We never anticipate a friendship to end. Finding closure after a friendship ends can feel next to impossible.
In the beginning, you meet someone, make a connection. As you start to do more and more together, you optimistically think that it is a friendship that will last for years to come. You go out, have fun, and form close bonds. You laugh together. Cry together. Share your fears and dreams. That person becomes the someone that you call on whenever anything happens in your life, good or bad. They become a sounding ground. A friend that you can trust to give you honest advice, even if it isn’t what you want to hear. You go to the mall or a movie together. Join a gym to get in shape together. Or simply stay in to vent about your day over a glass of wine and carton of ice cream.
Then suddenly, without warning, things are different. You aren’t talking as often, and conversations become stiff and short. Seeing one another becomes basically non-existent. When those friendships come to a screeching halt, you wonder what happened. When it is someone you consider to be a best friend, it makes the severed tie is even more painful.
It is said that a friendship breakup can be one of the worst feelings in the world. A close friendship ending can be even more painful than breaking up with a love interest. With time, though, the hurt will lessen and you will be okay.
I have experienced this very thing. A really good friend decided to call it quits just as quickly as we’d become close. It sucks, and at the time it hurt…a lot.
THE START OF SOMETHING GOOD
Natalie and I met on a Monday by chance as part of a new women’s walking group that was starting up in our neighborhood. We were the only two to actually show up, so we decided to walk anyway. What was planned to be a half-hour walk turned into over an hour and a half as we got to know one another.
Natalie was one of those people that you felt you’d known your entire life. With her high energy, outgoing personality, and cheerful spirit, she was easy to talk to. My usually quiet self didn’t have any problem filling in the blank spaces in conversation with her. Before we knew it, it was growing dark. We agreed to meet up again on Wednesday to walk again.
Those walks turned into 2-3 times per week, sometimes ending in a glass of wine at one of our houses when we still hadn’t said all we wanted for the evening. Walks and wine turned into trips to the mall. We double dated with our husbands, and had each other over for game nights. If one of us had a bad day, the other would be over in an instant with ice cream and a shoulder to cry on. We started planning vacations together. When moving from the neighborhood came up in conversation, we even talked about moving to the same area so that we still lived close by. Over the course of just a couple of months, Natalie and I became super close.
Natalie’s birthday was coming up. She wanted to get away for her big day and talked about my husband and myself going away for a weekend with her and her husband. The guys had no interest in going, as it turns out. We still talked about and planned the trip anyway, deciding to go without them. A couple more of her friends were invited, turning it into a girls trip. We chatted about that trip nearly every day during our walks, when we went out, or through text. We got advice over what clothes to bring, places we wanted to check out, and how excited we were to get away.
THE BEGINNING OF THE END
The trip came and went, and although I had a lot of fun, I did feel excluded at times. Maybe it is my quiet nature, but I do tend to sit back and observe when in a group of more than two or three. I wait to be spoken to, not one to jump in on a conversation that I feel doesn’t concern me. On top of that, my opinion about everything on the trip was always asked last. I brought this up to Natalie on the way home, telling her my feelings were a little hurt. After all, we’d shared everything with one another. She was one of the few people that I felt I could let my guard down with and truly express myself.
That conversation changed everything.
Instead of talking about it, Natalie pulled back. After talking nearly every single day, we were hardly communicating at all. She felt that I needed her undivided attention, and couldn’t be part of a group. She also brought up that she was upset that I didn’t take her advice on my job situation or our upcoming adoption. Because of this, she said that she needed to take a break. Even though we’d done things as a group before the trip, suddenly I was made to be irrational, and I believed it. I kicked myself for bringing it up in the first place. That if I’d just held my feelings in, things would be fine between us. That if I was more outgoing like her other friends, we would still be close and that friendship breakup never would have happened.
