Everyone talks about how to console yourself after the breakup of a romantic relationship; encouraging you to move on, insisting that you deserve better, and indulging you in an immature yet therapeutic game of ex-bashing. But how do you get over a breakup with the one person who was always there for you during these times?
I recently experienced a permanent falling-out with a friend of 15 years over a drunken misunderstanding.
I am not entirely confident that it is possible to let go of such a special friendship but have found that working through these seven stages of unfriending can aid in the healing process:
Ah, good old denial. Have you seen the meme of the dog cartoon exclaiming, “Yep, I’m fine,” as the room is engulfed in flames? That is denial in a nutshell. When I first realized the damage that I had done to my friendship, I had denied that there would be any real consequences. We had experienced spats in the past, so why would this be any different? I wasn’t going to lose a best friend of 15 years over a drunken night of stupidity. Or was I? Once the sad realization of irreparable loss had set in I began to experience the next stage…anger.
Anger is probably the most disgusting stage in this entire process. It is the culmination of anxiety, fear, and hurt feelings masquerading as justifiable rage. At this point in the process, I began to rant to my boyfriend and any acquaintance who would lend an ear. How could my ex -best friend do this to me? I knew that I had really messed up, but she was the one who refused to work through it. I was convinced that she was the selfish one, the person who was damaging the relationship by refusing to help me repair it. Once I grew tired of huffing and puffing, I knew that there was not much left to repair, which catapulted me straight into a depression.
After our friendship ended, I felt completely defeated for about three months. I was emotionally drained, had put on 10 pounds, and was binge-drinking my weekends away. I hardly cared to engage in social activities, and when I did, I came to the conclusion that I was well on my way to shedding most of my high school friend group. We had all grown apart and the one friendship that I had considered our glue no longer existed. If my ex-best friend was invited to a gathering, then I was not; if I was invited, then she surely would not be in attendance. I felt betrayed by almost everyone I had considered a friend of mine and grew doubtful that I would ever recover from becoming a social pariah.
Not only did I doubt the quality of my remaining friendships, but I also doubted my likability as a person. I obsessed over each social encounter, replaying conversations in my head to make sure I had not offended anyone m I attempted to be friendly with. I felt that I was not worthy of making new friends, and at the ripe old age of 28, I figured the only way to forge adult friendships was to become a mom or become a regular at the local bingo hall. It was like kindergarten all over again, but this time I was lacking my five-year-old confidence. Maybe it was this particular thought, the nostalgia of being a kid, that brought me the gift of appreciating what I actually have instead of lamenting over what I didn’t have.
Recall earlier how I explained making light of a heartbreaking situation. This is where that statement comes into play. Once I waded through all the muck polluting my distraught limbic system, I was able to appreciate all that I have. I became thankful, maybe for the first time in my life, for the support and love that I was surrounded with on a daily basis. Sure, I had lost a best friend, but I still had a healthy, loving family as well as a handsome, hardworking new husband. Through him I have forged friendships with people I otherwise would not have met. I focused on reconnecting with old friends that I thought I never had enough time for. I spent more time playing with my super cute puppy and researching new activities that I wanted to try. I joined a book club, signed up for grad school, and started working out at a friend’s community-based gym. Once I had stopped to appreciate all that I had, I became determined to make the most of my personal growth.
I used to spend two to three hours every other day talking on the phone with my ex-best friend, usually venting and unloading every negative thought that crossed my mind. At the time, I considered this to be a healthy form of therapy; however, with the absence of these bitch fests, I realized that it was not at all healthy. I would divulge my negative thoughts and together we would spin a web with them, creating drama out of nothing. Determined to establish a healthy mindset and foster personal growth, I began journaling. Now, each time I get miffed over my husband not picking up after himself, I write down and reflect on how it affects me rather than get on the phone and take immature jabs at his character (awful, I know). I am determined to treat others better and often think twice before indulging in pointless gossip about others. I have begun a lifelong journey that some may simply refer to as “growing up.” It is harder than it seems, and through my experience in losing an important friendship, I have developed a once unknown optimism toward the future.
While optimism may be the final stage on this list, it is an enduring state of mind that can carry you through the darkest of times. Each day is not perfect. Some days, I find myself going through mini-versions of these stages and must remind myself to think positively and continue progressing. Almost seven months have passed since my fateful outburst on New Year’s Eve. I still get an overwhelming sense of nostalgia from time to time but otherwise feel at peace with what has transpired. I feel terrible about my actions that night but have learned to forgive myself. I wish the best for my ex-best friend, as well as the other friends that I have lost touch with along the way. I hold on to hoping we will reconnect but have gained the strength to know that, even if we do not, everything will be okay.
Have you experienced the loss of a best friend? How have you coped?