Has a Close Friendship Ended? Here’s How to Deal – and Heal
by Laura Quiambao
When a close friendship ends, in some ways it can feel even worse than a romantic breakup. Friends, just like partners, are hugely influential forces in our lives. They’re our BFFs, compadres, crucial components of our #squadgoals.
So when those relationships come to a close – no matter the circumstances, whether it’s a full-blown fallout or you’ve mutually drifted apart – it’s little wonder that the resulting feeling is one of loss.
Understanding that your heart needs to heal is the key to dealing and moving on. Here are four tips to help you heal and grow from a friendship breakup:
1. Let your feelings flow, without self-judgment
“When going through a breakup of any kind, it’s important to feel your experience in your physical body – especially the physical and emotional pain,” says Monica Nastasi, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in Brooklyn, New York.
“We tend to spend our days trying to avoid feeling pain and discomfort through alcohol, drug use, food, technology—pick your poison. Anything that can distract us is fair game. This might work for a bit, if at all, but the problem is, we end up never dealing with, processing, or healing the underlying feelings beneath the pain when we turn to these things.”
Unfortunately, distracting yourself won’t help you heal. “Feelings need to be felt in order for them to resolve,” says Nastasi. “When we don’t feel them, they sit and fester and grow, until eventually, they seep out in other ways.”
So let yourself be sad, and remember to be patient with yourself. Know that some days, you’ll feel amazing, while others may force you to take a step back. Anger, denial, and finger-pointing are all par for the course – allow yourself to feel these emotions without judging yourself.
Nastasi recommends taking 5-10 minutes every day to stop and check in with the body. “Notice the subtle, or not so subtle, experiences. Maybe there's tightness in the chest, a gnawing in the stomach, or even numbness. The idea is to sit with and allow yourself to experience whatever is present with kindness and compassion.”
Let the emotions flow through you – don’t resist them. If you need to cry, cry. If you need to get out all the thoughts in your head, write. Take a bath, go on a walk or a run. Scream into a pillow.
“The discomfort in the moment might be intense,” she says, “but this process allows the feeling to heal in the moment so you can move on more quickly.”
2. Go no contact – and reconnect with old friends instead
Any time a relationship ends, seeing the person can easily reopen healing wounds. With a window into each other's lives in our pockets – aka our phones – it’s easier than ever to stay connected.
Often though, disconnecting is the best solution to help you heal – even if it’s just temporary. Unfollow, unfriend, or block your recently lost friend, depending on what makes most sense to you.
Make sure you do all of this from a place of love and respect, without calling any attention to it. The point of this exercise is to avoid obsessing over their activity, creating stories in your head, and torturing yourself with unknowns. When you disconnect, you give yourself space and to heal.
One of the biggest challenges when experiencing a friendship ending is not having that person to lean on.
Focus on scheduling activities and reconnecting with loved ones (but avoid bad-mouthing your situation to mutual friends). It may also help to reach out to a therapist, who can help you sort through your emotions.
If your disconnected friend contacts you, keep it light and positive. Even the messiest endings may find a resolution once time has had its chance to heal.
3. Try some exercises for closure
Actively seeking closure can help you move on from a friendship breakup. Try the following closure exercises:
Write a letter to your ex-friend – without the intention of actually sending it. With that pressure removed, you’ll be able to write everything you wish you’d said, but never had the chance, headspace, or guts to do so.
Write a “script” of sorts about what you would say if you saw your friend. Visualize the situation, write down what you imagine you both would say, and rehearse in the mirror. Even if you don’t end up running into your friend in the near future, knowing what you would want to say can provide you with confidence and calm.
Get involved in a new hobby (or take up an old one), which can help you reconnect with your passions and sense of self. Not sure where to start with your hobby search? Joining a group activity, like a rec team or book club, can help you make new friends and work on your social confidence, if it’s taken a blow.
4. Give yourself permission to move on
The truth is, you can’t control your friend, or the ending of your friendship. What you can control, however, are your own actions.
Acknowledge your own shortcomings in the friendship, and also remember what you did and didn’t appreciate – so as to avoid similar hangups in future friendships. Use these takeaways to grow, be a better friend to others, and kinder to yourself.
5. Put yourself out there, and make new friends!
Know that, like romantic relationships, you can make new friends and find that chemistry with new people. Making friends as an adult is actually mentally good for you – and the more you put yourself out there, the more natural it will feel.
Try different activities: Knitting club, book club, short story club.
Say hi and have lunch with the people you see often but don’t interact with: People at the gym, fellow co-working space residents, co-workers, neighbors in your building elevator, fellow dog walkers, the friendly barista at your local coffee shop.
Attend events — gatherings or dinners — you’re invited to on Facebook, where there are friends of friends.
Attend parties you typically pass on.
Meet people you play online video games with in person.
Instead of the typical fashion of saying “let’s meet up!” and never following up, actually set up a coffee date – and take the time to get to know people!
Still not sure how to navigate the choppy waters of post-friendship confusion? A therapist can help you understand the situation from an objective situation, and provide you with resources to cope and continue to heal. Watch videos and book free initial calls with the right counselor for you on Zencare.co.
Laura is a marketing guru and wellness warrior based in sunny California. Her passion for mental and physical health has led her to the Zencare community where she can use her experiences to shine a light on wellness topics and therapy.