I cried, let my feelings out to my husband, and spent countless hours wondering what I did wrong and regretting opening myself up to her. The what if’s kept me up at night, replaying the scenario out in my mind. I re-read the few text messages we’d exchanged, trying to read between the lines and find fault in what I’d said. I wondered what would have happened if I had acted on what she’d advised me to do.
COMING TO A REALIZATION
Then suddenly I realized, I didn’t do anything wrong. True, I wasn’t perfect in the situation, but things weren’t completely my fault either. If our friendship had been as strong as I’d thought, my one comment wouldn’t have broken us. We should have been able to talk and sort things out, then move on with our lives just as close as before. I realized that her advice was just that; advice. If her opinion isn’t right for myself and my husband, we don’t have to act upon it. Above all, I shouldn’t have had to hide my feelings and walk on eggshells for fear of the outcome.
It’s true that during a friendship breakup, you still go through the five stages of grief. At first, I denied anything was wrong between us, then I became angry at myself for speaking up. I bargained, wondering what I could have done differently, feeling like it could have changed the outcome. The depression lasted the longest. But then the sadness turned in to accepting that things were not going to go back to how they were. And you know what? I was okay with that. After four months, I was able to find closure in Natalie’s decision to pull back from our friendship. It’s as if a weight has lifted from my shoulders in accepting how things turned out.
BEGINNING THE HEALING PROCESS
Finding closure was not an overnight process. It did take time. Below are a few things I found to be really helpful in letting go of the anger and self-blame and finding happiness again:
WRITE A LETTER
The purpose of the letter isn’t to actually send it. It’s to let everything out into the open. It is so therapeutic to just spill everything out onto paper. All of the feelings, the hurt, and the anger. You can certainly send the letter if you want to. Just go into it realizing that you may not get the outcome that you are expecting.
I wrote a letter that ended up being 5 pages long. At one point, I did plan to send mine, but in the end, I chose not to. I didn’t see how it would help to make anything better. But, it definitely helped aid in finding closure.
FIND NEW INTERESTS
Find new interests or get back into something you love and enjoy. It may be something you have been putting on the back burner. Join a club or a group to meet new people. In my post on Making Friends in a New City, there are ideas for several ways to get out and meet new people. Or you can get out and do something for yourself. Go to the salon for a new hairstyle. Get a manicure or pick out a new outfit. Make it something that will make you feel good. You may find a new passion you never knew you had.
For me, it was picking up writing again. During the course of our friendship, I realize I hardly wrote at all. My book wasn’t touched, my first blog wasn’t updated like it should have been. Something that I am passionate about was forgotten. Picking up writing again reminded me of why I love it to begin with.
ACCEPT AND FORGIVE
Easier said than done, but don’t get too caught up in feelings of anger and hatred over whatever happened. It is perfectly normal to feel depressed for a certain time. But eventually, accept what happened and forgive. Forgive the (ex) friend and forgive yourself. Don’t play the ‘what-if’ game. It can go on forever if you let it. Realize that the outcome was what it was. Learn something from it if you can and take the lessons with you into future relationships. It does no good to blame yourself or anyone else.
REMEMBER THE GOOD TIMES
This one will come after some time passes, but it’s okay to remember the good times with a smile while finding closure after a friendship ends. The person was a special part of your life at one point, possibly for years. You likely do have more good memories than bad. It doesn’t have to be just remembering how it ended or in feelings of bitterness.
With Natalie, the memories are bittersweet for sure. We did have so many amazing times and laughs. I can look back and smile without wanting to cry anymore.
Natalie and I don’t speak at all anymore. We did see each other a handful of times after the Saint Louis trip. At one point I thought we were trying to get past things. But then I noticed that I was always the one inviting her to do things, which she would later cancel. The final straw was when I told her I would be moving and asked her to meet me for dinner. When she canceled that and didn’t want to reschedule, I decided that I was 100% done. We haven’t spoken in 6 months now, and I’m in a place of acceptance that it is a friendship that just wasn’t meant to be. And you know what? I am okay with that.