5 Stages of Losing a Friend

Some cliches prove to be painfully true. You know the ones I mean, about friends coming and going and about not knowing what you have until it’s gone (which Counting Crows turned into a stupidly catchy song, “Big Yellow Taxi” anyone?). Yeah, turn’s out those are the ones that’ll come back to bite you in the ass if you ignore them. Since life’s a bitch and losing friends seems totally unavoidable, I’ve decided to impart some of my knowledge when it comes to the stages of losing someone close to you. It’s not fun, but it’s also not uncommon.

Stage 1: Anger

Sure, not all friendships end in some dramatic fight. Sometimes they fade over time, sometimes you and your ex-bestie may come to some incredibly mature understanding that you’re better off without the other, but in my recent experience, the relationship ended in an all-out text war of harsh words. Here’s the thing, I’m not proud of anything I said to my ex-friend, who I’ll call Rachel (not her real name). Without diving into the specifics, Rachel and I had never fought before; in fact, I don’t think we’d ever even expressed genuine annoyance toward each other. Our utopian friendship couldn’t last, though, and everything seemed to fall apart all at once. In fact, one morning I woke up to a novel-length text from her, a litany of her grievances toward me which I had no idea she’d been harboring. Naturally, then, my first reaction was to be hurt and angry, even a little confused. This stage sucks a lot, but do yourself a favor and save the stinging insults and nasty language--I promise you’ll regret what you type after the dust settles and you’ve both blocked each other. It’s just not worth it.

Stage 2: Indifference

Welcome to stage two, indifference. There’s not much to say about this stage, except that it’s confusingly calm--almost numbing. In this stage, you’ll likely convince yourself that you don’t care about the person you lost, that they’re dead to you anyway. Having shrugged that once precious relationship off as though it were nothing, you’ll easily go on with your life, adjusting as needed by going out to lunch with someone else, for instance. But this stage won’t last. You won’t be able to hold back all of your emotions for too long, and you’ll finally stop telling your other friends that you’re “over it” or that you “don’t care anyway.” You do, and that’s okay.

Stage 3: The Floodgates Have Opened

Ah, yes, the worst stage of them all. The crying-into-a-bag-of-cool-ranch-Doritos-while-watching-”Pitch Perfect” alone-stage. This stage is by far the most painful, but also necessary for moving on. If you’re adamant about maintaining the “cold shoulder” or too stubborn, hurt, or prideful to go talk things out with whomever you lost, crying things out may help. This will sound melodramatic, but sometimes mourning the loss of a friendship aids in the healing process. Stop going over and over everything you did and said, find some peace within yourself, and try to get out all of the bad feelings. If you can’t forgive the other person yet (or ever), forgive yourself for whatever your role was in the situation.

Stage 4: Mulling it Over

This stage lasts for a while, or at least it did in my case. Eventually, you will (probably) be able to step back from the events which led up to the friendship riff and ask yourself if you were really right. After getting out all of your more extreme emotions, the initial rollercoaster of feelings, you’ll find an equilibrium and be able to speak with others about the situation more calmly and rationally. Try to talk to friends and family (or your dog) as objectively as you can; of course your bias will be impossible to remove, but do your best to tell the story of what happened from both sides. In doing so, others will be able to honestly tell you their thoughts without simply patronizing you--that doesn’t help anyone. Be open to the idea of being wrong, and then you’ll be able to more easily decide whether it’s worth patching up the relationship or not. A lot of times the answer will be yes, it is. In mine and Rachel’s case, I’m hopeful that we’ll find our way back to one another, but I’m also not prepared to make a conscious effort to speak to someone who clearly doesn’t want to speak to me. Mulling things over means thinking, talking it out, and time. Give things time. Just because you’re ready to be friends again, doesn’t mean he or she is.

Stage 5: Moving On

Whether you become friends again or not, moving on can be a happy ending. Ok, here I go being cheesy again, but at the very least, such an awful experience could be an opportunity to learn about yourself and others. Rachel may have said some very rude, untrue, and downright bitchy things to me, but there had to have been a reason. Clearly my behavior upset her, and I had to evaluate that after the fighting subsided. In the end, we were both wrong, and I want nothing more but to apologize for saying some of what I said to someone who meant so much to me. At the same time, however, I quickly came to the conclusion that even though I regret my words, I don’t have a desire to rekindle a close bond with Rachel. Her presence in my life was slowly becoming more and more negative, and I’m just unwilling to re-enter into a relationship that may not enrich my life. In truth, I’m happy now, though I can’t say whether I’m happier or not. In the end, it’s up to you to decide whether to invest your time and emotions in a friend. This time, the answer happened to be ‘no’ for me, though I still love Rachel and wish her all the best in the future.