The worst thing you can say to someone grieving a breakup
I’ve been consoling a friend who’s been recently devasted by a breakup. Witnessing her cycle through shock and denial brought back memories of the many times I was in her position. Trying to piece myself together after heartbreak, I recall my friends, despite their best of intentions saying things that just rubbed salt on the wound.
If you are supporting someone through a breakup or divorce, please, do not say the following:
1. “It happened for a reason.”
Hindsight is a beautiful thing. But you cannot hand someone their Aha moment, especially not someone who’s in the middle of an emotional storm. Save the platitudes, hand over the tissue.
2. He/She/They were <insert pathological label here>
You are protective of your friend, and it might feel like the right thing to vilify the ex. It’s popular to label the ex as a narcissist or sociopath (and while it might even be true) it’s not your call to pathologize them. Nor does it help. Calling the ex names only adds a negative emotional charge, and that’s the last thing your friend needs when their focus needs to be on self-care.
3. Don’t cry.
Even worse than the platitudes is minimizing their pain. Sometimes we tell people not to cry or feel sad because it makes us feel uncomfortable emotions.
Of course, they should cry! Not only is it a form of expression, crying releases oxytocin and endorphins. These feel-good chemicals help ease both physical and emotional pain.
Remember: it is not your job to take away their pain.
It’s your job to hold space for them to grieve, do the ugly cry, talk about it over and over again (this helps the brain process the shock), and do this all without judgment. It’s a tall order, I know. And it’s important you also know your limits too. Take turns with other friends to divide support tasks.
Even better if you can have a designated ‘check-in person’ on rotation so each one of you can take breaks from being the on-call support person.