautiful post!
    I love it :) and so true!


  21. When my daughter broke up with her college boyfriend … I mailed her darling soft cotton pajamas in a beautiful lime green color. She called them her “break.up.pajamas and felt loved and cute when she wore them.


  22. Great post. Listening means so much especially after a bad breakup. It really shows the true friends! I recently went through a really bad breakup and I was so surprised the amount of support i received from my family and friends. It really makes you realize the important people in life. There is no need fretting over someone who has hurt you when you have so many great people around you.

    Thanks Joanna, love your blog and I visit everyday!!! :)

  23. Great ideas. I’d also add a shot of something strong with that.

  24. Anonymous says...

    My friend told me “I knew he wasn’t serious about you.” Well wish I knew that because he introduced me to his sister and his friends but was confused. gee thanks for letting me know after. She’s supposed to be my best friend but I don’t think she thinks very highly of me.
    Another friend went through a break up and she immediately offered to introduce her cousin to the friend.

  25. After breaking up with my boyfriend of 4 years when I was a freshman in college, my mom told me “however long the length of the relationship was, is the time it will take for you to fully recover from the breakup.” It really made me realize it wasn’t going to happen overnight but I should give myself time to start feeling normal again. It has been four years and i’m in a great relationship with a great guy.

  26. very lovely post- my brother is going through a breakup and some of these could apply to the boys too!

    also love the “what else?” I’m a nurse & I use this when speaking to patients all the time. Its a very thoughtful question.


  27. Anonymous says...

    I read this lovely, kind post before meeting a friend for dinner. Upon sitting down to our meal, she revealed that her boyfriend had broken up with her yesterday. She was devastated. While we spoke, I occasionally thought back to your advice, hoping that I could at least make her feel like she could talk. For as long as she needed to. Without feeling self-indulgent. Feeling loved.

    Thank you for your thoughtful advice, Joanna!

  28. i love you joanna :) this is an awesome post

  29. a lovely post and so spot on-Vaentines day sucks for a lot of people – thi is good to remember how to be a good friend.

  30. I’m walking through a friend’s separation (from her husband) at the moment, and these really resonate. Just letting someone be heard is so important. I’m also learning that the healing process is going to be long, so being consistent in checking in with how the person is feeling so they don’t feel like they’re supposed to be “over it” by a certain time. Let her tell you when she’s moved on.

  31. I must say, I have lost a best friend because of what she said…too much! I confided in her when my fiancé and I were having problems and I asked her to keep it between us,because I knew it would pass and didn’t want our issues becoming someone elses gossip. However,she told our friend, in order to make her feel better about issues she was having “if you think you’ve got it tough, you should hear what x and y are going through!” I was so hurt and she never apologized.
    So I would say my biggest advice, is when a friend confides in you, respect your friendship and her enough to
    keep it to yourself!

    P.s. Joanna, I am a huge fan of your blog, a new mommy too and your blog is so imspiring. After Ella is down for the night, I curl up in bed with my iPad and read your blog. It’s a great way to end the day, get away for a while and sometimes dream a bit. Your posts always make me smile, imagine and sometimes even tear up! Thank you.

  32. Anonymous says...

    Some of the worst things you can say after someone gets dumped (or even when it’s mutual) is, “He didn’t deserve you” or “You’re so much better than him.” Both of my heart-wrenching break-ups ended up with me alone and him with either a slew of random hook-ups or a new girlfriend immediately (3 years later and they’re still together). If that happens and someone tells you that you’re better, it just makes you think, “Then why am I alone and why do they have someone who’s perfect for them?”

  33. Thanks for posting this Jo! So timely, as I’m working through a breakup right now. And it sucks. Luckily I have amazing friends. Things they’ve done…

    1) Let me cry and babble.
    2) Brought me tea and chocolate.
    3) They keep calling me, emailing me, texting me, and arranging to do things, so I don’t notice the loss of attention from my significant other and don’t sit by myself and dwell on things.

  34. Thank you so much for this. Two of my closest friends are going through a terrible breakup (with each other, which is even worse) and it was nice to read through this and think of more ways to be there for them.

  35. Alice says...

    I’m the person my friends talk to in order to hear the “well that SUCKS!” comments. Working with people who are dying (mostly from abdominal cancers) day in and day out has really helped me personally the most. If a guy didn’t call, at least I don’t have cancer! I also take care of people who have been burned. Then I think “Well he didn’t call, but at least my skin is intact!” Sometimes having low expectations helps.

  36. V. says...

    this struck a cord in me. had a breakup last year that i am willing myself to be over as he has since moved on. thanks for this!

  37. WK says...

    Holla! Great post, I went through an insufferable break up myself last May and nothing made me feel better but slothing around with my best buddies!

