Mourning the Death of a Friendship

“If a friendship lasts 7 years, psychologists say it will last a lifetime.” I’m calling bs on that cute little meme. Many people are fortunate enough to have such relationships, and I count a few long-term patient people among my friends. But still many more of us know that the time you put into a friendship is no guarantee of success. Friendships end. Not all, but many do. Sometimes it’s with a fight, a betrayal, a bang. Sometimes it’s with distance, time, a whimper. And none of us are immune to the death of a friendship after a major life change – weddings and babies are like sieves that not everyone makes it through.

I’ve seen my share of friendships end so don’t think I’m referring to any one person when I say I’ve mourned. Years ago I found myself searching the internet for coping skills on friendships ending. My face was sticky with hot tears, my stomach knotted in grief. I was in pain, in mourning, in disbelief, and didn’t know what to do. There was nothing I could do to salvage this relationship that had once been so precious to me, and I couldn’t just sit with the sadness. I needed something to do, a guide, a tip, some way to get through this.

But there was nothing.

Lots of stuff about how to get over an unworthy boyfriend, a few things on how to pick yourself up after the loss of a job, but nothing about how to deal with the loss of a confidant, surrogate sister, and the other half of so many happy memories. Sure, the stages of grief can apply, and yeah, getting over someone isn’t too terribly different just because you didn’t date. Love is love and grief is grief, but there’s something distinctly tragic about the loss of a friendship that leaves us raw and aching in a way no other breakup can. Friendship is felt in a different part of our selves, has a comfort and familiarity to it that we don’t notice until it’s gone. We trust our friends with our secrets and share with them our silliest of memories, so when they leave they seem to take those with them. It’s like the door we were leaning against suddenly opens and we fall flat without the support we didn’t realize we’d come to rely upon. Even when that door opens slowly, we can feel it giving way, but we still can’t stop it and we’re still left standing alone with a whole half of ourselves exposed that was previously firmly against our support. Got some good news to share? A secret to spill? An inside joke that you’re dying to laugh at? You turn and are left with the gaping doorway now, a giant hole. Instead of the familiar you are left with… nothing. Well, the pain is there. The ache of missing someone who is very much alive, of the realization that you must retrain your brain and rid yourself of the muscle memory that tries to constantly direct you to where your friend once was. The old adage tells us that when a door closes a window opens, but loss is much more an exposed and open door than a shut one.

This is where I was when I found myself searching for how to deal with the living loss of a friend.

Over my years of hurting and healing I’ve come to a few realizations that I hope will help you in coping with the same loss. I can’t say I have tips or tricks or exercises, because really you can’t trick a heart into healing or speed the process up, but you can allow it to make itself whole again.

First, allow yourself the memories. Whether there was a huge, emotional blow-up over a devastating betrayal or the two of you just drifted apart, you get to keep the memories. If they’re good ones, you’re still allowed to smile at them. No matter how mad or sad you are at the end of the friendship, the memories before that are happy and should be left that way. You had your laughs, your jokes, your special movies and shared memories. Your friend was a comfort and a joy at one point – don’t rewrite the past by not allowing yourself to remember those times fondly. Whoever that friend is now, they were special then. Keep it that way.

Don’t try to replace them. The closer the friend the larger the void they leave. Sure, you’ll have another best friend someday, and no one is ever limited to the number of friends they’re allowed. But don’t try to find a replacement. Don’t try to find a knock-off version of the friend you’ve lost. Don’t compare potential suitors to the past ones. Sometimes you’ll need more than one person to fill all the gaps the lost friend leaves behind. This doesn’t mean the new friends aren’t as good as the old one, it doesn’t mean you’ll never find that same closeness again. It means that everyone has unique gifts to offer each other, and while one may fill your laughing tank you may need another who will listen without judgement. Don’t try to find someone who will do everything for you. Don’t compare your new friendship to the deep one you’re grieving. And don’t scroll through your contacts to create a queue for best friend auditions. The living person you’ve lost was special and unique, and  whether you think of them now fondly or ferociously, who they were to you will always be special and unique. Let everyone else be as special and unique as they can with you.

