One of the most devastating losses a person can go through is the loss of a once close friend. The notion of ‘best friends’ implies a lifelong bond with someone who knows your deepest secrets and dreams. Lovers come and go, but friends are supposed to be ‘forever’. The concept of ‘forever’ can be dogged by the same circumstances that end other types of relationships, whether it be an explosive fallout or a mutual, peaceful drift apart. Regardless, the end result is the same- the loss of someone once close to you. Experts compare the ending of a friendship as more devastating than the breaking up of a couple.
I will not mention his name here, but he was once my best friend. We met in Kindergarten and we became friends when I fought off the school bully on the playground. We were joined at the hip and spent everyday together. He was the protective brother that I never had. He was the person who was there for me through my parents’ messy divorce and all the things that came in between. As a kid and teen, I always dreamed that we would be lifelong friends. I even imagined that he would give me away at my wedding. Unfortunately, those dreams were dashed when we entered high school. It was then that I witnessed his transformation from a “sweet” young man into a manipulative monster who was capable of horrible things. He was unbothered by his ability to make his best friend cry and stab her in the back for a girl he just met. I watched helplessly as he withered away, and an unrecognizable monster took his place. It was only after a blowout fight between him and I, where he called me a “whore” among other slurs for liking someone in a relationship, did I realize the truth. That I spent a decade of my life putting him up on a pedestal and never realizing the signs of an abusive, toxic friendship. I was the unwitting victim of his abuse and manipulation for years. I would let him walk all over me and apologize when I wasn’t wrong in fear. Everything I did was to please him and keep from losing the only person who seemingly was ‘there’ for me. In actuality, I enabled the abusive tendencies by submitting. So, I did the only thing that would save my sanity- I severed all ties with him. It was painful for a moment, but the relief that followed was worth it all. To this day, we no longer speak, and I am better for it.
There is not a ‘one size fits all’ solution to coping with the loss of a friend. That being said, I share my process in the hopes that someone can find solace in wake of their loss of a friend.
-Acknowledge all the emotions involved with the split. Whether that means crying or releasing anger in a healthy outlet, dealing with any emotions that resulted from the ending of the friendship is one of the most important steps. Emotions, when suppressed, can be dangerous to a person’s emotional stability. Therefore, it is imperative that all positive and negative emotions be processed and dealt with in regard to the situation.
-Avoid involving your friends in whatever drama there may be attached to the loss. I refer to this as the ‘Sweden Policy’ and mutual friends are Sweden- to be used in the instance of a fallout between you and a former friend. By involving friends in drama that they don’t belong in, you are putting them in an uncomfortable position of choosing sides and can cause resentment within the group. Your mutual friends will appreciate being clued in to what the situation is, but not if they are forced to take a side.
- Move on and don’t act out in spite or revenge. It may sting when your ex-best friend is seen hanging out with someone else the same way they used to with you but acting out in revenge will only hurt you in the long run. Instead, focus on your happiness and the parts of your life that bring you joy. Hanging on to envy will only make you miserable on top of an already difficult situation to go through.
Studies have shown that friendships can increase our happiness and longevity. We yearn to attain friendships that stand the test of time and last our entire lives. But sometimes, life has other plans and that’s okay. Losing a best friend may hurt, but it is a normal experience everyone will undergo at some point.
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