  38. This is an excellent post. I am currently going through an unexpected breakup. Two of my friends have been there for me, more than ever. One would respond to all my millions of depressing texts with thought out responses and the other spoiled me with a care package. I ended up blogging about the care package. You can read it here…

  39. Great post. I remember feeling that way….and love these tips for helping a friend going through a breakup.

  40. I went through a horrible patch with my boyfriend recently, we nearly broke up and honestly, it destroyed me.

    I have no real advice, nothing seemed to help me. But I wanted to mention that I read your blog daily and through that terrible time, it distracted me for some minutes every day. The weekends were the hardest for me and having some calm time to myself with a coffee on a Saturday morning, going through your weekend links honestly brightened up my day and gave me something to look forward to. – – so I guess my advice is, get lost in something, find something to read, somewhere to disappear for a while. Look after yourself and treat yourself to what makes you feel happy.

    I know that sounds so cheesy but you helped me, so thank you :)

  41. Anonymous says...

    I think one of the hardest things for me right now as I go through break up of my own is that my friend isn’t really there for me. She’s in a new relationship of her own and is kind of over the moon about it, so I’m trying not to take it personally. I remember how that goes. I just wish it didn’t mean I was pretty much alone these days, it’s been really rough. I’m putting a lot of stock in the “You will be happy again” part.


  42. great advice, especially number 1. I’ve never heard that one before. thanks for this great post~


  43. Wonderful post- I especially love “What else.” So amazingly simple yet perfect.

    In the days after a horrible break-up, one of my dearest friends came to stay with me over Valentine’s Day weekend, and she helped me clean out my closet. We went through literally every item- bags, belts… nothing was spared the scrutiny of her fabulous sense of style. The clean-out was so cathartic and who doesn’t want to do this at any given time, but just can’t get started? Sometimes “out with the old” helps invite the “new” in.

    Oh and we also went out on Valentine’s Day night and got completely drunk and silly together. That was also exactly what I needed.

  44. I was just thinking yesterday about how I would one day offer words of support and comfort to my broken hearted daughter Lizzy(who is only 2 right now!). Mommies worry about these things no??? Thank you Joanna for such a thoughtful post. ~xo

  45. Anonymous says...

    When somebody goes though a breakup it´s almost inevitable to rant, curse and spend a lot of time trashing the other part of the couple.
    Even more if your friend has been dumped, or at least he/she is not who iniciated the breakup.

    Two things I´ve learnt in my past experience that I think are important:

    1) Let them rant but DO NOT add comments or judgment. They could mend up and reconciliate and you´ll end up regretting. (who hasn´t made such a faux pas)

    An ” Aha”, “I know” or just silence is all that´s needed. Even if you hear thinks you don´t like, it´s not time to pour gasoline on the fire.

    If the “heartbroken” asks for your judgment, it´s better to stay OUT of the so-called-facts (we never get to know the actual truth if there´s such a thing in a couple´s universe) Instead focus on: how does x or Y make you feel…and simply nod. It´s not a time to judge or to engage in hate, but to heal.

    2) It´s not time for your friend to re analyze his or her life. It´s just a time endure the shock and try to move on. It´s not smart to encourage radical changes, that are almost always fueled by anger or spite. If your friend says I´m gonna chop all my hair, or I´m moving to Denver so I never see him again, do not engage in a YES/NO discussion, just postpone, invite him or her to postpone. Not today Honey, we´ll talk about it next week. It´s amazing how GREAT mistakes can be avoided if you just sleep on the idea for a couple of days.

    Great tips everybody, I´m learning so much, and sensing a LOT of loving people around here.

  46. The best advice I got during a break up came from my parents.

    My dad said to me “I know that you’re really sad, but it’s important to remember to never let another person define your happiness.”

    My mom said to me, after I told her that I never wanted to date any one again, “You don’t have to.” That made me feel like I was in control, it was very comforting and empowering!

  47. HAhahaha. I love the “crap” picture.

    The best thing that a friend did for me was take me out for breakfast. Every other day, my good guy friend would show up at my house, ring my bell, wait for me to get dressed, and take me out for breakfast. It was his way of showing me he cares, and making sure I didn’t stay indoors all day. I can never be grateful enough for that.

  48. My little sister told me once, “there are thousands of people going through the same thing today”.

    At first, it might sound kind of harsh, but it always helped me to put things in perspective.

    It just reminds you that you aren’t alone. :)

  49. I went through a bad breakup within the last year. The moving on has lasted longer than the relationships did, probably because we were pretty serious. One of the best things for me was having a best friend who would listen WHENEVER. Even when I kept saying the same things over and over again. She always made time for me and let me vent and cry.

    However, not all people were so helpful. Here’s something you SHOULDN’T say: “Well, I don’t think you can truly love until you’ve had your heart really broken anyway!”

