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Break-ups

When a relationship comes to an end it can take a while to get through the hurt and grief that a break up can cause. 

Break-ups can make people feel lonely, sad, angry, hurt, confused, and even relieved. These feelings of grief can be overwhelming especially if you haven’t had to deal with them all at once before. It can be painful to watch someone experience heartache.

You can’t make the hurt go away, but you can be patient and comforting. Encourage them to keep doing the things that make them happy - eventually they’ll learn how to get through the hard times, and figure out what makes them feel better when they’re sad. Having friends and whānau around to talk to and be with can make a big difference in how well someone deals with a break-up.

Keeping an eye out

Times of grief can be lonely. A young person could use some extra support if you notice they are:

  • Behaving dangerously, staying out late or using alcohol or drugs as a distraction
  • Unable to sleep for long periods
  • Distracted and unable to concentrate at school or on other tasks
  • Moody, withdrawn, or not seeing friends 
  • Talking about feeling empty, hopeless or worthless
  • Not doing things they used to enjoy

If the person's feelings of sadness or depression last a long time and don’t improve, it’s a good idea to help them get extra support. Encourage them to see a GP or counsellor – you could offer to go with them or help them to make the appointment.

Healthy conversations

Sometimes young people feel as though no one understands what’s going on in their lives. Here’s how to reach out and talk to someone if their relationship has ended: 

  • They might be finding it hard to even bring up the topic, so it can be helpful to check in and ask them about it. Try saying: “Hey, how are things with you and _____?”, “You seem a bit upset, how are things going?”
  • Let them know you can see they’re hurting, and that it’s okay for them to feel sad. For example: “That must really hurt, I’m sorry you are going through that” 
  • They may not want to talk, or they may want to tell you every detail. Either way let them know you’re there to listen
  • Be patient. Break-ups take a while to recover from. They might seem over it one day, and sad again the next
  • Avoid making judgements such as “They weren’t good enough for you”, as this might make them lose self-confidence, or feel criticised about their choices
  • Affirm them for who they are as an individual outside of a relationship and for the strengths they have: “You are an intelligent/creative/strong person, and I know you can get through this”

Taking action

Sometimes the pain of a relationship ending can be too difficult to deal with alone. Here are some things you can do to support someone going through a breakup: 

  • Encourage them to go out with their friends, and do things that they love to do, even if they don’t feel like it at the time. You could do some of those things together
  • Encourage them to express how they are feeling. They could talk to people they feel close to or keep a journal and write down how they are feeling
  • Be understanding and patient. Maybe the relationships didn’t seem to you like it was really great or important, but it may be a really big deal for them. Try to see it from their perspective.
  • Avoid giving advice on how to fix the situation. It’s more helpful just to be there when they need to talk about how they’re feeling 
  • Suggest a break from technology for a while. Things posted in the heat of the moment on Facebook or other social media can make the situation much worse in the long run
  • You could share your own experience of a break-up. This could help them feel like they’re not the only one going through it
  • If things don’t seem to get better after a while, suggest that talking to a counsellor might make them feel better. You can help book an appointment, and ask if they’d like you to go with them

Resources

Youthline

Confidential Helpline: 0800 376 633

Youthline provides free phone, text, and email counselling support. Its website has great information for youth dealing with challenging situations including how to deal with break-ups.

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