When you hear the word “breakup,” you likely picture the bitter end of a romantic relationship. But there’s a different kind of split that can be even more painful: a friendship breakup. Nearly everyone will experience a friendship breakup, but not everyone knows how to get over it. Use these steps to help you heal after losing a friend.
First, confirm the friendship is actually over.
You might be going through the grief of a friendship breakup, yet your friend is totally unaware that the friendship ruptured in the first place. It may seem obvious, but sometimes we fail to confirm whether or not a friendship problem is actually a breakup. If you decided to end the friendship, then carry on. But if it seems like your friend wants to end the relationship, talk it over with them first. If a friend got distracted and started ghosting your messages, it may be more about their own schedule or responsibilities, not an intention to unfriend you.
Treat it like any other breakup.
Ending a relationship is always hard, and friendships are no exception. After a friendship breakup, you might feel angry, sad, confused, insecure, or a range of other emotions. All your feelings are valid, and it’s okay to be hurt. Friendship breakups can even cut deeper than a breakup with a significant other, especially if your friendship spanned years. Give yourself plenty of time to heal, just like you would for any other breakup.
Don’t involve mutual friends.
Friendship breakups can get ugly when mutual friends are dragged into the rubble. Be careful to not badmouth your ex-friend to your shared friend group, and never pressure people to choose sides. And if your mutual friends are the ones to broach the subject, you may want to take a break from spending time with them for a while, until the friendship breakup feels less raw.
But do talk about the friendship breakup.
To help you process and overcome the breakup, it’s better to not keep your thoughts to yourself. Talking to supportive people can be a healthy outlet, especially if you find yourself constantly ruminating and overthinking what went wrong in the friendship. Talk to people who don’t hang out with your ex-friend, or turn to a therapist for a trustworthy perspective.
Sometimes we put high expectations on our friendships, assuming they’ll last forever. And that’s not your fault: most of us grew up in a culture where the second “F” in BFF stood for “forever,” and where we made lifelong commitments over friendship bracelets. But not all BFFs really have to last forever. Some friendships only last during a certain phase or season of your life, and that’s okay. There’s nothing wrong with growing in different directions.
Learn from the friendship breakup.
Give purpose to your pain, and learn from the broken friendship. Take responsibility for your role. Even if you think your friend is fully to blame, there’s likely some area where you could’ve done better. Be honest with yourself about how you can improve next time, and work to grow in the relationships you share with other friends.
Improve your other friendships.
Use what you’ve learned from the friendship breakup, and apply it to your other friendships. Do any of your other friendships have problems in common with the one that just ended? If so, now is your chance to fix things before it’s too late. Correct your own bad behavior, set boundaries, and make sure you’re surrounding yourself with friends who you’re truly compatible with.
Watch out for loneliness.
If you lost one of your closest friends, you might have a lot more time in your schedule now. And this can be a great opportunity to enjoy some solitude, practicing self-care and getting to know yourself better. But notice if you’re starting to feel painfully lonely or withdrawn. Like any other breakup, you’re likely experiencing a lot of emotions, and your brain may trick you into only seeing the negative at first. Spend time with other friends and supportive people in your life, and remember that the initial loneliness felt after losing a friend won’t last forever.
Meet new people.
When one friendship ends, it might be time to branch out and start a new one. But don’t just look for someone to replace the friend you lost. Instead, think about what kind of friendships you want to have in the future and how a new friendship should differ from the ones you had in the past. Look for people who reflect where your life is heading, not where you’ve been.
Trust that the breakup was for the best.
Frankly, losing a friend sucks. But keeping a Negative Nancy or Jealous Janice around sucks too. Not all friendships are worth keeping, and not all company is worth having around. Regardless of what caused the fissure between you and your friend, ignoring it and trying to maintain the friendship likely wouldn’t be worth the harm done to your mental health. Trust that you’ll be happier in the end without an energy-sucking friendship.
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