  50. all great advice!! My friend wendy once told me, “don’t put your foot in a door that’s closing.” I have loved this image and have used it with so many other people….why would you want to hold something open that’s meant to be closed? you’re only going to hurt yourself and all the while your next door might lead to something bigger and better ;)

  51. A friend of mine was heartbroken a few years ago and she was looking for something – ANYTHING – to help her feel better. She got obsessed with reading her horoscope and would read it religiously and wonder why it never came true, wasn’t relevant. So for about two months, I wrote it for her and emailed it to her every morning. I tried to make them funny to cheer her up, but I ended each one with ‘Your soulmate is out there’. It definitely helped.

  52. love this. “What else?” totally using that on everyone!

  53. I LOVE “What else?” That could work in so many situations. Just to know that a friend wants to know MORE is the sweetest gift ever. I’ll be sure to use that from now on.

  54. My ex and I broke up in May and a good friend told me that at least it’s easier to be single in the summer than the winter… I really couldn’t argue with that one!

    My other best friend promised me that I’d be happy again someday… but we also talked about how in life, there were bound to be other disappointments… and hopefully someday in the future another disappointment will totally eclipse this one and i will smile and know how impermanent this particular sadness really was. That one really made me laugh… it was a moment of dark humor when everything seemed so completely overwhelming.

  55. Oh, how I love this post!! Almost a year to the day my boyfriend of five years cheated on me with a girl ten years his junior. I was heart broken and felt so betrayed. And like you mentioned my self-esteem was very low. My mom just listened to me and allowed me to cry and “get it out”.

    I whole-heartedly agree with your points. And yes, yes, yes to the massage!! I went to visit my Aunt in Boulder and she purchased a massage for me. I honestly cried the first 10 minutes (and tried to pretend I was not crying)!

    I tried to find happiness in small things. I took pictures of them and called them “my little bits of happy”. Sometimes it was a piece of chocolate, some peonies I purchased, my cat, etc. Anything to help me look at the beautiful things around me.

    It does get better. Thanks for this post. It was a great reminder!!

  56. I remember my Dad telling my cousin something when he was splitting up with his fiancee: you can love someone very much but that doesn’t mean you should be with them. I have always found that a comfort during breakups — especially when I was breaking up with someone I loved enormously but who just wasn’t right for me.

  57. I really love this. your blog is amazing. I check it at least once if not two or three times a day :-)

  58. “Man’s rejection, is God’s protection…”

    I remember my high school assistant dean telling me that one day when she knew I was having a hard time during a breakup.

    I will never forget that. It’s not that a guy’s rejection necessarily means he’s out to hurt me, but it means God is protecting me from being with the wrong person.

    That really did comfort me.

  59. great advice!

  60. Asking how they’re doing – even weeks or months after the breakup. You don’t always want to burden your friends, so it’s nice when they bring it up and ask you. I recently went through a hurtful breakup and after a week or so, people stop asking even though you’re constantly thinking about it. It’s nice to know that friends recognize that you may still be hurting even if you don’t bring it up all the time.

  61. Anonymous says...

    I agree with your friend Colby. “Tell me all about it” etc. Sometimes you just ned to talk and hash over things many times to get through it.

  62. Great post. After my fiance and I split up my best friend was honestly the person who got me through. Somedays she didn’t know what to say but simply being there for me, coming over even when I wanted to be alone, and just sitting with me made me realize that I wasn’t alone.

    I think constantly reminding a person that no matter how hard it is, that they will get through and will be stronger for it is what we need. Somedays you need to be distracted by fun and girly things, and other days you just want to wallow. Being accomodating to a person’s needs is really helpful.

    Maybe more importantly is being there several weeks down the road when other people have forgotten about them and yet your friend still needs someone to lean on. Listening and believing in them is most important… Assure them that their lives are not a mess and soon they will see things differently :) (Honestly, time does heal all.)

  63. Anonymous says...

    When of my best friends was going through a breakup (unexpected after talks of buying a house together), I felt terrible because we live in different states and I couldn’t just go over there and give her a hug.

    So instead, I sent her a care package including a bottle of red wine, the first two seasons of How I Met Your Mother on DVD, Tylenol PM for those sleepless nights, and Zingerman’s brownies (Joanna, I’m sure you know Zingerman’s since you spent your college years in Ann Arbor)!

    These are the things that I would have wanted if I’d been in her position, and I was just hoping to make her feel a little better!

  64. @Duts–I still feel so uncomfortable reaching out to friends who have lost someone close or have someone close that is ill. But, having lost my own brother in an accident several years ago, I know that for me, it was not about what was said, it was just that something was said. I think just letting them know that you are thinking of them, there for them if they’d like to talk or not talk, etc is important. The gesture of reaching out is more important then the content. My only suggestion would be to not use the opportunity to talk about your own experiences. Unless they ask, they don’t need to hear you unload your problems (not that you would, but people did this to my poor mom)

  65. Anonymous says...

    One thing I did for my best friend: hook her up with my one famous friend. That always works :-D I shall remain anonymous for this post.

