It’s of the utmost importance to me to write about what you want to know about. So when a dear reader (and member of My Self Care Bestie) reached out to me regarding feelings of sadness she sometimes still experiences over a good friendship that ended a while ago, my heart went out to her. I don’t know anyone who has lived to be my age and has never had a friendship fizzle. And sometimes they do more than fizzle. Sometimes they go up in flames. But either way, the question remains: what do we do with those residual feels once it’s all said and done?
As someone who has been through this exact situation more times than I wish to recall, I can relate. In high school, my best friend at the time essentially “broke up with me” for lack of a better phrase out of the blue, and for no good reason (that I was ever aware of) right before senior year started. I still remember sobbing my eyes out in the fetal position on the couch, while my mom and sister made me tea and tried to comfort me. In college, I had a dear friend who I did ministry with just kind of stop returning my calls or texts and faded away into doing life without me. It made me more frustrated than sad, as again, there was no falling out, it was more of a growing different ways type of situation. In my adult years, I have had a few friendships that I thought were solid and deep, only to later discover that insecurity, and mental illness would get in the way big time, and we would have to part ways…for my own health and sanity. It was no fun at all…but I got through it, and my relationships are healthier now more than ever because I was willing to do the harder thing and set some very necessary boundaries.
The truth is, no matter what the circumstances are around a friendship ending, it’s never fun. So even if others tell you (or you tell yourself), “it’s their loss,” it’s also yours. Aside from losing a person whom you used to share so much with, you’ve also lost what was. You’ve lost how things were when things were good, and I must say, that is probably the most difficult loss of all.
For all of my friendships that have ended, I am thankful to have so many more that have stood the test of time. And my guess is you do, too. For all the time you could spend wondering what went wrong or if there was anything you could have done to make a person stay friends with you, you could be appreciating the close relationships you do still have, and pouring into them.
I know it’s not easy, dear friend. These things take time, and the pain might never fully subside, though it will ease considerably with the passing of time. In the meantime, here are some things you can do to cope with the sadness you’re feeling over the friendship you lost:
You can honor the past you shared with this person by being intentional about fondly remembering the great things about your friendship and happy memories you shared. It’s often easier to let your current emotions about the relationship cloud your memory of how things were, but try not to. Look at photos and bring a smile to your lips, remembering how full that person made your life at the time. There’s no need to harbor bitterness or resentment when things end…those burdens will weigh you down and break you, if you let them.
If you feel you have unfinished business with the friend in question, write them a letter. I don’t recommend you send it, but just write out what you want to say. Write what you need to say. Don’t hold back. This is for you, not them, and it will help you get some closure, if that’s something that would be helpful for you.
Look at the most recent photos on your phone – who are you with? What are you doing? I bet there are happy times documented there – times that have happened in the here and now. Don’t waste your precious life wishing for something that has completely changed or faded away. Instead, be grateful for the people who are with you and for you in this season of life. There’s a reason they’re here and not the others, even if the reason doesn’t make total sense to you right now.
Oh my goodness, this is a big one. There is an impermanence to just about everything in this life, and the sooner we come to grips with that, the less we will suffer. People change – your friends do, and so do you. Circumstances change – life gets busier, or less busy. Priorities change – your focus and their focus may shift to places you never could have foreseen. Make space for that. Let it be how it is right now, today.
I wish you the very best and for all your heartaches to heal. Sometimes, as a therapist, the most powerful thing I can say to people is: I don’t know what to say, but I’m right here.
Perhaps that’s what you need to hear today. Let me know if I can help in any other way.
I’m right here.