Friendship breakups are never easy. Here are some ways to cope with a friendship ending.
Friendships play a vital role in our lives. From childhood to adulthood, we connect with people we feel comfortable sharing our thoughts and deepest secrets with.
While friendships will probably come and go throughout your life, some can be harder to move on from than others.
Understanding why friendships suddenly end and how to cope may help you deal with your sudden loss.
“There are as many reasons a friendship ends as reasons it begins,” says Janine Ilsley, a licensed psychotherapist based in Montclair, New Jersey. “Even in serendipitous, unanticipated ways. People come together and drift apart as natural as driftwood in the wave.”
“We tend to look for rational causes and logical reasons, but the search for understanding relationship dissolution entails (dare I say) a large amount of acceptance and compassion. For the self, the other, and the friendship itself,” explains Montclair.
Potential reasons why a friendship might end suddenly:
- changes in expectations
- conflicts or arguments
- you outgrow each other
- an unequal amount of give and take within a friendship
- external factors, like changing jobs or moving house
How to tell when a friendship is over
There isn’t one definitive sign that a friendship is over. But you may notice the following clues that it’s coming to an end:
- You start talking with each other less.
- You have doubts that your friend cares about you.
- You don’t have as much fun together.
- You don’t act like yourself around them anymore.
- You have a gut feeling there’s a shift in the friendship.
True friendship can bring immense joy. But, when a friendship ends, whether abruptly or gradually, it can leave you feeling sad and alone.
There are ways to work through your loss and feel better. Here are a few suggestions:
1. Allow yourself to feel your emotions
While closure can be an important part of working through loss, it doesn’t always happen, says Nicole Sbordone, a Scottsdale, Arizona-based licensed clinical social worker and author of “Surviving Female Friendships: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.”
Sbordone says grieving your friendship and allowing yourself to feel your emotions is essential.
If you’re having trouble feeling your feelings about your lost friend, she recommends writing a letter to them and ripping it up. This will allow you to express your emotions honestly without worrying about anyone reading them.
2. Prioritize yourself
“It’s easy to blame ourselves when friendships don’t work out,” says Laura Rippeon, owner and licensed clinical social worker providing psychotherapy at Calm Waters Counseling PLLC in Willington, North Carolina.
“Make sure to give yourself a break and treat yourself with kindness and compassion as you navigate through the hard stuff,” Rippeon says.
Ilsley suggests spending time in nature, writing daily, or meditating to help you tune in to what’s happening inside you.
3. Seek a mental health professional
It can be difficult to deal with the pain that follows the loss of a friendship.
Speaking with a therapist may help uncover the emotions and beliefs that can accompany the end of a friendship, says Ilsley.
If you don’t express your feelings, you may repress them. “It’s left undigested and unmetabolized as opposed to integrated into the fabric of our relational lives,” Ilsley says.
Looking for a therapist, but not sure where to start? Psych Central’s How to Find Mental Health Support resource can help.
Friendships are an important part of our lives and may suddenly end for various reasons, including conflict and changed circumstances.
While there’s typically no one specific sign that a friendship is over, there are clues that your friendship may be ending. For example, you might not talk or see each other as often as before.
When a friendship ends, there are ways to cope with the loss. You may find it helpful to speak with a therapist, for example.
While losing a friendship is challenging, focusing your time on existing friendships and making new friends can be a positive step forward.