ILet’s say your friend just got dumped by a romantic partner…or someone he hoped would become dumped. They are upset and maybe even in shock, if they were caught off guard by the breakup – and their pain is palpable. You want to say something to make them feel one percent better, but instead you hold your tongue, not sure what the right thing to do is. East tell someone who recently got dumped.
I understand; I’ve been on both sides of that equation. After my ex-boyfriend abruptly ended our relationship, many of those around me offered kind and supportive words that helped me heal. But in some cases, friends also made comments that were more caustic than comforting (regardless of their good intentions). It made me realize that I had probably said things to friends in the past who had had similarly painful experiences that, in hindsight, weren’t as helpful as I thought.
It turns out it’s all too common to stumble over words in difficult, emotionally charged conversation, like the one following a friend’s breakup, says psychiatrist Jessica Gold, MD, assistant professor of psychiatry at Washington University School of Medicine in St. . Louis. Often, “we’re never really taught how to have these kinds of conversations, and as a result, we feel a lot of fear and discomfort,” she says.
It can lead us to search for something concrete, even if it’s an unnecessary platitude, like “Everything happens for a reason” or “When one door closes, another opens.” “When we don’t know what to say or are afraid of saying the wrong thing, we tend to venture into neutral statements or statements we think are safe,” says Dr. Gold. But even if they are sure, these phrases don’t tend to go far when it comes to comforting someone after the breakup.
“From a desire to help, we can end up hurting them instead when we don’t really provide what they need.” —Anusha Atmakuri, LPC, Therapist
In other cases, you might feel so upset for a recently dumped friend that you try to rectify the situation (“They didn’t deserve you, anyway!”) – not realizing that this might cause your friend to feel even worse. “There’s a bit of a firefighter in all of us who wants to fix things,” says therapist Anusha Atmakuri, LPC. “But, because of that desire to help, we can end up hurting them when we don’t really provide them with what they need.”
Maybe the person who was dumped actually needs space to process the highlights of the relationship or how they grew within it, and in your eagerness to help, you push them through. inadvertently forgetting it. “Usually people go through at least some of the stages of grief [during a breakup] because it’s a loss – and not just a loss of the person [in their life] and what they had, but also the future they could have imagined with that person,” says Atmakuri. And that kind of grief “isn’t something you can circumvent or speed up,” she says.
Hence the need to walk lightly. Below, experts share the best and worst things you can say to a recently dumped friend or loved one to make sure you’re helping (and not hurting) their healing journey.
3 helpful things to say to someone who recently got dumped
1. “What do you need right now?” »
As simple as it sounds, asking this question lets the person express what they want from you (if any) and steer the conversation based on their lived experience, says Dr. Gold. Everyone reacts differently to a breakup, and no two breakups go exactly the same, so the only way to Really knowing how that person is feeling and what they need is to ask.
Naturally, this puts pressure on the person who has been dumped to express those feelings and needs. And sometimes they can be so upset or overwhelmed by the situation that they just don’t know what to do. In this case, “you can provide a few choices [of how you might help]or you can ask if it would be okay if you just came and sat with them, just to be there,” says Dr. Gold.
You can also encourage them to share as much (or as little) as they want, suggests psychiatrist Michael Radkowsky, PsyD. He recommends being patient with them as they may need to process what happened many times before they can figure out how they need or want to move forward.
2. “It’s really hard.”
Simply understanding the difficulty of the situation can have an impact. “You don’t want to gloss over the very real pain they’re feeling,” says Atmakuri. “Acknowledging that and helping them feel seen and heard, even if it’s really just that, is powerful and empowering.”
When a rabbi described my own breakup experience as a “tragedy,” the intensity of the word and the acknowledgment of my pain sounded like deep validation. And you certainly don’t need to be ordained to give the same kind of validation to a friend in need.
3. “Do you want some company?”/”Do you want me to call you?”
The day my ex broke up with me, a dear friend asked me if I wanted some company, and I immediately said yes. At first, I didn’t want to talk about the situation and just felt grateful that she was next to me on my couch, distracting me with unrelated conversation. Then, when I was ready to unpack what had happened, she was there to hear it and help me begin to process my new reality.
And that was all because she simply offered to show up for me, which every expert I spoke with also recommends. Whether in person or virtually, showing a recently dumped friend that they don’t have to be alone (if they don’t want to be) can be very comforting – no elaborate plans necessary.
“It’s worth showing up rather than not showing up, even if you have doubts about how to do it,” says Atmakuri. This can take the form of checking in over the phone, suggesting social plans like a meal to look forward to, or simply joining your friend on the couch for movie night.
3 worst things to say to someone who just got dumped
1. “You are better.”
Bold statements or assumptions often only fuel confusion and pain, Atmakuri says, and are certainly not helpful when the pain of being dumped is new.
“A person can be mad at someone and still love them, and statements like ‘you’re better now’ just bring in extra negativity and judgment that doesn’t need to be there,” explains the Dr Gold. Likewise, while comments like “I never liked them anyway” or “They must have cheated on you” may sound positive by being definitive, experts advise against this approach, as it is more likely to aggravate rather than relieve existing feelings. of frustration and pain.
2. “There are other fish in the sea.”
Offering comments related to future relationships (or their potential) takes the leap. “It doesn’t give the person time or space to grieve,” says Dr. Gold. No one should feel pressured to go straight to meeting new people when what they really need is to deal with the sudden loss of an important relationship.
“When they’re ready for hope [down the line] it’s when they’ll be open to hearing messages of positivity,” says Atmakuri, and potentially dating someone new.
3. “That’s why I never date someone younger/older/divorced/from LA, etc.”
The person who got dumped can’t go back in time and change the way they approached a now-broken relationship or choose not to date the person in the first place – so there’s no reason to comments like this that suggest they made a mistake.
“Snapshot judgments usually just reflect where we are in our own head,” Atmakuri explains, and do nothing to help the person in need. In fact, these kinds of statements often come across as shaming, criticism, or an attempt to use the person’s breakup as a teachable moment, neither of which is productive, Dr. Radkowsky says.
Ultimately, experts agree that showing up and genuinely listening — rather than dwelling on the past or pushing for positivity — are at the heart of helping to deal with raw grief. As Dr. Gold says, “We take for granted how much listening can help someone when they really need someone safe to talk to without feeling judged. »
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