How To Move On After Breaking Up With A Friend
When a friendship ends, it's rare that you get the same kind of closure you'd get with a romantic breakup. Because of this, figuring out how to cope with a friendship ending can be really lonely and confusing. Luckily, you're probably less alone that you think.
"Friendship breakups" are particularly tough because friends don't feel the need to end things the same way romantic partners do. "We have norms for ending romantic relationships," licensed psychologist Dr. Jill Gross tells Bustle. "At any time for any reason, one or the other partner could end a romantic relationship. It hurts, but we’ve got a framework for understanding this. We don’t have norms for ending friendships. So friends often don’t talk about it. They let the distance do the talking for them, which leaves the friend on the receiving end of the distance ... confused and guessing about why the friendship is ending." But if you proactively work on taking care of yourself after losing a friendship, you can get the same healing you'd expect in any other situation.
You just have to let yourself hurt first. "Friends have a special ability to fill voids which family and lovers cannot," health and wellness coach Caleb Backe tells Bustle. "There is something so intrinsic to being human about friends that makes them so valuable." You deserve not to downplay that connection as you mend.
Here are seven ways to cope with the end of a friendship, according to experts.
1. Let Yourself Grieve
Who cares if it was "just a friend?" If anyone actually says that to you, pay them no mind and allow yourself to feel how you feel. "Losing a friend is sad and it’s like losing a part of yourself," Jenn DeWall, millennial life and career coach, tells Bustle. "It’s OK to be upset. Give yourself a grieving time frame and then focus on your own happiness and finding new friends that could enrich your life in ways you never imagined." Cry, scream (into your pillow, maybe), and let yourself indulge in those much-needed self-loving rituals.
"Expect a flood of emotions," life coach Desiree Wiercyski tells Bustle. "You may feel shocked, sad, angry, resentful, and any number of emotions in the initial days. Chances are, you have a handful of immediate self-care skills (like bingeing Netflix, going for a run, etc.) so have those at the ready and be willing to give yourself the space you need." Turn on a feel-good movie and let it all out.
2. Set Up Healthy Boundaries
The two of you aren't friends anymore for a reason. And just like a romantic breakup, you'll need to give yourself space to heal. "Unfollow the friend on social media [temporarily or permanently]. Set up healthy boundaries," DeWall says. And in real life, try to keep your distance from the friend as well.
"Don’t push it," Wiercyski says. "If someone explicitly ended a friendship with you, give them space and take the space you need to process it." It can be difficult to know when to stop sending texts to someone who doesn't respond, but you have to draw the line somewhere. You'll feel better when you no longer feel the need to.
3. Remove Reminders
Have you ever redesigned your room in the wake of a romantic breakup? This is a similar idea. Try to take any obvious or particular painful reminders of your friend out of your immediate surroundings. "The initial days and weeks of going through a friendship breakup can be rough, and having mementos around like pictures and trinkets from your days together can cause your emotions to flair up at unexpected times," Wiercyski says. "You don’t have to get rid of the things (and I wouldn’t suggest it, not soon anyway) but remove them from your immediate everyday surroundings so you can start to heal." Plus, won't your apartment look fantastic with a little DIY makeover?
4. Connect With People Who Make You Feel Good
Chances are, even with this friend out of your life, you have a bunch of other people who want to be around you. Go find them.
"Make a concerted effort to spend time around people who support and accept you," Dr. Gross says. "When we lose someone, it’s helpful to be reminded of what [and] who is still there." Reach back out to old friends, set plans, or have a casual night in. Friendships change as you get older, but the ones who stick around are extra special.
5. Try Something New
Wallowing in old memories? Make some new ones! "Go try something new," Wiercyski says. "Maybe there was something you always wanted to do with your old friend, but they were never interested, go try that out!" And if you're really ready to take the leap, try meeting someone new as well.
"Friendships are built one memory at a time," Dr. Gross says. "We have to start somewhere." So if you have someone in you're life that you're curious about getting to know better, invite them out to that cooking class with you. Getting flour all over your hands with this new friend is just another step towards feeling better.
6. Realize This Might Be The Best For Both Of You
This one might take time to accept, but it's crucial. Having someone leave your life could be leading the way to some really needed change. "Trust that people come in and out of your life for a reason," DeWall says. "Believe there is something better on the other side of the friendship." If you look, you'll likely find reasons that the friendship was not meant to be.
"Sometimes people may also assume that it’s because of something wrong about themselves, which is rarely the case," Wiercyski says. "And even if it is a personality difference, it’s for the best. There’s no need to keep any sort of relationship alive for convenience, even friends." Even if it hurts, removing people from your life because they are not right for you is very important. There are other lovely, mature people out there just waiting to befriend you.
7. Create Your Own Closure
With friendships, often we don't have a clear moment when the relationship is over. So getting closure can be really hard. Instead, experts suggest that you can create your own closure, after which you can heal. Wiercyski suggests writing (but not sending) a letter to the former friend. "If someone ended the friendship on their terms, or even if you lost contact and can’t get in touch again, there are still loose ends — you still have things you want to say," Wiercyski says. "Get it all out on paper. This can further help you process your emotions and develop some form of closure." You deserve a moment from which to move on.
Anything's possible, and the friend might come back into your life in the long-run. But they also may not. In the meantime, you have to find ways to take care of yourself and move on, even without the obvious support system you'd get if this was a breakup with a partner. "It’s important to remember that losing a friend, even just from growing apart, is still a loss. When a friendship ends, a specific facet of your life will never be the same," Wiercyski says. Honor that, and soon better things will come along.