5 Ways to Help a Friend Who is Depressed After a Break Up
Good for you for trying to figure out how to help a friend who is depressed after a break up.
The second worst thing in the world, after getting depressed over our own, is watching a friend suffer through a break up. We have been there and we know how much it hurts and our hearts go out to them.
What we don’t always know is what is the best way to help a friend who is depressed after a break up. The path to break up recovery is full of minefields and, as a friend, you want to help them through it and not make things worse.
To that end, here are ways to help a friend who is depressed after a break up, ways that will get them through these dark times quicker. And not leading to you ending up with you In the dog house for your efforts.
#1 – Consider what would you want…
When you have a friend who is depressed after a breakup, sometimes you feel helpless as to how to help. One thing I would suggest is asking yourself what you would want.
I remember when my 13 year old daughter’s best friend had a terrible break up. My 13 year old had never had a boyfriend but the first thing that she told her friend to do was to get some ice cream.
When she told me that, I knew that that was probably the first thing I would tell a friend as well but I wondered how she knew, considering she had never had her heart broken.
‘That’s what I would want if I was feeling sad,’ she said. Brilliant.
So, think about what you would want if you were in the same place. I know that I would want to cry for a bit and then go out for a drink (or 5) with friends and rag on him and then go to the movies. I would eat Pad Thai and French fries and block him on my phone. I would suggest all of those things to my friend and see what stuck.
#2 – …but ask them what they want too.
I know that above I suggested doing things for your friend that you would want done to you but sometimes what we would want just isn’t helpful at all. As a result, your friend could actually feel worse, being forced to do the things that would make YOU feel better.
So ask your friend what they need from you during these dark times. Do they want you around or do they want you to go home? Do they want you to help them make a list of how horrible their ex is or do they want to reminisce about how wonderful things were in the beginning. Do they want pizza or ice cream? Knowing what they want is the best way that we can help a friend in distress.
Of course, it’s often hard to see what would work when we are in such a dark place so your friend might say they don’t know what they want. If that happens, go back to what you would want and see if any of those things appeal. You are friends, after all, so they just might.
#3 – Give them space.
Our tendency, when someone we love is hurting, is to hover over them, ready to take care of them. For women, especially, the inclination to make someone stop hurting is intense.
Unfortunately, many people err on the side of too much. They hover, waiting to do something that their person might want. They insist on sleeping over or staying for dinner or they do dishes or laundry or walk the dog, all in the attempt to help their person.
And, often, that just makes their person sadder.
So, pay attention to the signs. Yes, we like to have people around when we are in a dark place but if you see any signs that you are being annoying, act on them. Make yourself scarce.
#4 – Listen to them and don’t try to fix them.
The number one worst thing that we can do when someone we love is depressed is to try to fix them. We so want to help and yet, by trying to fix them, we tend to take only makes things worse.
Think about when you are feeling bad, no matter what the reason. Doesn’t it just piss you off when someone says ‘it’s all going to be ok,’ or ‘get over it’ or ‘relax’ or ‘move on.’ All of those things seem like platitudes and only make us feel horrible.
Even worse is when people start questioning your choices. ‘How can you be crying over that asshole?’ ‘Eating ice cream on the couch is a waste of time.’ ‘If you just take a shower we will go out and you will feel better.’
I 100% percent support you in the desire to help your friend who is depressed after a break up, or for any reason, but thinking that you can fix them, or that they want to be fixed, will only make them feel worse about themselves and all that trying to fix will do is drive a wedge between you.
So, listen to what they say, give them empathy, let them know that you are there but don’t try to fix them. They need to be broken for a while and it’s up to them to fix themselves, when they are ready.
#5 – Model healthy behaviors.
As I said above, trying to fix someone when they are feeling depressed will only backfire. Even if you believe that your friend needs to get out of the house and start living again, telling them so will only ground them further into their couch.
So, what should you do instead? You should do the things that you want your friend to do.
Imagine if you were feeling sad and your friend told you that it was time for you to get up and go for a walk with her, that it would make her feel better. How would that make you feel, having someone tell you what you needed to do to feel better? Not so good.
Instead, I would tell your friend that you are going for a walk and getting some ice cream. Paint a picture of what a perfect day it is for it and how good that chocolate chip is going to taste. By doing this, you are using the power of suggestion, planting the idea in her head that these things might be fun instead of telling her. That way, she might actually decide to go because she thinks that it’s her idea. And if she doesn’t go that time, she might just go the next time. On her own terms!
Knowing how to help a friend who is depressed after a break up is hard.
There is truly nothing worse than a broken heart – we have all been there and we know – and seeing someone suffer from one is devastating.
But remember, this is your friend’s journey. You won’t be able to fix them. You can be by their side, encouraging them and supporting them, but ultimately it will be up to them to take the steps that they need to take to get past the break up and move on.
So, be a friend – be there for them, but don’t try to fix them. Ask them what they need and don’t tell them what you think they need. And when they don’t want you around, respect that.
And remember – your friend will be fine. It might take a while, but be patient. You know that no one ever dies from a broken heart. And your friend won’t either.
Life does go on, after all!