How to help a friend through a breakup

Navigating breakups are always difficult. So too is helping a friend going through a breakup.

Sometimes well meaning attempts to help friends cope with the pain of loss can do them a disservice. Platitudes like “there’s plenty more fish in the sea.” “It was his/her loss” “you’ll find someone better” often minimises the painful feelings they are going through.

Being able to enter into a new relationship successfully involves processing feelings around past relationships. If these feelings aren’t eventually worked through, it is very difficult for new relationships to flourish.


Hi everyone. It’s dr Jamie here with what feels like day 5,047 of the quarantine. I hope everyone’s well. I hope everyone’s hanging in there. It is tough. One of the things that loss often provides us with is a renewed opportunity to, to maybe appreciate some of the things that we might have taken for granted before. So I’m hoping that on the back of all of this that, that personally I might find myself not taking for granted some of the things that I might have taken for granted before. We’ll see. I have a client who recently went through a breakup. It wasn’t the first time that she’d had to navigate a breakup, but it was the first time that she had really allowed herself to get close to, to someone she had spent a lifetime of, of putting up walls, separating her from other people, not only in relationships, but also friendships.

So although she had people in her life friends, previous partners she found herself very lonely. She would often be able to care for other people. But would really block their attempts to connect with her. She became anxious when people tried to get too close to her. And so we were doing a lot of work in therapy around helping her understand the types of relationships and friendships that she really wanted for herself and, and what she needed to do to, to get there. And so she was making great strides and had found herself in a new relationship that for the first time she was really allowing herself to be vulnerable and to connect in quite a deep emotional way. And so you can imagine that the devastation she must’ve felt when, when this relationship ended.

And, and so she was telling me about some of the responses from her friends about the breakup the, the usual platitudes like you’re too good for him. You know, move on. Plenty of other fish in the sea that came from a really well meaning place. But I would argue might be poorly timed and executed. One of the things that happens when we try to move people on from a process of grief prematurely is that it doesn’t allow them to be able to feel and process and work through feelings around pain and loss. And so when they find themselves in another relationship, if they haven’t worked through some of the stuff for, from before they often find that they can put up barriers, sabotage relationships or just not let themselves get close.

And, and so being able to help people just feel their feelings, just creating space for whatever feelings might be there is, is so essential to help people work through whatever stuff they need to work for in order to, to really have healthy and fulfilling relationships. Ah, I hope these thoughts are helpful for people and that, that you might be able to draw upon some of this stuff. And it’s a problem if you find yourself in that situation. Take care and I look forward to talking to you again soon.

Dr Jamie Barnier

About Dr Jamie

I’m a Clinical Psychologist based in Melbourne who helps adolescents and adults cope with overwhelming emotions and remove the need to numb negative feelings through food, alcohol, sex or drugs. I focus on addressing the root cause of the problem with the goal of creating happiness, peace and lasting change.

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