Losing a friend might just be the hardest relationship break-up any of us ever goes through. It’s somehow higher stakes than losing a partner, or even a marriage, since we assume that our friends will be by our sides come rain or shine and forever after.
However, we do lose friends, and much as we need time and tools to cope with any other kind of loss, it is essential to give yourself the emotional strategies to learn from it.
Let’s work through what the loss of a friend means, what lessons we can learn, and how to adjust to a new life without them.
Why Do Friendships Fizzle Out?
There are a million reasons a friendship hasn’t worked out. Here are just a few examples:
- One or the other of you has moved away, and you haven’t kept up a long-distance friendship.
- You disagree about something fundamental to your relationship.
- Over time your interests and shared passions have changed.
- There is a new romantic partner, and one friend finds it hard to get on with the new beau.
For most of us, there is a substantial difference between massive blow-ups and the painful, slow burn of a once treasured friendship dying out.
When that happens, here are some of the lessons we can all learn from the emotional grief of losing a friend:
1. Sometimes, You Are the Toxic One
It’s a challenging concept to come to terms with. Still, one of the most important lessons we must recognize is that we aren’t always right, sometimes we didn’t do the right thing, and on occasion, we might be the toxic influence that destroyed a friendship.
Anybody who is hurting will lash out at those closest, and even the strongest of relationships might not survive the brunt.
While you might never have intended to cause pain; if you did, it is vital to acknowledge the part you played in losing a friend you once loved.
Sometimes, an apology might fix it. If not, at least you have the emotional maturity to look yourself dead in the eye and know that you will do better next time.
2. People Do Change
OK, so I’ll qualify that slightly. People rarely change in their overall ethics and personality.
BUT their circumstances can.
Life is a rollercoaster at the best of times. Even if your heart remains true when things around you start to swerve off course, it’s all too easy to let your relationships, attention, and care go with it.
People go through difficult times, hardships, and challenges that can make them more guarded, more resentful, or perhaps happier and more successful.
We must appreciate that when that happens, there is a choice to make about whether to accept a friend (or ourselves) for this new person we’re evolving into – or whether it signals the end of a friendship.
3. Use It or Lose It
Another difficult one to swallow.
Still, I doubt any person can say with absolute certainty that they have NEVER taken a friend for granted. Because they’re our rocks, our BFFs, our go-to people when disaster strikes, right?
Still, you must contribute just as much to any relationship as you take out of it.
One of the primary reasons friendships fade is that one person cares too much, and the other has been distracted by something else or is so focused on their own life that they fail to hear it when their friend calls for help.
If you haven’t rung your friends, checked in on them, replied to that boring rant about how their partner is driving them up the wall, then now is the time to realize that they need you just as much as you need them.
When we start to forget our friendships’ value, that connection begins to dim, and there is an ever-growing chance of losing friends.
4. Rumors and Suspicion Can Kill Friendships
Social media and gossip can be lethal even to great friendships. When you hear something a little out of character, or a juicy tidbit about a friend, do you:
- Immediately come to their defense, and insist it can’t be right?
- Jump on the bandwagon and have a great time speculating about what happened?
- Decide instantly that it’s correct, and your friend has behaved horribly?
- Confront them and start a massive row about whatever they’ve supposedly done?
- Take a balanced approach, and ask if you can have a chat before you jump to conclusions?
We’d all like to say E (of course), but sadly, that’s not always human nature!
Always, always, give your friends the benefit of the doubt and never join in with bullying, gossipy behavior, even if you’re pretty sure they have misbehaved.
Maybe they did, perhaps they didn’t. But acting as judge and jury without giving them the support to speak up and share their perspective is a sure-fire way of losing that friend forever.
How to Cope with Losing a Friend
Those lessons are hard, and coming to terms with losing a close friend is sometimes even harder.
You can’t replace somebody or fill a void in your life, but you can move on. The best way to do so is to talk it out. Take a bit of time to evaluate what went wrong, whether there is anything you can do to fix it, and if not, what lessons you can take away with you.
People grow, change, and evolve, and in some cases, a friendship wasn’t meant to last forever.
That doesn’t make the loss of a friend any less sad, so give yourself a bit of space to grieve, and always hold onto the happy memories that were an essential part of shaping your life as you know it.
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