Regardless of how old you are, the loss of a friendship can be quite crushing. Whichever way it might have ended - maybe you decided to end it, maybe it was mutual, or maybe it ended after a fight - getting over a friendship isn’t easy. Particularly when you had formed a strong bond with them over some time and had thought they would be always there with you.
Why do friendship breakups hurt even adults so much?
We form different friendships throughout our lives. During our childhood, friends serve mostly as playmates. As we grow older, we find friends with whom we can share our common interests and hobbies, as well as our secrets and sensitive thoughts. As adults, when we really become comfortable with a friend, we tend to form a deep bond with them. Some of them even become like family.
Unfortunately, even the best of friendships can end abruptly.
Sometimes we drift apart naturally from our childhood friends. And while that’s sad too, we learn to accept the truth that perhaps we were not well-matched as adults and look back on those relationships with fondness. However, when the loss is sudden, perhaps because of a sharp disagreement, it can be quite jarring. As adults, we may be surrounded by lots of fulfilling things in our life - a caring partner, a good job, and a loving family, among other things - but even then, losing a best friend who understood you like no one else, leaves a gaping hole.
The sad truth is that friendship breakups are not discussed as often as romantic breakups, even though it happens to almost everyone. These breakups, unfortunately, can be confusing and overwhelming and can affect one’s mental and physical health. A true friendship, after all, is a mutual relationship of trust, affection, and support that plays a vital role throughout our lives.
So, how do we cope with a friendship breakup? Here are some useful tips that might help.
1. Take Time for Yourself
The first and the most important place to start is to give yourself the time to grieve. It’s okay. You are hurting. You are sad. Acknowledge that. Accept that your grief is normal. The pain from losing a close friendship is real. You probably shared some great moments with them and had a special bond with them. Maybe they were always with you in your times of distress. Maybe you had thought the two of you will always be inseparable. That sudden vacuum, that loss of intimacy and connection, is real and will hurt. So don’t feel that just because you are now an adult, feeling sad over the loss of a friendship is juvenile. It isn’t. Accept those feelings of suffering and allow yourself to grieve the same way you would grieve over a romantic breakup.
2. Try and get closure
Usually, with a romantic partner, we do get some sort of closure after the end of a relationship. That, unfortunately, is rarely the case in friendship breakups. The starting and ending of friendships can both be quite sudden. And sometimes, the participants don’t feel the need to explain their motives. If someone ended the friendship on their terms, you should try and seek clarity from them. Tell them that you are not trying to change their mind over their decision. But you need that closure to accept this loss and take steps to move on.
If you were the one that ended the relationship, for whatever reason, then you need to diagnose why you made that decision. What exactly happened? Was the friendship getting toxic or unhealthy for you? Did you lose your trust in them? How is this loss really affecting you? Acknowledge all these questions and maybe get them all out on paper. This will help you process your emotions better and come to a place of emotional acceptance. You might still feel angry, and hurt, and sad, but developing some form of closure will allow you to eventually move on healthily.
3. Don’t Neglect Your Mental and Physical Health
Much like a romantic breakup, a friendship breakup can make us mope around in bed all day. At times, the loss can completely derail your life and in its aftermath, you may start ignoring daily activities like eating healthily, exercising, sleeping properly, or even showering. As the grief refuses to abate, you might even feel like not doing your job. All of this combined can have adverse effects on your mental and physical well-being.
Remind yourself how eating a balanced meal and having a good night’s sleep is important for your overall health. Yes, doing your regular activities may not lessen your pain, but they will make you feel better. And normal. Just going for a light jog or eating a healthy meal will make a difference in your mood. Other activities like playing music, reading a book, making a painting, talking to some loved ones, or spending some time at the beach will also help. Also, make sure that you get at least 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night.
Initially, doing all this might be difficult as you are likely to be constantly reminded of your breakup. But don’t give up. These are little but important steps in helping you move on and find some calm.
4. Never Tell Yourself That You Don’t Deserve Friendship
When you lose a really close friend all of a sudden, and if the relationship ended from their side, you might end up feeling that you perhaps don’t deserve friendship. Or that you are unworthy of having a friend. Fight those thoughts because they might prove to be a hindrance while making new friends in the future. Yes, losing that sense of belonging and acceptance that comes with a close friendship can be hard to deal with. But keep telling yourself that everyone deserves to have friends who love and care for them. Work on cultivating a sense of unconditional self-worth in yourself where you instill the feeling that you deserve to be loved and cared for. This will help you wade through difficult times.
5. Connect With Some of Your Other Most Important Friends
You might be feeling vulnerable and insecure because of the loss of that friendship. So, this is a good time to connect with some of the other important friendships in your life.
Close relationships require work. Make a conscious effort to spend time with the friends who support and accept you. Make sure you keep a tab on them and ask them how they are doing every once in a while. Take time out to have real and meaningful conversations with them. Share what you have been going through and what you have been feeling. When we lose a relationship, it’s important to be reminded of who is still out there for us. Realizing you have other good friends can make you feel better about the breakup.
6. Avoid Reflecting On Your Past Memories with Them
The most common thing most people do after a separation from a friend is to keep ruminating about the time they spent with them. Yes, of course, you will look back at the memories you shared with them in the initial days and weeks after the breakup and are bound to feel sad. But you can’t continue thinking about them to the point where they disrupt your present happiness.
A good way to stop this habit is to remove any reminders of your days together with your friend from your sight – pictures, texts, gifts, or any other mementos. Now, remember, you are not pretending the relationship never happened. So you don’t have to get rid of the things altogether; just keep them from your immediate everyday surroundings so that you are not reminded of the relationship every moment of the day and can begin the process of healing.
Related: These Three Little Words Will Strengthen Any Friendship
7. Reflect on What You’ve Learned
Lastly, when you have had time to process the reality of the breakup, it’s time to reflect on what you learned from the friendship. Yes, because you don’t need to look at the lost friendship as a negative thing in your life. This is a learning experience and you can use it to grow and become a more mature person. In fact, this situation might have already changed you a little for the better; perhaps more than you realize right now.
Remember, that grief is part of the natural processes of life. And the fact that you felt so much at the loss of a friendship only shows your ability to love. With time, this pinch of loss will transform into something meaningful. So, celebrate the new beginnings that are to come. Allow yourself the freedom to feel free and be ready to make new friends along the way. We will leave you with these wise and comforting words by the great Dalai Lama: “Old friends pass away, new friends appear. It is just like the days. An old day passes, a new day arrives. The important thing is to make it meaningful: a meaningful friend – or a meaningful day.”
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