Something I’ve seen people talk on Tumblr about is however much we, as a culture, focus on romantic breakups and romantic relationships gone wrong in our teens, twenties and beyond, there just… isn’t all that much material out there to talk about the pain of a friendship that just…stops.
Dating and relationships come and go, especially when you’re young, but losing that one key person you share everything with is truly a loss.
What’s worse is, like any relationship, there isn’t always an obvious answer as to why you and your best friend have broken up. It’s not always even clear if that’s what’s happening until it’s over.
Beginning of the End
My best friend and I through the end of high school used to do everything together. Sleepovers, movies, you name it…we even had the same birthday.
When we wound up at different schools she and I began to drift apart. Once that started, it was really difficult to change things. Towards the end, every time we would hang out, I could feel something was wrong, but I couldn’t figure out what it was.
I think I tried to pretend everything was alright and hoped that if I pretended things were fine, they eventually would be.
(Spoiler alert: They wouldn’t be…this is a terrible idea.)
With nothing settled, and one half of the proverbial BFF necklace so obviously unhappy, I always felt worse after hanging out with her than I did before.
When you begin to feel that hanging out with someone else is more of an obligation (for you or for them) than anything else, that’s a major clue.
The last time I saw her was for her wedding just after graduation, two years ago, and I’m not sure we’ll ever see each other again.
Now before I get to the steps towards healing, I just wanted to say that if you think I have the secrets to the universe, the be-all-end-all solution to forgetting a best-friendship, I have a confession to make: I don’t think it ever stops hurting, not entirely. When someone’s left a mark on your life, that’s there forever.
I just think the pain gets a little lighter…until it begins to fade away.
Step 1: Journal
When in doubt, write it out. It’s okay to be mad or confused or even desperately sad. You need to express these feelings, even if you’re not sure how to do so in an eloquent or even “acceptable” way. Your diary can’t judge you.
It can also help you begin to piece together what went wrong.
One thing I learned in my time journaling was how much I’d begun to take her for granted, and how much I’d just assumed she’d wait for me to get back. We were moving at two different speeds and in two different directions. She’d gained new friends at her new school, had become affianced with her boyfriend and was ready for adulthood. In my immaturity, I was left behind.
Step Two: Allow Yourself to Grieve
It can take a long time for you to come to terms with the fact that your friendship, as you’ve known it, with this person is over. Trying to be brave or attempting to patch every little hole in this ‘ship’ now that it’s rapidly sinking can only last for so long before you come to the inevitable conclusion.
(I cringe now at those last days, where I tried to fix things with actual physical gifts like I was trying to buy our friendship back. Seeing the look on her face when I gave them to her, it just gave her more stress instead of making things better.)
But the truth is: it’s over.
If you don’t let yourself feel get past the frustration and panic and feel the underlying sadness accompanied by it, you won’t be able to heal. It wasn’t until I allowed myself to cry over it, to really grieve, that I had any possibility of moving on.
Step Three: Forgiveness
Once things are done, once the tears are (mostly) dried, there’s an ache that settles somewhere in your heart that feels something like regret.
Some time afterward, I was having a conversation with my dad about the sleepovers my ex-best friend and I used to have, and how we would have popcorn and soda (my favorite snacks) and how it took literal months (maybe longer) for me to realize that she didn’t even like popcorn.
“Did you ever ask her what she liked?” my dad asked.
I didn’t. I really didn’t. I didn’t know how selfish I was until later.
Coming to terms with your side in things is hard. It’s really, really hard, but so necessary.
Forgiving yourself can sometimes be harder than forgiving your ex-best friend.
If you can’t come to terms with what went wrong on your side, or what your part in the ‘end’ was, it can easily become a pattern…one that will follow you into your future relationships and haunt any potential friendships you might ever have.
Step Four: Moving On
Now before you think I’m going to tell you to delete their number, block them on all your socials and actively avoid them for the rest of your life, I want to say that I think it’s okay to leave a window open for potential friendship in the future…that is if things weren’t obviously too toxic.
Any relationship is dependent on the actions and maturity of both people. Once you know what went wrong, it’s up to you to work on yourself and grow.
You can extend an olive branch if you think you’re ready to, but it’s up to them to accept it.
That being said, I don’t think you should rely on this, because if you do, you’re setting yourself up for disappointment.
Giving them space when they need it, and working on yourself is difficult, but it’s the only way you will be able to determine if rekindling this friendship would be good for you in the first place.
And it’s also the only way you can begin to meet new friends and potential best friends without bringing along the baggage of your last best-friendship.
Once you are able to forgive them and are able to be happy for them without it being dependent on if you are ever friends again, that’s how you know you’ve entered a place of healing. The sooner you are able to look back on the good times you had with them as moments you’ll carry with you without there being bitterness, the better off you’ll be. Turning that wistfulness into fondness, an “I’m glad I had that time with them” instead of “I wish I had it now,” is the way to help yourself heal and move on.
It’s a long road towards this path, but I know you’ll get there eventually.