How I Survived Falling Out with My Friend Group (& How You Can, Too)

If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my 22 years of life, it’s that breakups suck. Whether you’ve been with someone for three months or three years, the pain of losing a significant other is like nothing else. What no one ever tells you, though, is that friendship breakups suck just as much. Losing a friend — or multiple friends — can be just as painful as losing a significant other, if not more painful. 

For me, the cherry on top of a disastrous 2020 was falling out with the people I had come to consider my family. However, as hard as losing my best friends was, I learned a few important things in the process. Here’s how I survived falling out with my friend group, and how you can, too.

  1. 1. Acknowledge the hurt

    woman in white long-sleeve shirt looking out a rainy window

    Like any breakup, losing your friends is going to hurt. If you’re like me, your friends are the people you sit with while completing your mountain of homework; they’re the people you go out with on Saturday nights and brunch with on Sunday mornings; and they’re the people you go to when you’re sad, or stressed, or uncertain, always offering you a shoulder to cry on. When you fall out with your friend group, you are immediately cut off from these moments, forced to consider them in the past tense, understanding that you may never have the same relationship with these people again.

     For me, this knowledge was a hard pill to swallow. Knowing that I would never again be able to grab dinner with these people, or head to the movies with them, or laugh over some ridiculous meme with them, was extraordinarily difficult. I was embarrassed to be crying so much, eating lots of junk food and getting out of bed only when absolutely necessary. I felt ashamed to be treating losing my friends as though I had lost a significant other — as though I was weak for being sad, or as though I was overreacting. Most of all, I was angry at myself for being so upset when I knew I had made the right decision. 

    At the time, I did not understand that losing friends and losing a significant other can be equally as awful, that both events can unleash in you an unparalleled sense of grief. I was grieving the loss of my friends and I did not know it.

    I was only able to begin moving on when I acknowledged how hurt I was. Who is to blame in friendship breakups does not matter, because losing them will hurt all the same. So, feel the hurt. Lay in bed and cry, eat lots of ice cream and watch sad movies. Feel sorry for yourself, because this is a big loss. Be angry at your friends and be angry that you’ve lost them. Once you accept that you are experiencing loss, it becomes much easier to search for ways to heal yourself.

  2. 2. Understand that losing friends is not uncommon

    When I made the decision to stop being friends with the people I cared for the most, I convinced myself that no one had ever felt the pain I was experiencing. However, when I really thought about it, I realized losing friends is actually pretty common. In grade school, I gained and lost friends. As I’ve grown older, my circle has grown smaller; I have become much more picky about the people I allow in my life. I’ve noticed this in other people as well: as we age, we begin to focus less on popularity and having friends for the sake of having them, and more on celebrating our few close friends. If your friends are not bringing joy into your life, you may have to accept that they are not the friends for you, and that’s OK. 

    Losing your friends does not mean there’s something wrong with you, or that you’re too difficult or too unlikable. Losing your friends simply means that you have outgrown each other, or that you’ve decided you’d rather put your energy into people that make you feel good. These feelings are very common and very understandable. You are not alone in them.

  3. 3. Reflect on your relationship with your former friends

    Girl with closed eyes and praying hands

    As much as it may hurt, it’s important to remind yourself of why your friendships ended. I fell out with my friend group months ago, but I still have to remind myself every single day that I made the right decision to distance myself from them.

    While my former friends were good people, that did not necessarily mean they were good friends to me; I found that the longer I remained friends with them, the more my mental health suffered. Once I stopped being their friend, my general mood and mental health increased exponentially; while I grieved the loss, I felt much less miserable without them around. 

    Nowadays, if I feel nostalgic when I think about the good times I had with my old friends, I tell myself that the moments of happiness I experienced with them do not outweigh the damage they did to my mental health. It is not selfish to put yourself first or to cut people off because they are hurting you more than helping you. It has taken me a long time to acknowledge that I am not to blame for my feelings or for distancing myself from my friends. I am doing what is best for me, and I know I have made the right decision.

    If you feel as though you did something in poor judgment that contributed to you falling out with your friend group, it will take a long time and a lot of self-reflection before you are able to forgive yourself. You must accept that you were in the wrong, but that you are human and that some friendships just aren’t meant to be. It’s important to find ways to relinquish yourself of the guilt and remind yourself that you made a bad decision, but that this does not make you a bad person.

    Consider making a list of all of the ways you are a good friend so that you always remember that one mistake does not define you. You can also try to shift from blaming yourself to acknowledging this loss as a lesson learned: what did you do wrong, and how can you prevent this in the future? We are always growing and learning; you, too, can improve the way you interact with friends and forgive yourself for past transgressions.​

  4. 4. Find ways to distract yourself

    woman reading book in bed

    Like any breakup with a significant other, you need to fill up your time with something in order to take your mind off of your friends. Look for activities that require a lot of focus, like drawing, painting, doing crosswords or word searches, or even a sport. If you find your mind wandering during any of these activities, try your best to focus on the task at hand; if you can’t, it may be time to try a different activity. For me, I’ve taught myself piano, played chess, and read some books to distract myself.

    It also is worthwhile to spend time with other friends and family that make you feel good and can distract you from the loss of your friends. For me, this came in the form of watching lots of movies with my roommates, going on hikes with some other friends and talking to my family more. While none of these activities entirely mitigate the pain, they do help. At first, I was only able to get my mind off of my old friends for a short while, but, eventually, I found that I could go several hours, and then nearly half of the day, without thinking about them as much as I used to. With so many other things filling my time, like good movies, good excursions and good friends, it was much harder for me to focus on the things that made me feel bad. 

  5. 5. Know that it does get better

    image of three friends watching the sunset

    As cliche as it sounds, your grief will pass. While you may still be sad over falling out with your friend group, you will eventually come to a point where you are able to accept the past happy memories with your friends as just that — past happy memories. You will eventually be able to acknowledge that they were once your friends and that losing them was sad, but that it was necessary in order for you to grow and find the people and activities that bring you joy. 

    As sad as losing my friend group was, I have grown much closer to my roommates and other friends because of it; I have prioritized my mental health and now I wake up every morning excited to get on with my day. While I wish I did not have to lose my friends in order to become happier, I remind myself every day that I am now surrounded by people who truly care for me and my well-being. In every loss, no matter how big, there is a silver lining you can hold onto.

Losing the people I thought would be in my life forever is perhaps one of the most difficult things I’ve ever experienced. I’ve been sad and angry, I’ve cried myself to sleep and I’ve blamed myself for the loss. As time went on, however, I came to accept the hurt and the pain that comes with losing your friends, and I recognize now that I am much better off. My grief, like yours, is real and it is valid — and, luckily, it won’t last forever. Six months ago, I was in the throes of heartbreak over losing my friends, but I survived. You will, too.