5 Phrases That Helped Me Finally Heal From My Friendship Breakups

Ever since it went viral on TikTok that a girl’s Roman Empire is their ex-best friend, I haven’t stopped thinking about it. I thought several friends would be in my life forever, only for our relationship to be reduced to following each other on social media, and those friendships have taken up a lot of my brain space over the years. Whether we stopped talking because of a fight or because we simply grew apart, I’ve grieved these friendships as if they were romantic ones. And in doing so, I constantly asked myself these questions: Could I have done anything differently? Do they think about me as much as I think about them? But the one question that kept coming back was, why was I never taught that a friendship breakup, just like a romantic one, is a normal, albeit unfortunate, part of life?

The word “breakup” is usually used to describe romantic relationships, but it applies to friendships, too. Looking back, it doesn’t surprise me that I’m hurt more by the loss of an old friend than a few of my past lovers; the tools and conversations around coping with this kind of breakup weren’t discussed as openly. Thankfully, there’s been more discussion lately about what it’s like to go through a friendship breakup, and the advice I’m hearing is finally helping me heal. So, if you’re going through a friendship breakup for the first time or you’re still trying to heal old wounds, here are all the things I wish I learned sooner.

It’s OK to mourn the end of a friendship

It’s always awkward when I’m catching up with someone, and they ask me, “Have you heard from so-and-so lately?” referring to an old friend. I feel a mix of emotions: nostalgia, hurt, and even a bit of rejection, no matter how many years have passed. I consider friendships to sometimes be more intimate than romantic relationships due to how deeply you get to know each other—which is why I imagine they are much harder to not take personally when they end.

Experts say that friendship breakups are a form of disenfranchised grief—feelings of loss that “cannot be openly acknowledged, openly mourned, or publicly supported” because losing a friend isn’t the same as losing a loved one, for example. But hopefully, as more and more people talk about lost friendships, mourning one won’t seem so out of the norm. If you’re feeling confused about how to work through your feelings, let yourself feel all the emotions. Try journaling, meditating, listening to music, talking to another friend, or whatever works best for you as you heal—just as you would any other breakup.

Sometimes, the end of a friendship is beyond your control

When I think about the friends I’ve lost contact with, I find myself wondering if we could have done anything differently to “save” our relationship. The problem with this is that it wasn’t always a big fight that made us stop talking. More often than not, it was because of outside factors. Conflicting schedules, long distances, and even marriages and babies have led to my losing touch with old pals. Sometimes, it’s even less concrete. Maybe you both end up on different paths in life or don’t value the same things anymore as you grow.

One of the hardest lessons I’ve had to learn about friendships is that people simply outgrow each other. Or, an even harder reality to process, people decide that they are done with the friendship with no explanation as to why. As much as it sucks to be in a situation where you don’t have any control or you don’t get a say in how or why you lose a friend, that shouldn’t reflect poorly on either person involved. All you can do is accept that the situation was beyond your control and start to heal on your own.

It’s OK to let go of what no longer serves you—and you don’t have to feel guilty about it, either.

You don’t have to feel bad for ending a friendship that no longer served you

Maybe you notice that you’re starting more conversations than your friend is or that they keep canceling plans without rescheduling them. Or maybe you realize that you don’t feel good about yourself after you hang out with them. It’s hard to think about walking away from a friendship, especially when you’ve known someone for a long time, but it’s OK to let go of what no longer serves you—and you don’t have to feel guilty about it, either.

Relationships of any kind, especially friendships, require effort from both sides. If one or both of you aren’t putting in that effort, it’s better to let each other go rather than force something that isn’t there anymore. If this is the case in your situation, recognize the strength it takes to put yourself first—especially if it’s a toxic friendship you’re leaving behind.

Time apart could bring you back together

I’ve known one of my closest friends since we were in first grade, but it always shocks both of us when we remember that we once didn’t speak for almost three years. I’m sure it was over something stupid (you know how middle school is). But now, it’s hard for me to imagine a time when I didn’t think of her as my best friend. If there’s anything I’ve learned in our many years of friendship, it’s that the people who want to be in your life will do what it takes to stay there.

I recognize that it isn’t always that easy, though, and experts agree. “In some instances, friendships fizzle out over time. If there was no rupture, perhaps there’s an opportunity to simply reconnect. But if one or both friends feel wronged or hurt, this will likely require an honest, difficult conversation,” says Licensed marriage and family therapist, Saba Lurie. Just like with any breakup, it’s important to talk about the reasons you were apart before jumping back into each other’s lives. Both people should be open to communicating. This often means hearing some hard truths and recognizing that rebuilding trust will take time. If the friendship is worth holding on to for both of you, you’ll find a way to make it work. And if you still decide to go your separate ways, that’s OK too!

The people who want to be in your life will do what it takes to stay there.

You can and will make more meaningful friendships

Whether you’ve recently lost touch with a friend or you’re looking back several years, it’s never easy to think about the connections that could’ve been. But not everyone is meant to be in your life forever. People come and go, and that’s just a part of life! Plus, as cliche as it might be, everything happens for a reason. If someone leaves, you’ll have the time and space for new, meaningful connections. And remember, the memories you make with new friends don’t diminish the memories you’ve made with old ones, either.

Just like with any relationship, you can learn so much about yourself by reflecting on what was. When making new friends, consider what you valued most out of your past friendship. Similarly, consider what you don’t want in a new friendship. Use those things as well as lessons you learned along the way, like how to handle conflict, to make friendships going forward even stronger. Don’t be afraid to meet new people, build connections, and create meaningful friendships. Just because you got burned before doesn’t mean it will keep happening. And you never know—you might meet your twin flame sooner than you think!

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