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Sometimes Losing A Friend Hurts More Than A Breakup

losing a friend

The loss of a friendship is, at times, the loss of a part of ourselves. It is not always marked by a disagreement; sometimes, it’s a slow fade out of each other’s lives, and that’s when it hurts me the most. The sadness I experience as a result of a particular friendship loss comes on in the little moments I find myself remembering a time shared many years ago.

The thing about friendships ending is that people don’t jump in to offer you the same level of support when dealing with a breakup. There aren’t countless Spotify playlists built to get you through. We are often left without a special person and plenty of moments alone to reflect on the loss. Sometimes, even with all the reflection, the sadness never quite leaves. We move through life, pushing down the pain of the loss, trying to downplay it, saying, “It is what it is,” and “I hope they’re doing well.”

When I was in high school, I had a friend who I saw as a sister. We shared almost every thought, slept at each other’s houses, and stayed up gone midnight. We became part of one another’s families, planned to travel together after high school, and joked about what our lives would look like with husbands and children.

I never expected that a couple of years out of high school, our lives would fork off into different paths, and we would eventually let go of the connection we had built over so many years. There was no fight or words to mark the end of the friendship; we just drifted out of one another’s lives. For a while, I thought we would somehow come together again.

After a decade, I allowed myself to process the sadness that came with losing her and realized it was probably permanent. I had met people who didn’t hold the same values and drive as she did. The more shitty people I encountered, the more I missed a great friend. The sadness of not having her around was more immense because I could not pinpoint when things went wrong. There was also no anger or resentment to pit my sadness against. just a lingering hollowness.

I asked myself if I could forgive us for letting the friendship dissipate, but I realized neither of us was to blame. I asked myself if it was natural for people to be so transient in our lives. But I could see the lifelong friendships people in my life maintained. I could also recognize that some friends I had met before her were still a part of my life, and it didn’t feel like they would ever leave. I had to sit in the uncomfortable feeling of loss and understand that it was just a situation that I would need to process and make peace with.

A mutual friend of ours recently came over for drinks and shared some things about this friend, which made me realize that I could feel joy for this person no longer in my life and also understand that her life choices and path didn’t reflect my own. Maybe we wouldn’t have much in common now. That gave me some peace. She was doing well, and I was doing well, and maybe our compatibility as friends wasn’t meant to last a lifetime.

I pulled out an old photo album and looked at photos of us on holiday together at 18. I could remember the silly things we thought were enormous and devastating as teenagers. I recalled the songs we both loved and the paperbacks we swapped. Though we aren’t in touch, our experiences together allowed us to grow at a vulnerable age and, in some way, shaped us into the strong women we both are now.

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The loss of this friendship has somehow been harder for me long term than any romantic breakup. Maybe that’s because friendships don’t feel as transactional? I have felt less pressure in friendships, so when they end, there is less of a sense of relief and more sadness. There’s often no anger because no one did anything wrong, and in its place is confusion. There is no “we are done,” no door slamming, no blocking each other’s numbers. Often, there’s just silence.

I don’t want to lose my friends as I age, so I keep my circle small. I want my connections to run deep and last me through to old age. I don’t want to experience a slow, empty fade out again. However, I do want to say it’s normal to lose friends. If you have lost friends and it hasn’t impacted you on a deeper level, that’s great; everyone is different.

But for those who have experienced this loss and its impact, know you aren’t alone. It’s okay to be sad about it, you don’t always have to be brave. Just because your love for them was different from romantic love, it doesn’t mean it was lesser than. Take the time to process the loss; if you think it’s right, reach out to them. Catching up for a coffee might indicate whether there is a foundation there to rebuild a friendship, which can offer a new beginning or closure.

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