What you have to go through to let a friend go

Losing a best friend is hard, probably one of the hardest relationships let go of. That kind of break up is, in some ways, as difficult or more than ending things with a spouse or partner. It’s really painful. The good news is that, like any break-up, you’re going to get through it.

All the usual reasons that romantic relationships end don’t really apply here. You probably didn’t cheat on your bestie, or “fall out of love” with her, or fight over money or how to raise the kids. But there are still really important, serious reasons to end a friendship. It’s really hard to let someone you’ve shared that much with go. You have to grieve it just like any other relationship.

A friendship breakup is so much like a divorce, and the mourning process is so real. Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D offers some tips in her blog, Mindfulness and Psychotherapy on how to get through all those feelings. She says, “Mindful grieving allows ourselves to feel what is there, without judgment.”

Denying that the friendship is really, actually, honestly through 

At first you don’t want to admit anything is really wrong. You’re still calling and texting, but making excuses when she doesn’t call or text back. Even your “I really miss you “ texts (which you’ve started sending a lot of) aren’t really generating any response, or it’s harder and harder to pin her down for a date.

You’re sad and hurt so you pull back from other relationships, unsure of how to make those work now that you can’t factor your bestie in. You secretly stalk her Facebook and Instagram and feel weird and leftout when you start seeing faces you don’t recognize. You watch a lot of Netflix, drink a lot of wine, and you tell your other friends you “just want to be alone for a while.”

It’s okay to feel whatever you’re feeling, and avoid people who say things like, “just get over it,” or “move on, already.” Dr. Goldstein says, “make sure to make time for feeling the emotions that arise, whether they are anger, sadness, or pain,” and don’t judge yourself or allow yourself to be judged for these feelings. It’s what you have to do.

Venting with other friends

Then you get mad. Any time anyone brings her name up, you launch into a rant about that person (even though you know that’s not really true in your heart). You delete all evidence of her from your social media profiles and favorites list and snatch down all the photos of you two.

All this is OK, and a perfectly healthy way to work through your grief. Just remember to take care of yourself during this time, and don’t sucked into a place of hate that you can’t come back from. Put those photos in a shoebox under the bed, don’t tear them up or start an impromptu bonfire. (After all, you might patch things up.)

Second-guessing the decision to move on

Then you try to negotiate with her. Suggesting all sorts of trades of her time for favors. Maybe you volunteer to cover her shift that day, or drive the carpool or to help plan a friend’s shower. You bargain with her to spend time with her, and she might give in but it’s awkward and not at all like it used to be.

Dr. Goldstein suggests doing something for others when she doesn’t respond like you hoped. She says, “being altruistic can be a great way to move through grief” and doing something for somebody else is going to make you feel better no matter what kind of grouch you are.

Feeling really, really crummy that it went down this way

Even though you’re trying to do good things, you still get sad. Really sad. You sneak back onto her Instagram page and look at what’s going on in her life and your heart breaks. You think about all the things she’s missing out on in your life and it makes you feel like you’ve been punched in the gut. You get sadder and sadder and really start to wallow. Netflix is set to sad movies, wine turns to ice cream, and showering and changing those yoga pants are pipe dreams. You slide into a spectacular funk.

When this happens, and it inevitably happens when you lose someone, try to find things that make you happy right now. Don’t linger too long on those sad movies. Instead, go eat at your favorite restaurant, or attend your regular yoga class. When you feel sad, the best way to combat it is to surround yourself with things that are sure to delight you.

Finally coming around

And then one day you’re not as sad. When you hear her name, your eyes don’t well up with tears nor do your fists clench tight. She’s just somebody you used to know, and you’re glad you did. You realized that not everybody loves as fiercely or as loyally as you, and people sometimes just aren’t meant to be in your lives. People make time for the things they care about and you only want people in your life that want to spend time with you.

You hope she’s doing well and wish her the best of luck with all her new friends and hobbies. You only check her Facebook once in a great while, and when you run into her in public, it only stings a little when she snubs you. You’re okay without her – probably better off.

The most important thing to remember, in any situation says Dr. Goldberg, is to “treat yourself with love and kindness during this time.” No matter if you and your bestie reconcile or not, you can still value the time you had together. Now’s the time to be your own bestie.

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