Wish them well. Seriously. As you work through the stages of grief – or as you work through the disbelief at whatever event has led to the end of your friendship – wish them well. Whoever they are, they’re stuck with themselves. You’re not around anyway to see them hit their shins on trailer hitches so why waste your energy hoping for it? It would be impossible to remember the good times fondly if every thought of the person you shared them left you seething  with bitterness. Healing just isn’t possible while holding onto hatred. However it ended, they once meant a great deal to you. Protect what you had – and your own heart – by wishing them well.

Don’t wait around for them to realize their mistake. Denial is part of the natural process of grief. Hope is inescapable and can protect the heart by easing into the pain of sudden blows. Let yourself accept that it’s over. Delete their contact information from your phone. Yes, at some point they may miss you, too – you’re awesome, after all, right? But don’t pin your hopes on getting a text or message bursting with apologies and promises and invitations to dinner. Allow yourself to accept the finality of the situation. It will suck. It will hurt. But it’s the reality.

Admit any contribution you may have made to the demise of your friendship. Obviously there was nothing you could have done if your friend turned out to be living a double life as a snake you’d never have recognized, but in the cases of slow death, repressed hurt feelings, misunderstandings that festered, take the time to examine yourself. None of us are perfect. If you seem to have a lot of friendships fizzle, do some self reflection and honestly own – then address – what you may have done to aide in their expiration. Improve yourself. Don’t allow yourself to believe the hype that makes it easier to hate – you won’t heal if you simply point the finger and try to move on. Reflect. Admit. Accept. Grow.

Grieve. It seems so simple to say, doesn’t it? Of course you’ll grieve, right? In all the searching I did for help in getting over the living loss of a friend, not finding much tells me that no, we don’t know it’s okay to grieve. The person is still alive, after all, so what’s to mourn? If you’re mad at them then you’re totally justified and shouldn’t feel the sting of sadness, right? No, dear. A friendship is a living thing, a special something that only exists between the love of two people. It strengthens over time, fills with memories, has its own unique quirks and eccentricities, and must be nurtured to grow. It’s perfectly acceptable – even necessary – then, to grieve its death. There is nothing silly or indulgent in shedding tears over a pair suddenly separated. When a friendship dies a bit of magic is lost, and the cold and lonely reality of what’s left – and what’s gone – demands adjustment, acceptance, healing, and grief. Let yourself cry. Acknowledge the loss. Something has died and it is, indeed, very very sad. It is an end, but not the end, so grieve what you must in order to move on. But maybe wait a while before you watch Beaches, there’s really only so much grief a person need face all at once.

All of this to say, if you find yourself mourning the death of a friendship that ended too soon or healing from one that didn’t end soon enough, you will be okay. You will make it through. You will heal and laugh again. You will even find yourself one day living a life you never thought wouldn’t be shared with your friend and be startled to realize just how much about you they don’t know now. This gone-away friend is not the last one you will ever have. You will make new friends, more friends, different friends. What’s gone is gone but the memories will live on, and so, my friend, will you.



Author: Jen

I am the wife of an insanely hot husband and the momma of three precious and exhausting kiddos. I have been given way more than I could ever deserve and I really love naps.

17 thoughts on “Mourning the Death of a Friendship”

  1. This is beautifully written and just what I needed right now. Thank you so much for writing it.
    I’m still tragically sad, however now, I am tragically sad, and grateful at the same time.

    RIP Best Friend of 25 years.

    Man, this sucks.

    1. Oh, Jaime, I’m so sorry. It absolutely sucks. ❤️

  2. Thanks for this. I have lost my mother in law after 28 years(friendship not death) and one of my best friends after 12 years at the same time and could not seem to move past anger and realized yesterday that I’m grieving. Thank you for this. Very insightful. Been working on forgiveness and healing but some of these are so poignant. Didn’t think about how it was ok to still have good memories. That has been hard for me as some of my happiest memories are with them in it.

