It usually begins with a phone call of uncontrollable sobs. Then, I calmly reply, “God will bring you through whatever this is. I am here.”
What can you do when your dear friend is suffering after a relationship ends?
For several decades, I have been helping women walk through the pain of marriage and relationship breakups. Meanwhile, my husband, Bill, has been helping men navigate the rough waters and aftermath when a woman leaves. Here’s what we’ve learned about making this difficult situation a little easier on those we care about.
1. Walk Beside Your Friend
If you are able, let your friend know that you are available to help her or him navigate this life-crushing experience. Your friend already feels rejected, so please do not compound this pain by lecturing, demeaning or abandoning your friend. You might need to specifically spell out what kind of help you can offer.
For example, I prefer to help by having a friend text me, and if possible, give me a quick message or question, then ask when I might be available to meet or talk by phone. By having a little glimpse into the current issue, I can prepare a more thoughtful answer, create a list of other people or experts that might be of assistance, or pick up some resources to bring more light to the issue. By getting a condensed summary of need, I can also better estimate the time I might need to allot to listen and give encouragement or advice. By having this slight delay, it might also help turn my friend’s heart to talk with God first before talking to me. I do try to answer back quickly with a short encouraging text or prayer.
Think about what kind of help you can offer. Is it taking them out to a movie as a distraction? Meeting up for a long chat on the weekends? Sending an encouraging email every few days? Be there for your friend however you can, but remember that you don’t have to sacrifice everything to help them during this time.
2. Answer And Advise Calmly
Do not let the chaos and confusion of the situation impact how you respond. It is easy to allow the vortex of drama to pull you in. But your friend needs you to stay on God’s clear path and not get drawn into name-calling or conversations that build up hate or anger.
Be the one pointing your friend back to healthy choices like getting professional counseling, making appointments with a pastor, creating a prayer team, gathering friends to help with practical needs (food, childcare, extra work to pay bills, moving, etc.) and simply taking care of him or herself (getting sleep, remembering to exercise, eating healthy, attending church, etc.). These are all things that will keep her head above water in this relationship storm.
3. Listen Thoughtfully
Often, people in crisis have an increased need to talk out their feelings. At the same time, their support circle can shrink due to certain friends siding with an ex or friends feeling ill-equipped to help, leaving fewer people to be good listeners during a difficult time.
Give the gift of meeting for a prayer walk or for coffee and conversation. Offer to pray with your friend each day at a time that works in your schedule (like on the commute to or from work). Don’t feel a need to solve her or his problems; simply listen and be a sounding board and safe place.
4. Steer Them Toward God
Your friend may feel trapped in a nightmare hoping that he or she can just wake up and life will be back to normal. They will crave the feeling of being safe, secure and sheltered and only God can do that, so help your friend fortify their relationship with God.
Text verses throughout the day. Invite her to do a Bible study with you. Take her to an uplifting concert, event or conference. Send her links to podcasts and blogs that provide healthy, wise insights. And in between conversations with your friend, pray for all those involved in the situation.
A breakup can be a very traumatic time, but with these tips, you can be a great support for your friend and help them find the peace they need.