As little kids we’re told our friendships will last forever, we trade friendship bracelets, have constant sleepovers, make secret handshakes and think to ourselves this is who I want next to me at important times in my life. But when we grow up, we quickly learn that relationships change, as do the people in them. One day you’re making daisy chains in the park, and the next there’s a new kid at school and your friendship doesn’t feel as rock-solid as it did on the swings. When this happens you likely feel a flood of emotions – confusion, sadness, and anger to name a few, and sadly when we grow up the feeling of breaking up with a friend doesn’t get any easier to bear.
To help you get through these times I’ve written a guide on how to survive the friendship break up using some of the best advice I’ve received.
- Let yourself grieve
Some great advice I’ve had over the years is ‘You’re grieving, the grief will pass’. While initially, I thought this wasn’t true as I felt overwhelmed by my loss, I soon learned that this stage of grief was temporary. It was important to let myself grieve. I suppose I may always feel a degree of sadness over what I lost, but I don’t need to live in that pain, nor do I want to. So let yourself grieve, it will soon pass but you need to let it happen first.
I give this advice out all the time when my friends go through romantic breakups so I’m giving it here too. If it hurts to see your former friend on your feed or see stories of them having fun without you its ok to unfollow, unfriend, and block. Don’t want to risk someone asking why you unfollowed? Most social media apps let you hide people from your feed without unfollowing or unfriending. To others, it may seem petty but public opinion isn’t your number 1 priority, you are. They’re not in your life anymore so why should they be on your feed?
- Talk to your people
When you feel this way the person you want to talk to the most is the one you can’t talk to at all. But it’s important to remember that you have more friends who you can chat to, who will catch you when you fall and hold you as you cry. Talk through your grief with them, but don’t forget to talk about other things too, like your favourite tv show or your post lockdown plans! Focusing on other aspects of your life can help you move through the loss.
Just because you’ve lost your person, doesn’t mean you’ve lost your people, the easiest way to remember this is to embrace the friends you still have, and be open to meeting new people.
- Be Switzerland
Talking to your friends is necessary when coping with a loss, but it’s also important to not bring your mutual’s into this. Bringing your mutual friends into it can put unintentional pressure on them to choose a side and cause unnecessary pain to all involved. If anyone asks what happened keep it short and sweet, say you grew apart and don’t talk as much anymore. Save the gory details for the close friends that you don’t share.
- Trust your secrets are safe
You probably told your friend a lot, and if it’s your best friend you lost then you told them even more, so it’s a scary thought to know someone who may not be in your life anymore knows so much about you. But trust that your friendship meant enough to them and that they have enough respect for you to keep your secrets private – and make sure you show them that same courtesy!
- Find things to be excited about
Make plans with other friends, go somewhere, do something! Even if it’s just a walk around the park or take out from the local chippie, getting out and being around those you love will help. Your life is changing, but that doesn’t mean you should stay still and focus on the past. It’s important to keep living your life and find out what else is out there. But if you need a day or two to eat ice cream and cry, it’s ok to take that also, just don’t make that your life.
- Write it all out
Sometimes post-break-up we find we have a lot of words that were left unspoken. If you don’t want to reach out to say them – maybe that isn’t an option – write them a letter. Let all your feelings out and then don’t send it. Bin it, burn it, hide it at the back of a drawer but don’t send it. The letter is for you, not them, let all of your emotions out in this letter. All your anger, sadness, confusion, frustration, and let all of it out and then don’t send it. Doing this can help you see why the friendship ended, learn from your actions – and theirs, and realise what’s important to you in a relationship.
Not to open old lockdown wounds but a walk a day really can make all the difference. Getting out of your space to go somewhere new, get some fresh air and remember there’s a whole world out there for you to explore and make new connections can bring a little peace of mind.
- Reflect – but don’t ruminate
Look back at what happened and try to learn from it. Be open to admitting you were in the wrong but don’t overlook when they were. Feeling guilty over how you acted or reacted doesn’t justify any pain they caused you. But if you find yourself going in circles and getting angry that probably means you need to step away from the situation and distract yourself. Reflecting can heal, but ruminating cant.
- Learn to love your own company
Losing a friend can make you feel isolated and alone. While it’s important to reach out to your other friends, it’s equally important to learn to love your own company. Blast your favourite music, get dressed up, and have a solo dance party! Cook your favourite meal! Go to a theme park by yourself! Having friends is important, but sometimes you need to be a cat and love yourself, by yourself.
- Listen to Music
We listen to music when our ex breaks our heart so why not do the same when a friend does? Finding songs about breakups can be hard so I’ve put together a playlist to help you out. Get ready to go through the moods of sadness, anger, and acceptance. Sing it in the shower, blast your favourite song on repeat, and get ready to dance through your pain.
- Be open to meeting new people
The idea of making new friends might be scary or seem impossible but once you start, you’ll find yourself having a lot of fun. Say hi to the girl with cool shoes in the coffee shop or start up a chat over the book that guy’s reading. You may not become friends with your ex again, but a breakup just means there’s more space in your life for new people, for your people. So don’t be afraid to go out there and find them!
- Accept you may never get closure
Closure feels like a healthy thing to want when you break up with a friend – but it has to come naturally. Forcing a conversation like this will only cause you both more hurt. If closure feels like something you need its ok to ask for it, but if the chat becomes an argument or your former friend doesn’t want to hash it out, then don’t force it. It can be tough to explain how you feel without escalating the situation, sometimes it’s better to find closure within yourself, accept the situation, say goodbye and move forward.
Losing a friend can be a terrible thing, and if you’re reading this and can relate then I’m so sorry you’re going through this same experience. Having lost some of my close friends I can tell you though that it does get better, that it will get better. Yes, sometimes I still feel like there’s a hole in my heart where they used to be, but the pain is like a bouncy ball in a box. In the beginning, the box is small so the odds of the ball hitting the pain button are high, but each time the ball hits a wall the box gets bigger and the odds of the ball hitting the pain button get smaller. So give yourself permission to grieve, reach out to your friends, and don’t rush through the pain, work through it.