    1. Oh, Kris, I am so sorry for your loss! That’s a lot to grieve. It’s so hard to imagine creating new memories without the stars of our favorite memories, but I’m so, so hopeful for you. It’s okay to miss someone you’re hurt at, and I really hope you’re able to heal someday. ❤️

  3. Watching the friendship die before my eyes and grieving already. Wish i could just rip on the band aid and just end it.Thanks for the words if encouragement and hope.

    1. Goodness, May, I’m so sorry. ❤️❤️❤️

  4. I can relate to this article but he didn’t end the friendship I did yes I’m still kinda angry at him because I did see that it was one sided and I know one sided friendships don’t work at all they never have never will he always put his girlfriend first all the time which was a red flag he never made time for me even though he lives on the same street no he’s not being loyal he’s being selfish he’s changed since he started dating his girlfriend he’s become more irritated and angrier someone I don’t know anymore maybe with time things will go back to how they were but until then no I’ve got no intention of being his friend again I can’t go back unless he starts putting in effort

  5. Thanks for this, so helpful. I’m mourning the loss of my best friend, who is also a family member. I have a wonderful relationship with her children and will still see her at family functions, etc. Do you have any advice for this situation? Thank you

    1. Oh goodness, how difficult! With it being a family member and still loving her children, try not to give in to the temptation to be angry. Don’t force a relationship with the kids, let their mom make that decision (if they’re still young), and still seeing her at family events it will be important to always be kind, friendly, and genuinely wish her the best. If her children are grown, maintain the relationship with them, but never discuss your friendship with their mom, don’t press them for details, just enjoy them for who they are. I’m so sorry. ❤️

  6. Thank you for this. I’ve been holding on to hope that my best friend will come back (she did for a moment then left again) and things could go back to the way they were, but I realized that I need to truly mourn the friendship because even if she does come back it will never be the same. It’s sad but I need to accept it instead of continuing to get my hopes up and trying to force things only to get let down and be crushed all over again…

  7. A very helpful article. I have been going through the death of a close friendship with another woman. She is still alive and is in the same church community. It ended through an emotional blow up including the expression of repressed hurt feelings by the other person. I can accept some responsibility and can forgive (with the other person well in the silence of my heart but I can’t go back to the same type of sharing.

    1. Joy again. I meant to say I could wish her will within the silence of my heart. She was my best friend. We mix within the same community and circle of friends. It is not dissimilar to the end of a relationship within a family where no one is leaving and each will have to face the other. Even social media is an issue. My former best friend likes the posts of other common friends but doesn’t like mine. I took the step of posting to others except her so that I don’t have to experience this rejection each time I post. However, I will still see her like the posts of others. I can’t really cut myself off from everyone else though.

      1. That’s so hard, I’m so sorry. Do you have the option to “mute” her on social media or unfollow for a bit while your heart heals? Seeing that is so painful.

        1. Thanks Jen
          I have been able to mute visibility of the person on Facebook without unfriending them. I can change this back if I want to. I think this meets my needs without unduly upsetting the other person more than necessary.

  8. I made a best friend who i nicknamed Bee. It was an online friendship that I seriously considered would be a lifetime real friendship. I told Bee things no one else ever knew about and she told me things about herself I knew no one else knew. It was only a year, compared to everyone elses very long friendships, but I poured my entire heart and soul into the friendship. One day she blew up and said I was laying too many of my problems on her to fix, called me a bunch of horrible names. I said my points with kindness and sadness. I told her I would fix my mental state and work towards building our friendship. She ended it. Her friend decided to tell me she was relieved she didn’t have to speak to me anymore. I’ve been trying to ignore the anxiety but reading this made me cry. She’s not coming back, and it hurts.

    1. Oh, Flower, I am so sorry. That is so painful and sad!

  9. 30 years of friendship. It’s gone. Eleven years later I still mourn that loss. But it is what it is and I have no control over it. But it still hurts.

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