How I Helped My Younger Sister Through Her First Breakup
Helping a loved one through a breakup is almost as bad as going through it yourself. In fact, in some cases, it's worse.
Since there's nothing you can really do to take away the pain, it's all about listening and being there however you can. When my sister recently called it quits with her girlfriend of nearly four years, I learned firsthand how to best help her.
Scroll down for some tips!
We Talked About It. A Lot.
Each person will process a breakup differently. Some will want to talk about it extensively, others might shut down completely and some people might fall somewhere in the middle. In my sister's case, since the breakup was sudden and unexpected, we started by talking things through. A lot. We went over the specifics of the breakup, what preceded it and what she was feeling. Even though talking about it was daunting and occasionally painful, I could tell it was helping.
In my sister's case, the breakup didn't occur because of some big fight or infidelity. Instead, it happened because she and her girlfriend both just finished college and are embarking on very different post-grad lives on opposite sides of the globe. In some ways this made things harder (no blowout fight or cheating means it's hard to find a reason to be mad at someone) but it helped, too. It meant that things were ending on relatively good terms, and even if the relationship was over for now, there was at least a glimmer of hope for the future.
We talked about that quite a bit, and it definitely made things sting less. Eventually, though still painful, my sister came to realize that the split was actually for the best.
But I Was Very Careful With What I Said
Since, as a mentioned, the relationship ended pretty amicably, I was careful not to say anything disparaging or critical of my sister's now-ex. This is someone she loved (and still does), and I care about her, too. That's why I wasn't about to start saying unkind things.
While this can be tempting to do when someone you love or care about is going through a breakup, it's important to hold your tongue. You never know when or how that couple's relationship might evolve, and it's always really awkward to be the person who criticized someone's ex, only to have them get back together at some point. Generally speaking, I knew that putting my sister's girlfriend down wasn't actually going to make her feel better. Instead, I listened and offered constructive advice.
And Then I Gave Her Some Space
While the first few hours after the breakup consisted of plenty of talking, the following days she was considerably less chatty. It's clear she was absorbing and coming to terms with what happened, and I wanted to give her the space to do that. I still made myself available and let her know I could talk at any time, but it was clear that at least part of this healing process would—and should—be a solo journey.
Distractions Were Key
Too much time alone with your own thoughts is never good, especially in the midst of a breakup. That's why, after my sister had some time to process and come to terms with what happened, I kept the distractions coming. This included everything from trips to run mindless errands just to get her out of the house, to a sisters-only lunch at one of her favorite restaurants.
Over the course of our time together, she brought up the breakup sparingly, but this time it seemed more cathartic and less painful. Again, I listened and offered useful advice when I could. It really helped her to hear that this isn't necessarily the end of her relationship or friendship with her girlfriend, but at the same time, that this is a chance for her to start fresh in a new city with a new job. I have a feeling there might be some more breakup-focused conversations to come, and I plan to be at the ready if, and when my sister needs me.
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