Losing Friends is Hard, Trust Me I Know

I am firmly of the opinion that friendship breakups are one of the worst, most painful things to experience. A little while ago I went through a relationship breakup, and while that too was extremely difficult the worst part of it was that it took a bandage off a much deeper wound. I met the girl I was dating this summer at an incredibly rough point, our meeting coincided with a long, agonizing period of drifting away from my best friend. 


This friend was my freshman year roommate, and remained my best friend and roommate since then. In two years she quickly had become one of the most central people in my life. We were the kind of friends that did everything together - we lived, studied, worked out, and went everywhere together. She was the person I wanted to do everything with and who I could go to for anything. I was able to be vulnerable and open with her about how I was doing, my stresses, fears, and joys. We constantly joked about how codependent we were, and while there was probably some unhealthy truth to that, it is evident to how inseparable we were. 


We could not have been more excited to move out of the dorms into our first apartment this past June. We planned out how the place would look, the parties we would throw, and movie nights we would have. But the more we talked about all the possibilities in the future the more quickly they dissipated, remaining floating wishes in the air while never coming to fruition. It was a hard summer, the kind of summer that leaves you begging for September to come, and I needed my best friend, but countless nights of crying alone left me confused and in denial that she was no longer that person.


In that period I was devastated over losing the person I was closest to. It was then I met the girl I started dating, meeting some new was exciting, a distraction from that devastation. As the summer and year progressed and I became closer to the girl I was dating I felt the empty void of the fractured friendship less. The concerts, museum exhibit visits, and dinners I would do with my friend I started doing with her. I was too caught up in falling for this girl to spend as much time ruminating on the collapse of my friendship. 


However, after our breakup it hit me again, and much harder that my friend that had known me so well and was such a huge part of my life was no longer there. When I was crying over the breakup and she came home to see me sobbing only to leave, that left me more hurt than the ending of any romantic relationship ever could. I wanted to reach out, to ask her to stay, she was the person I wanted to talk to and hug, but it just didn’t make sense anymore. She didn’t really know the details of the relationship, and I’m not even sure she knew it ended. 


It left me reflecting on how we got to where we are now. How did we so quickly drift apart and enter this pool full of cold, tense uncertainty. I listen to Old Friends by Pinegrove and it transports me to their concert, our last really great memory together. I see us screaming the line ‘should tell me friends when I love them’ while we jump hugging. How did we stray so far from that? I went from having a friend I did everything with and constantly relied on, to barely speaking. I spent months in an endless cycle of thinking we were going to work things out only to be disappointed again. It is confusing to navigate a friendship as it turns toxic because there is no clear indication of when and why the end began, there is not a formal breakup like a romantic relationship, instead a continuously murky space between you and them. That murky space eats at you.  


The hardest part is the question of when do you try to mend the relationship or when do you let it go? The harder part is that there isn’t a right or definitive answer. Even letting go doesn’t feel like it is far enough to not reach back out and grab it.  


There is a big element of nostalgia that causes friendships to be missed even more. You aren’t going to remember the arguments or differences, you’re going to remember the snapshot version of the friendship. I watched a video I made of the trip we took to Philadelphia together and I didn’t just want that day back but that time period. Nostalgic for how we were and how everything seemed simpler than it is now, but I know at the time I didn’t think it was. I long not just for the memories but for the feelings those memories brought. I am so happy with the friends I have and how supportive and caring they are. I know in a year I will probably look back and long for how simple life will seem now. 


A large part of this longing is because of how I repaint people in my mind. I dress them up to be the version I wanted them to be and it only makes it that much harder to accept they are so much more complex and so very different from that. I do this because I am not good at coping with having someone in my life, feeling their presence daily, and then not having them at all. I need to get better at allowing some people to be a part of a story that ended. Accepting that their purpose could have been just for the time they were there and that every connection will not last forever.


But while it may be naive of me, my nature goes against that. I am a person that always remains hopeful in reconnections. That sometimes people were not right for the moment but can be again in the future, that relationships are repairable in some way. That we might not be friends right now but it doesn’t mean we never will be again. But I don’t know if that is just me buying into my inability to easily let people go. There have been people that attempting to reconnect and rebuild was not worth what the relationship was ever truly, but I have also been able to mend relationships that were too important to forever lose.


I had falling outs with two of my closest friends from high school shortly before we graduated. Similar to this current friendship end it was unclear how it so quickly happened. I left for college and was immersed in a new life with new friends, but that same unclarity gnawed at me. I met up with one of these friends during my freshman year and while talking to them realized the friendship was unrepairable because all I would be repairing was an unhealthy dynamic fueled by our toxic patterns. The nostalgia I painted over the friendship hid who they, and I when I was with them, actually were. 


The other friend from high school I still would wonder about. As time helps everything, I wasn’t consumed with the end of our friendship as I was in high school, but I never liked how it ended. I hated thinking someone I used to care about so much couldn’t also be upset with losing what we were. This summer she reached out to me because she had the same thoughts. It took us two years to reconnect, but we did. I saw her when I went home for winter break and she spent the holidays with my family how she did before. While we clearly have both changed and our relationship is not the same as it once was, I find it special that we both knew we were too much to each other to forever part ways. We don’t talk all the time, but the tension I stressed about has been replaced by the comfort of having someone back in my life that will always be a defining figure in it.


I don’t have an answer for how to best navigate a friendship breakup or if it is repairable. Everyone is too different, and everyone feels like the experience is unique to them. That you know this happens all the time but you cannot believe it happened to your friendship, that you were too close for it to make sense. My best completely unqualified advice is to accept endings, but also know, as cliche as it sounds, if it isn’t supposed to be an ending it won’t be.

And maybe after reading this, reach out to the person you thought of throughout it.