  66. Great tips. My biggest one is: don’t be alone! I make sure my recently broken-up friends are making plans everyday with different friends, going out, going to the gym, whatever… being alone is the worst.

    Oh, and encouraging speaking to a counsellor (depending on the severity of the break up). So many people think its taboo, but its such a healthy choice. So I encourage it wholeheartedly and tell them they’re smart and strong for making that choice to love themselves.

  67. I think this is a great a post and got me thinking…

    what do you say to a friend who found out a parent/ someone close to her is diagnosed with cancer/ sickness?

    this recently happened to me and was ill equipped. i wasn’t sure what to say or do. any advice would be welcome.

  68. I love this. After my first love, every break up became difficult – oftentimes not because of the guy, but because of the loneliness or fear. These 4 things have always, always helped lighten the grief.

  69. Jo, thank you so much for posting this! It’s easy to know what heartbreak feels like, but sometimes difficult to know how to react when someone close to you is going through heartbreak. This post could not have come at a better time. One of my roommates is going through tough times as of three days ago. While we haven’t had a chat about it yet, I’ve been perusing the internet to figure out the best way to be supportive to her feelings.

    Thank you again, your timing is impeccable!


  70. wow, THank you for sharing this. I am going through a break up with my college sweetheart as we speak. We’ve been together for 6 years and are just growing apart (I’m 27 now). I’m happy that I now have the courage to recognize that we are not good for each other and move on BUT its so hard. I’m having a REALLY hard time with everything especially because I’m moving out of our place to my own…. I could go on and on for days maybe weeks but I won’t lol.

    Thanks again for sharing Jo :)

  71. I really love that last picture!

    When I went through my last breakup (before I met my husband, natch) the most comforting thing in the world was that one of my best guy friends just held me for hours while I cried and sobbed and screamed my heart out. And that was better than anything. To actually feel someone there, knowing that they weren’t going to leave or abandon me.

    Sorry if that was a little emotionally heavy.

  72. This is an amazing blog post! Wow! I think that when a friend goes through a rough breakup and is heartbroken it’s so important not to revert to insulting/bashing the ex to your friend to make them feel better. For example, I would avoid saying “Oh it’s good you’re not together anymore because I hate how he/she was so loud and obnoxious. Obviously, you may be angry at him/her for hurting your friend, and you may see flaws in them, but right now your friend doesn’t, and it’s important to focus on their healing! :)

  73. Here are a couple of things not to say.

    1. Anything derogatory about the ex… if they get back together.. and they often do, you will be edged out or resented because you obviously don’t “like” the partner.

    2. “It could be worse” Everyone has their own experiences.. and while the three week fling may not seem really significant to you.. don’t try to minimize their pain by giving examples of people who have it worse. ie “well Mimi’s husband ran off with his male gardner”.. The bottom line is that this IS the worst thing that has personally happened to your friend.. don’t minimize their feelings.

    3. “I told you so”.. never bring up the fact (even if it is true) that you warned your friend about their partner.. You might as well call them stupid right to their face. May be true.. but we have all been stupid in love at one time or another.

  74. oh, another great (motherhood monday?) advice post would be what to say to a friend after a miscarriage… it’s so hard – i’m always at a loss and tend to say nothing in fear of saying something stupid

  75. This is all excellent advice. My best friend is in the middle of an awful break up and I’m hoping that I can help her through it. I definitely would say that people just need to get it out and talk and I will listen for as long as she needs as long as she’s not hurting herself by torturing herself going over it again and again. Bc as a friend there comes a point where you have to also give some tough love. When you’re so down (and I know from experience too) sometimes you need someone, a friend, to yank you out of that darkness and remind you how awesome and special you are. Sometimes it’s so easy to go down that route of berating yourself and forgetting who you really are. We all need that reminder and especially when we’re in a bad place. The reminder that you’ll be happy again is so great. I love that. and it’s true!

  76. Keep them busy and preoccupied as much as you can, especially in the beginning, and especially on weekends. They will feel especially bad when Friday rolls around. So give them a lot of companionship on Fridays and Saturdays. Be the first to call them and check-in, and even if they don’t feel like talking, leave a message that says “I’m here for you whenever you’re ready to talk.” Also, assuming this is not their first break-up, remind them of this “remember when you and Joe Schmo broke up and you were sooo devastated but later you said that was the best thing that could have happened to you?” or “remember your first love in the 9th grade and you thought you’d never love like this again?” Just remind that life goes on.

