How to Get Over a Friendship Breakup with a Best Friend
A friendship breakup can feel even more painful than the end of a relationship with a romantic partner. When we get older, we think we’ve found our people. This, for me, felt especially true in my late 30s – I was sure I knew who my best friends were. And for some, I did. You think a good friend will always be there for you, while knowing that romantic relationships do often come to an end. That’s not to say that both aren’t painful, but we just don’t anticipate close friendships ending. When the pandemic hit and we went through a traumatic medical experience, I lost two of my closes friends. Here’s how I got over a painful friendship breakup.
How to Get Over a Friendship Breakup with a Best Friend
The term BFF is a thing because …best friend forever. This is a term I never use, but it says a lot about what we think about our closest friends. But not all relationships will grow with us. We are always changing, and we’re not who we were years ago. Some friendships wont make it through that.
When my friends ghosted me, I wish I could say I moved right on, but that was’t the case. This friend breakup was far worse than any romantic breakup I had ever experienced, and I want to normalize it, because it happens more often than you think. It was extremely triggering and brought up a lot of feelings about the messaging I received as a child. Everything was always my fault and I was always ” too much”. So when two mutual friends both disappeared when I was going through an especially tough time, the narrative I came up with was that I was too much. It was really complex because I was very, very broken at the time. I had nothing to give anyone beyond making sure my daughter was ok when she was going through medical treatment.
This is something I want to share because these are the stories that connect us and make us feel less alone. This is something that is unfortunately common.
This friend breakup was far worse than any romantic breakup I had ever experienced.
I’ve had friendships end before. There were times our lives went in different directions and things naturally shifted. I didn’t have an especially hard time – we just grew apart. We basically lost one of our friend groups, and it took a toll on my mental health. One hit especially hard – we were so, so close, and it took a lot of time to move on. It wasn’t one of my longest friendships, but we really connected, and the loss felt tremendous. There was a complete lack of communication around the end of the friendship. She was just…over. The grieving process took over a year and there was a lot of shame in that at the time.
Ultimately, it was a key moment that helped me fully walk away. When my daughter finished years of medical treatment for Leukemia and these friends did not reach out, that really helped me move on.
And a disclaimer.
There is someone people always think I am talking about when I discuss friendship breakups, or the friends who weren’t there for me at the end of treatment. That relationship had been strained for years and was so damaged and complex, so I did not and do not miss whatever friendship was left there. Was I upset about how things went down? God yes. But I didn’t need to do anything to move on. It feels safe to put this out there since we have fully gone our separate ways.
How to Get Over a Friendship Breakup
There are those friendships that naturally drift apart. We’ve all experienced that, and those have, for me, been pretty easy to navigate. Some people are only meant to come into your life for a season, and that’s ok. Maybe they were really fun to go out with for a while, but things shifted. I’ve never really struggled with those losses, and it’s happened quite a bit with the number of times I’ve moved, and going from being single in the city to married with 3 kids in the suburbs. And that’s ok.
But it’s a whole other story when close relationships ends. It’s something we just don’t expect. The loss of a friendship can be so painful – we think those adult friendships will last forever. So today, I want to talk about the process of moving on after a best friendship came to an end, and how it took over a year to find my peace.
Talk to someone
When I felt ready, I began to discuss what I was going through with my therapist, who is a clinical psychologist. You can also talk about your friendship breakup with a friend or family member. One of my best friends went through some serious trauma during the pandemic and lost a core group of friends. Our experiences were eerily similar, and in the end, we were able to support one another through that.
Once we were a few months off treatment, I found myself feeling ready to work on what I was feeling. My therapist really helped me find healthy ways to grieve the process. This meant noticing what I was feeling and why, and reframing the story I had told myself. I was able to look at what my closer of the two friends was going through in her life, and how she could not take on our trauma, as well. It took therapy and really looking at what I went through to heal.
I highly recommend following Miriam Kirmayer. She is a psychologist and friendship expert, and her content really helped me during that time.
Allow yourself to grieve
This is easier said than done and got harder when I wasn’t “over it” after a handful of months. No, I did not think about this person all the time. But there were certain moments that they would pop up, and I felt shame in the fact that I felt sad. I needed to accept where I was when things fell apart. Of course I was broken – my daughter was going through cancer treatment during a pandemic. I was not ok, and that’s ok. Seeing how my other friends showed up when I had nothing to give them opened my eyes to who my friends really were.
Adjust your mindset
Reframing the story really helped me move on. Was I myself when my daughter was sick? No, of course not. And that’s ok. It wasn’t about me being “too much” – I was going through something hard. Viewing where I was as an experience as opposed to a mistake reframed the narrative. We are not perfect. Things happen, and we don’t always handle them perfectly.
Know that there is no “getting over” a loss – it takes time to heal. And you are still worthy and deserving of friendship.
Write a letter
If your former friend isn’t open to communicating or reaching out doesn’t feel right to you, try writing a letter or saying what you need to say. You do not have to send this letter, but the process can be so helpful when grieving a lost friendship and is especially true when things feel sudden. If you do want to write a letter or send a text message, be prepared to not receive the response you are hoping for. I eventually sent a text message, but found myself in a place where I had healed. One of the two friends wrote back and was actually pretty kind, but then vanished again. The reply felt less than sincere in the end.
Consider both sides
Even though I felt “wronged” I can acknowledge how hard it probably was to be friends with someone who felt broken. Someone who had nothing to give back. Do I agree that that’s the time to walk away from a friendship? I don’t. But Looking at yourself and the role you played in a relationship is important. If we cannot acknowledge both sides and just see everything as the other person’s “fault” that won’t help us grow.
Give yourself distance
This might look like avoiding going certain places if you need to avoid running into this person. And I would recommend unfollowing this person or muting them on social media. If you have mutual friends, distancing yourself from this former friend can feel especially complicated. Your space might be temporary, and that’s ok.
Distance and space were essential for moving on. Looking at things that remind you of your former friend will not help you move on. There was a while where I’d occasionally see what these friends were doing on social media, but it started to have a negative impact. When I saw that our friends planned a get-together without us during the early stages of the ghosting period, it really hurt. Unfollowing was an essential step in protecting my peace. Not seeing what they were doing helped me move forward.
Put time into old and new friendships
This isn’t something you might be ready for right away, but when you are, put some energy and effort into your other friendships. Making new fiends is hard, but it can be a really wonderful thing as you get older. You know who you are and what you want in a relationship, and are choosing people that align with where you are in your life right now.
I recently went over to a new(ish) friend’s house for a glass of wine after the kids went to bed. And even more recently met someone for a 3 hour coffee that I’ve never connected with one-on-one. It’s not always easy to put yourself out there, but it’s the only way to grow a friendship. If you’re open to being vulnerable, consider asking a friend if they’d like to do something. I was messaging with a friend recently and asked if we could get together on one of our couches after work. Because I realized that’s what I miss – a couch friend. The one who shows up in sweats and is there to talk about anything and everything. I have a few of those in California and one 45 minutes away, so that’s something I’m missing locally.
Take care of yourself
I’ll mention therapy again because I feel so strongly in everyone working on themselves. Taking care of yourself means valuing and investing in yourself. Try a new workout or a new hobby. Work on growing other positive relationships. The end of a friendship is really hard, and it’s also something that’s more normal than you think. Remember that platonic breakups can be more painful than romantic ones, and it’s normal to let yourself grieve.