Breakups can be painful. When someone you once dated breaks your heart, there are a million and one breakup anthems that you can listen to. You can find support from your tribe, watch plenty of romcoms, and read numerous blogs about how to heal from a breakup. But there isn't much out there for when a friend breaks your heart. There aren't really any friendship breakup anthems out there or movies about it. It can feel like an isolating experience even though you can go through the same exact emotions that one might go through when healing from a romantic relationship ending. You may not even feel that you can take up emotional space to vent about the hurt in the same way that you can when a former partner breaks your heart. But friends can most certainly break our hearts as well.
Our society places a high value on romantic relationships in a way that it doesn't for friendships. I think that may be why most of us can struggle to find the language to speak to the hurt that we experience after a friendship ends. We can most certainly grieve the friendships that are no longer here. In your teenage years through your twenties, many may find themselves surrounded by numerous friendships. Friendships built on social outings, similar lived experiences, and simply common interests. It can give you a sense of community. By the time your late twenties and early thirties roll around, you may find friendships dropping like flies. Maybe a major conflict lead to the end of a friendship. Maybe a betrayal put the final nail on the coffin. Or maybe it was as simple as no longer being in the same stage of life, as people begin to hit different life milestones such as starting a family or beginning a career. There can be so much grief in it.
When we are younger, we don't think about how different life becomes one day. People that we thought would be there with us for the remainder of the journey only end up staying for a chapter or two. And when those friendships end, it can really break our hearts. Even if a friendship was toxic and not good for our mental health, it can still hurt like hell once it ends. We might have had expectations of certain friendships that fell short. And when a friendship ends, whether we were the one that ended it or not, it can activate old attachment wounds from our childhood. I write to you all today to say that it is ok to be hurting from a friendship that no longer exists. Your feelings and your hurt is valid. Even if there isn't a Beyonce song out there about the friend(s) that broke your heart.
So after a friendship ends, how can we begin to heal? How can we begin the process of mending the hole in your heart that your ex-friend(s) left?
1. Allow yourself time to grieve the loss
Give yourself the permission and space to heal just as you would if someone that you were romantically involved with broke your heart. Take whatever you need and meet yourself where you are at everyday.
2. Create space for closure if possible when you are ready
I also understand that closure can be a privilege in certain relationships ending. Sometimes we have to find the closure for ourselves that we never received from the other person.
3. Lean on your support system
Vent to your friends and family if you need to. Check in with your therapist. Dress up and go out for happy hour with your friends if you need to. Or even for a walk with someone in your support system.
4. Reflect on both the highs and lows of the friendship
It is ok to look back on the memories that you had with that person and smile. It wasn't all bad. But also create space for reflecting back on the unhealthy dynamics of that friendship too. It is ok to create space for both/and.
5. Reflect on the friendships that you currently have that feel emotionally safe
Whenever a friendship ends, it is always a good idea to pause and reflect on the other friendships that you have. Ask yourself these questions: "How does my mental health feel around these people?" "Do I feel safe in these friendships?" "Can I be my authentic self with these individuals?" "What do I value about the friendships that I have now?"
6. Practice gratitude for the friendships that you still have
Somehow after a friendship ends, it makes you feel even more grateful and appreciative of the friendships that you still have. It may even make you cherish them more. Whenever a friend exits our life, it only creates space to pour even more love into the friendships that you still have.
7. Explore what boundaries you need in your relationships moving forward
Boundaries are a way of loving yourself and your loved ones simultaneously. In reflecting on the previous friendship, decide what you want to take with you or leave behind in your current and future friendships.
8. Meet new people when you are ready
Don't rush this one. But when you are ready, there are still so many incredible people out there to connect with. It can be a good time to branch out when it feels right.