By Megan Daley
March 26, 2015 at 12:00 PM EDT
Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

The remaining members of One Direction have spoken out on Twitter for the first time following Zayn Malik’s announcement that he would be leaving the band on Wednesday. 1D fans took to Twitter to express their various stages of grief, prompting the rest of the band to offer up words of encouragement. 

According to the statement, Malik wanted the chance to be a “normal 22-year-old who is able to relax and have some private time out of the spotlight.”

Bandmembers Louis Tomlinson, Niall Horan, Harry Styles and Liam Payne broke their silence Thursday on their individual Twitter accounts. The band is currently in South Africa ahead of their weekend performance in Johannesburg.

In addition to sharing a Throwback Thursday (#TBT) photo in an attempt to “brighten things up,” Payne posted an extended tweet that read:

“For the past five years now I’ve been part of something so special I don’t think any of us really understand, something that can mean the world to people and put a smile on the face of our fans even in the darkest times. To a lot of people it’s just a bunch of silly kids in a band but to the people involved it means so much more,” he wrote. “This last week has been some of the worst times, possibly the worst it’s something we are all deeply saddened by. It’s sad to think for the time being we won’t grace the stage as five bros or have the same fun on a tour bus or laughs in a hotel together that we have over the years but I’m super sure us and zayn will always remain the closest friends. I guess what I’m really trying to say is it’s far from over. When we very 1st became successful we all agreed that one direction had become much bigger than each individual member that’s why I feel like right now it’s ok to be sad and upset but I do ask everyone who is a fan of us to please keep ur faith in us I’m sure there’s a lot more to come all love.”