  77. Jennifer says...

    Spot on! I am going through a tough breakup right now and I worry about about annoying my friends. It’s difficult to not be full of my own heartache, and I hate thinking I am boring my wonderful, supportive friends.

    I also completely agree with missing the physical presence as well. A massage is a great idea…I think I’ll treat myself.

  78. Having my friends listen to me whine about the same things over and over and not hating me is the best thing someone can have going through a breakup. I especially love the “what else?” question because it lets you keep going…and going…and going… until you’re actually finished. My husband also uses the “what else” trick when I’m upset/glum/trying to give him the silent treatment and listens until I get it all out so we can move on!

  79. I’m definitely a “what else?”-er…it’s always been something that my friends appreciate! I usually play with their hair or give them back massages too, it seems soothing :) But I should try more self-esteem boosting…that’s a great idea!

    One of my favourite things to do is take them out on a special “girl’s night” just to give them some time away, a little single fun, and hopefully some healing.

    <3 Cambria

  80. Ah! I needed this post during this past summer! (Or rather, my friends needed it :)

    I was always worrying about annoying my friends, and you’re right, I missed physical contact!

    For the first little bit after the break-up, I hated to be alone! On the first night, a best friend came over and slept on my floor so I wouldn’t be alone! Can you believe that? So sweet.

  81. Best thing I did after a long break up was go away for a weekend on my oen to Amsterdam and do all the things I wanted to do – see the galleries walk the streets enjoy my time there as sure as hell my ex would have wanted to sit in the cafe all day…
    My own music in my own world it was wonderful!!

  82. Thanks for this post! I’ve been loving reading all the comments too- so nice to share and realize that we’re not really alone :)

    My bf of 9 yrs broke up with me 2 yrs ago for another girl. It was very hard, but all my friends were there for me. They were my ROCKS! 3 of my very close girlfriends actually planned a trip to Peru for me and it was the BEST time of my life. We hiked the Incan trail to Macchu Picchu, went Paragliding and shared many special moments. It brought me closer to one them as well.

    It’s a very difficult time but time heals all wounds and good friends by your side will get you through it! :)

  83. fabulous advise and totally agree with you. its a situation you wont know what to say and how to put things..!! great tips :))

  84. anonymous, ahh, i love that…a jewel.

  85. Anonymous says...

    My BFF picked me up after class with a 6 pack of beer and a grow a boyfriend toy, we spent the evening together drinking beers and crying. I don’t even remember the breakup anymore but we are still best friends and I remember the good memory of that night fondly.

  86. Anonymous says...

    Such a thoughtful and true post! After a bad break-up my friend said I was a jewel. Sounds corny, but I get strength from that vote of confidence to this day.

  87. Anonymous says...

    This is sooo good! Paris! Yep, we all can dream that our new “prince” might come along. Paris actually is only three hours from here – so as soon as the first trees are green and spring is in the air – I will just go to Paris ;)

    It’s on my “things to do to get back to life in 2012” list… K.

  88. Anonymous says...

    there are so many things you can say and do but ulimately none of it is going to matter. at least for me it didn’t. the pain was still there and the healing comes from within. maybe that’s just how it was for me, but i can tell you that i had a handful of people say the WRONG things and that was NOT cool. like…”you’ll be over it in a year” or “this happens 5x in someone’s life. you have one down so that means only 4 more to go” (in what world was that a good thing to say?!?!). whatever you do…DON’T say those things (which were all things boys told me btw…so stupid). the funny thing is though…it DID take a year to heal. you just shouldn’t hear it at that time bc then you won’t move forward with trying to heal. sheesh, when did life get so hard is what i wanna know!!

  89. Love your mom words!!!!

  90. Anonymous says...

    Anonymous… what you said about couple-orientated is SO TRUE!!
    My friends now are all married and have kids. Still would love to spend time and be involved, but somehow most of them seem to think that I don’t want to spend time – so WRONG. I would just be happy if they asked! Felt as if I would not be worth anything without my ex boyfriend. And they are old-“friends” of my side. Sad, but I always tell myself that they just cannot rely to my situation at all. K.

  91. Anonymous says...

    I say, give yourself time to heal, (no matter who is at fault, if there is one).

    What I really want to say is…I’m going to turn your life into a real soap opera by sending you to Paris for a week to rest…okay two weeks if you cry in public.

  92. Anonymous says...

    My boyfriend of 8 years left me three years ago. We had been living in another country together because of his carrer. He wanted to move back home, so I quit my job (for the first time in my life without having a new one). He left me shortly after that. I was so heardbroken. Could not believe it and was not able to to anything or even work for over 1,5 years!! Don’t know where I would have been without family and friends. The amount of friends limited down to 2 very fast. They would have driven everywhere in the world to help me. Gone on trips with me even when I was not able to laugh and just let me know that it was now all my fault. They listened to lots of thoughs over and over without complaining and didn’t judge me or my thoughts. An old man told me “time heals all wounds” and up to now I think that is the only think that really helps is time. Or a new love- if your able to fall in love already.

