By: EAC Staff – Friendships are crucial relationships we have with others. Even as we age and graduate from school, friendships are a key part of our social and support groups. Especially during a worldwide pandemic, it is important to have others that you can talk to and lean on for support.
I recently had a long-term, childhood friendship end. There are several layers to why it ended. It was gradually becoming a co-dependent friendship where, once boundaries were established, it was apparent that it was an unhealthy relationship. The ending of the friendship was several months ago, yet I still find myself saddened by it and ruminating on the loss of this relationship. Why?
Ashely Mateo, writing in Oprah Magazine, explains that our brains do not recognize the difference between a romantic relationship and a friendship. In both relationships, a connection is formed. This connection provides support, trust, and intimacy. Breakups cause a loss of that connection and trust, and it takes time to adjust with that loss.
Mateo offers advice on how to grieve this loss and how to move forward:
The first step is to acknowledge what happened and to allow yourself time to grieve. Dr. Danie Moye, a marriage and family therapist, states that “sometimes we underestimate the power of platonic relationships” and the significance of that relationship (Mateo). We expect that close friendships will last and that we will share our future with them. Moye recommends taking time to reflect on this change and “sit with the discomfort of sadness.” She states, “When we don’t grieve the relational losses we’ve endured, it may take us longer to move on” (Mateo).
Accept that not all friendships are meant to be forever. I have heard the statement before that some relationships are meant to be there during a season or two of our lives, not forever. We connect with people during a specific time in our lives and in the future, may be growing in a different direction then them.
Don’t forget the good memories. Avoid ruminating on the past and questioning the entire relationship and what went wrong. Instead of replaying what transpired and what we would have changed, try focusing on the good memories. The friendship was supportive and helpful in some parts, and there when it was needed.
Accept that there is no such thing as “getting over it” and be realistic about your role in it. Mateo writes that while the loss of the friendship is different than death, divorce, or a medical diagnosis—it is still a loss. Shelby Forsythia, a certified grief recovery specialist, explains that the loss of the friendship “is very painful and leaves a hole in your life that can never be filled in the same way.” In going through this process, it is important to recognize the role you have played and take accountability for those choices. There will be moments ahead, hard times and good times, where I will wish I had my friend to lean on, and Forsythia states that this is perfectly normal.
Set boundaries for yourself. During this healing process, it is important to set boundaries and protect yourself. This may be as simple as unfollowing the former friend on social media or removing pictures of them in your home. Mateo writes, “These boundaries may change over time, but there is nothing wrong with protecting yourself from triggers that will disrupt the process you’re trying to make in moving on.”
Appreciate the support system you have, and don’t be afraid of talk about the loss. After the loss of a close friendship, such as a best friend, it will be a difficult adjustment, especially when you do not have a best friend to lean on. Recognize the support system you have such as family or other friends and co-workers who might be able to offer support in navigating this new life without this friendship. Talk to someone in your support system, or even a therapist, for support.
Additionally, your Employee Assistance Program can help. The counseling is confidential, easy to access and no cost to you. Contact EAC at 1-800-227-0905 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information on this and other topics. We are here to help!
Mateo, Ashley. “How to Move on From a Best Friend Breakup.” Oprah Magazine, Oprah Magazine, 6 Oct. 2020, www.oprahmag.com/life/relationships-love/a28069319/friendship-breakup/.