With the right approach, though, you can ease the pain and hasten recovery. Here’s how...
Catch yourself if you start taking over. The other person won’t necessarily react the way you would or did in a similar situation, so resist the urge to tell your own sob story. Instead say, "I would like to help in any way that would make you feel better, so please tell me how." Then do as she asks -- for instance, listen to her vent or invite her out -- all the while reminding her that she is loved and lovable. Repeat whichever words and actions elicit a smile or sigh of relief. If she does ask how you got over a heartbreak, it’s fine to share insights (for example, "Planning a vacation helped me stop obsessing"). But then refocus on her -- "What fun activities would take your mind off your ex? We could take a pottery class or go to a day spa."
Don’t rush things. Time heals all wounds, but clinical observations suggest that recovering from the loss of an intense relationship may take half as long as the relationship itself lasted -- or even longer. Of course, it won’t help to tell the heartbroken person, "You were together for four years, so you can expect to be miserable for the next two." But understanding that recovery can be a very slow process helps you stay patient when you’re tempted to say, "Aren’t you over that yet?" However: Do speak up if you notice signs of ongoing depression (such as sleeping way too much or too little, or seldom leaving the house) or destructive behaviors (such as excessive drinking or out-of-control shopping), and suggest consulting a therapist.
Act as a guide through the stages of rejection. Reassure your jilted friend or family member that certain reactions are to be expected... and gently encourage progress through the stages. When the person expresses shock ("I can’t believe it’s over"), provide a reality check ("I know that you wish this hadn’t happened, but it does sound final"). If she is in denial about problems in the relationship ("We were perfect together"), give a tactful reminder that all was not rosy ("Remember all the times your ex failed to support your career"). When the person feels angry, offer safe ways to express fury ("You could write a letter about how you feel and then burn it to release the hurt").
Discuss lessons from this experience. Together, consider whether there are negative patterns in the person’s relationships. For instance: She always falls for cheaters or Peter Pan types who can’t "grow up"... or ignores warning signs, such as frequent canceled dates or repeated lying... or expects to get more than she gives, which drives partners away. Then brainstorm strategies to help her do better next time.
Save truisms until the person accepts that the relationship is definitely over. Many well-meaning people try this approach first, but saying "There’s someone for everyone" too soon only invites contradictions ("No, I’ll never find another love like that one"). Time-honored words of wisdom bring comfort only when the person is ready to hear them. You’ll know that time has come when she starts saying those phrases herself. At that point, you can readily agree, reinforcing the words that she uses. Also helpful: Remind her of other truths, such as, "If it wasn’t meant to be, it’s best that it’s over"... "When a door closes, a window opens"... "Once you know the wonders of love, you can love again" -- all truisms, but all true.