    One of these two friends is heardbroken now and as sorry as I am for her, I am just glad to be able to give back a little to her of what she has done for me.
    Right now I am in her Apartment staying with her. Listening and she asked me just to be there so that she is not alone.

    Long comment! SORRY! But your post just touched me.

  93. margaret says...

    My mom once told me during a really bad college break-up, “Why do you want to be with someone who doesn’t want to be with you?” It really made sense to me and still does. It helped me focus on being a good person rather than wonder what was wrong with me.

  94. Such good advice! Break ups are the worst, I remember when I had my first big break up one of my best friends was there for drinks and talking and dancing, but no-one else seemed to know what to say to me.. break ups are difficult things to be around and I’ll put this advice into practice next time a friend goes through one :) xx

  95. Anonymous says...

    It is especially hard after a break up when you or a friend are in social settings where it is couple-orientated, so rally up friends to create a safety net. Check up on your friend further up the road so she doesn’t feel forgotten and lots of hugs!!

  96. Anonymous says...

    I really feel what HayleySF said. I was recently dumped after two years (I’m 23) and I keep saying “I’m going through a breakup” even though it was 4 months ago. My friends have been amazing and even though I’m still dealing with a lot, they make me feel infinitely better every time we talk. I hate when people say “you’ll meet someone else!” though. I can’t even think of that right now. But a million times yes to the massage. Losing that tough is really one of the worst parts and hard to describe. Jo- reading this and all the comments makes me feel like I’m not alone and sort of boosts my confidence back up to know it happens to amazing ladies too.

  97. this is such a great post

  98. I would suggest doing a volunteer event together, or encouraging her to volunteer (organizations like One Brick or the Hands On Network allow people to sign up on an event basis, with no lengthy time commitments). It helps to take your mind off your own pain and be able to help someone else. Also, the sense of efficacy you get from it can help boost your self-worth.

  99. Number 1 is just so thoughtful!!! I have friends that will listen for as long as it takes, and that means a lot.
    Number 4 is so true, even though it’s hard to realize at the time.

  100. I tell her that it will get easier every day, and tomorrow will be better.

    often I say nothing at all, and just listen

  101. Anonymous says...

    this is so timely – my dear sister is going through a break-up after a long relationship and we talk (she talks / i listen) for a long time every single day, but i usually feel like i am not saying the right things or making her feel great. these are good tips i will use.

  102. About a year ago a friend of mine went through a terrible breakup. About six weeks after the breakup I mailed her a nice card letting her know how much her friendship means to me and that I was confident she’d find love again. I think that people tend to stick by you in the first few days/weeks, and then expect you to move on as they move on with their own lives. I think a little reminder a few weeks out is a nice gesture (if I do say so myself!)

  103. I stick with the familiar: “I’m sorry” and “What can I do?” Just this week two friends of mine announced they were splitting from their respective husbands, and my heart broke as I listen to them tell me their tales. For one, she wanted a hug. For the other, she wanted to avoid the subject and get a pedicure. I obliged on both accounts.

  104. I wrote about break-ups & heartaches today as well. [What a qwinky dink]. Although part of my post describes the need for a glass of wine, comfy clothes, and a sappy movie night also talks about just what to say [like yours]. blurb: “Every bump in the road is a chance for you to show the world how strong you are, that life takes unexpected turns but you’re more than willing to be a part of the ride”. Love your blog. [chelset]

  105. As the ambassador for broken hearts, I think you have it just right in this post.

    Well put!

    And when the crying is done and that full body broken hearted ache is gone, you take that girlfriend with you to wine country or New York or someplace different and you do girl things together and you celebrate the existence of friendship and the beauty of new.

  106. Lovely advice, especially something as simple as “what else.” I will keep these suggestions in mind for the future. Immensely helpful as always, thank you Jo!

  107. this is such a sweet post. Sometimes it can be just as awkward for a friend who’s trying to comfort a recently-single pal and doesn’t know how to approach it, but these are great, simple, honest words of advice.

  108. About a year ago, my sister and her fiancé broke up. It was sooo bad, so I invited her stay with me for a week. I pampered her. I took her shopping, but I picked all new styles for her. I bought her new jeans, a new purse, she got her hair cut and bleached it blonder. We went out to eat, got our teeth whitened together, and I let her turn our spare bathroom into a sanctuary! No, showers, just long hot bubble baths. She lit candles and read magazines while soaking in the tub every night for a week. By the next week, she was so happy and relaxed and amazed with her new self that she thanked me and moved on with her life. She has now met the love of her life and things are great!

  109. “this must be very difficult for you, tell me more about it” = so great for so many situations.

  110. “get them out of the house” is SUCH a good tip!!

  111. I love “what else”–perfect for SO many situations!

  112. I went through a horrible breakup my freshman year of college and just hearing my mom tell me “it gets better” always made me feel a bit better.

    And, hey, it really does get better, as hard as it was to believe it at the time. :)


  113. <3 this post. I needed to hear those things today.

  114. love this advice. when my partner of 4 years and i broke up. i literally shut myself away. i’d already moved back to the uk, and my parents weren’t exactly supportive so i went to live with a friend for a few months. she knew exactly what was going on, but her friends didn’t. it really helped me not to be treated differently xxx

  115. I’ve found one of the best things to say (and hear) during any rough situation is,

    “You are loved by many, and you will get through this shit.”

  116. After a rough break-up, one of my friends bought me a bottle of red nail polish… titled “Got the Blues for Red” and to this day (years later), I still think about how much that one little bottle of color helped!

  117. Audrey says...


    I would note re: massage, maybe alert the masseuse that a break up recently occurred prior to the massage.

    My mom bought me a massage for me after MY college break up and it was exactly what I needed, totally wonderful. However, I did not expect to start SOBBING on the table. Which… yeah I totally did. Luckily the person was a friend of the family and completely understood, and even explained that the release of toxins from the body can also cause the release of emotions.

  118. My boyfriend and I recently broke up after 7 years together. I say recently – but really it was 10 months ago. I am still struggling through the process – regret, sadness, individuality, freedom, etc run through my mind all day. My friends who just listend and told me I’ll be happy helped me through this tough time.

    Great post – What Else?

  119. Anonymous says...

    I’m going through one right now. We had been dating for 1.5 years but have known each other for so many more. We broke up before winter break (we’re at the same college) so at least I had a month to go home and be surrounded by friends and family. I had initiated the breakup but only because one of us had to and the relationship was taking WAYY too much of a toll on me. But the part that hurts now is how nonchalant he is about everything. He even told me he didn’t think about us two weeks into the break. Advice? Help? We still see each other because we have classes and things together. I’m a junior and he was my first bf…

  120. I think on the other side of the story is how to help the person who did the breaking up. Just because your friend is the one who broke it off, doesn’t mean she’s not heartbroken and lonely too. Acknowledging the difficulty and sadness in that decision is helpful!

  121. I had a really hard time breaking up with my ex (so glad I did though, and I even knew it was a good idea at the time, but it was still SO HARD and SAD omg), and one thing that really boosted me up was when a friend of his, who is a super sweet guy and who had recently been through a rough breakup himself, wrote me a note one day saying how sorry he was, but “just remember what a rocksteady person you are and that life is so rad.” Just something about his cute little turn of phrase and the fact that he’d bothered to write me at all made me smile.

  122. Anonymous says...

    After my 3.5 year relationship ended, it took nearly 5 years to mend. Ouch, I know. Toward the end of my mending period I read about the 5 stages of grief and I wish I had read about it sooner! Somehow it really helps to know where you’re going. I know the stages are about death but the pain of losing someone can be universal. And it really helps to know that you will cycle through stages of depression, anger, denial, etc.. but ultimately reach acceptance.

  123. Aww, I loved that you wrote “and I am so glad I did” with a link to the Daddy and Baby post….Sweet!!! That was your destiny.

    I always say “I can’t imagine what you are going through” and “It must be so hard, but I know you are strong and will survive this”…with basically anything. It just lets the other person know I am not in the place she is, but am there beside her letting her feel it and then lean on me if she needs to. I have learned people just don’t want to hear OH I know how you feel. Because we don’t know how they feel at that precise moment. Even in pain, it’s their moment to feel it.

    You have GREAT advice! I love your photo of the Crap Heart. Priceless!

  124. I recently broke it off with my fiance, who I had been with for eight years.

    All of your suggestions are very helpful.

    What also really helped me were two more things: first, GET THEM OUT OF THE HOUSE. Doesn’t matter if it’s just on a walk, for drinks, for a bagel. Sitting around at home dwelling on things makes it worse.

    Second, help them plan for the future! Plan trips, outings, education.. It helps to imagine that your life will go on after this (just like ‘you will be happy again’) and gives you something to look forward to!

  125. My mom once said something like yours did…she said I would get through it, said it would be ‘hard but not impossible’…that phrase really changed my way of thinking and I think of that not just when I’m going through a break up, but I apply it to different situations.

  126. Anonymous says...

    Thank you Joanna as always for sharing your experience with us! :) I’m going through a rough break-up right now (after 2 years of relationship and I’m 24) and that is exactly what I want to hear from my friends! I found it very helping when they just let me talk about my problems without trying to give any advice. Sometimes situations are more intricate than they seem, and if you want to be a supportive friend you just have to listen.

    Clio from Italy

  127. I used to remind my friends who were going through a breakup that Ryan Gosling is single! But since that no longer is the case I just give them the mic for as long as they need.

  128. Anonymous says...

    another amazing thing to hear is “you did the right thing.” whether you were the dump-er or the dump-ee, a breakup can be a really confusing time! you never know if you are handling it well, handling it poorly, ruining your life, making the best decision of your life, what! so long as your friend is taking care of herself, she will likely be thankful to know that others recognize her strength and logic in a highly emotional time.


  129. such perfect ideas. I agree with the “what else?” one. So needed!

  130. Such great advice! The best thing, I think is just to be there for her and show her that you understand her pain.

  131. In college, the first week of freshman year one of my now best friends was dumped on the phone by her first serious high school boyfriend (classy I know). We had a girls night where we all bought all the ‘candy by the pound’ we could fit in our bags blew up an air mattress and all cuddled up in bed in one dorm room and sobbed through The Notebook. The crying was therapeutic and now every time theres a breakup or were feeling sad we have a ‘gal pal’ weekend, no boys allowed it’s so great!! Also, he doesn’t deserve you always works, because it’s usually true!

  132. Was basically dumped a month before my wedding recently, so certainly took these to heart! Also have friends going through breakups right now, so loved reading this. Sometimes girlfriends believing in a positive future for you (& building you up), even when you can’t see it, means so very much.

  133. One of the things that helped me was hearing, “no matter what, I’ll always be here and you can call me whenever you need to talk”. Just knowing that I can pick up the phone and call my best friend at any time of the day and she would listen to me and give me feedback meant so much to me.

    At the end of the day it’s good to know that you can lean on friends and family


  134. I think your #3 is important–even if it’s hard for her to believe at the time. Being single is hard–especially for the ego. Having someone you admire and love tell you how awesome you are makes it a little easier to believe those things about yourself.

    Also, I was just reading an article about what NOT to say when your friend (once she gets over the breakup and back to dating) has a good date. When someone tells you about her awesome first date, you should refrain from asking her “so when are you going to see him again?” I realized that I had been asked this by friends MANY times, and it always knocks you down a few feet. Just assume it will happen soon, and let her celebrate a fun first date!

  135. great tips, I just recently broke up with my boyfriend of six months and what’s worse we’ve been friends for going on nine years. I’m moving to New York in a few months and he said NYC wasn’t a city he could ever live in. He was extremely upset with me but I have to do it for job reasons (and it’s ultimately where I want to be) and I’m devestated because everything was going really well. But these were very helpful, thank you Jo!

  136. Anonymous says...

    One of the most valuable things I learned in nursing school were things to say to people in mourning. I have found that these lessons apply to so many situations. My favorite is “this must be very difficult for you, tell me more about it”. It validates his/her feelings, and doesn’t that always feel good? It also opens up to conversation for more sharing (not unlike “what else?”)

  137. When one of my best friends in college was going through a really tough time, I told her I was picking her up, not to change and to bring only her ID. I took her on a random car trip with a couple other friends, literally not knowing where we were going but taking random turns and blasting music. Ended up at a habachi grill where we treated her to dinner and wine, and drove back home (which was difficult by the way). Sometimes all you need is a spontaneous distraction. And girlfriends. And music and wine. Oh, and pajamas.

  138. great post! I love the massage idea. another good tip is to give your friend a gift certificate to a haircut or beauty makeover. I’m a big believer of “when you look good, you feel good”!

  139. in miranda july’s “learning to love you more” there’s a whole section on how-to’s, including how to get over a break up. THAT thing will have you in tears of empathy/empowerment.

  140. these are awesome tips. also….sex & the city reruns! :)

  141. I think the most important thing is to make sure that your friend does not feel alone. Have a sleepover, take her to lunch, bake together and she will be able to unload. In college a friend of mine once brought me a piece of cake and just sat on the couch with me watching movies for hours. It was just having her there that made me feel so much better. I think the “you will be happy again” is a wonderfully comforting thing to hear-especially from a parent.

  142. What else. That’s so perfect.

  143. Sometimes saying nothing works too! Just bring over a good (non-romantic) movie and a bottle of wine. Ready to talk when she’s ready to talk, but not require it! Just being with someone who recently breaks up seems to be key.

  144. Whenever I am in despair about something, I have a dear friend who always just says, “That REALLY sucks.” Because sometimes, there is nothing else to say and you just need to hear it from someone else.

  145. great tips!! #4 is so true…after a break-up of mine, i missed the hugs/cuddling…
    i will definitely keep these in the back of my mind (unfortunately ive had to deal with quite a few friends w/breakups..not easy stuff)