Friendship breakups can be just as hard and painful as romantic relationships. Not only do you have to face losing someone special from your life, but it can also leave you feeling alone and with a deep sense of loss.
Whether the breakup was mutual or one-sided, it’s often difficult to process why things didn’t work out and move on with your life.
According to experts, here are the ways how to get over a friendship breakup:
Helen Wyatt, LMFT
Relationship Therapist, Center for Modern Relationships
Friendship breakups hurt most because they are an ambiguous loss.
Ambiguous loss is when a person is physically present but psychologically absent (Alzheimer’s, a checked-out partner or friend) or when someone is psychologically current but physically gone (immigration stories, breakups).
Humans like the completion of a story to be able to make meaning of difficult feelings.
Feeling grief from death — knowing someone is gone from this world and coming to terms with that is a lot different from feeling the loss of someone who sort of just disappears, where you haven’t actually memorialized or represented that loss in a meaningful way.
Death and loss practices are essential for people because they allow our brain and spirit to make meaning of our story of interaction with someone.
Things hurt differently when a vital relationship ends. You know they’re still walking around the world, engaging in relationships and meaningful experiences with others. We have dialogues about how to heal from breakups in romantic relationships, but we don’t really talk about the friendship piece very often.
Related: How to Heal a Broken Heart
Friendship is something we’re funneled into in childhood and are expected to figure out as we mature without much guidance. Often, people feel that they have to stay loyal to friends, even when that friendship is no longer serving them. The truth is people grow apart.
Think about yourself
Are you the same person you were 5 years ago or even one year ago? Have you taken stock of your relationships and whether they are still a fit for you in this period of life? We take great care to evaluate our romantic relationships and communicate about them; do you do this in your friendships the same way?
Friendship loss hurts because friends are attachment figures as much as our caretakers and romantic partners are attachment figures.
When combined with our cultural norm in the West of prioritizing our romantic relationships over other relationships in our lives and the idea of ambiguous loss, we’re left with a lot of hurts to deal with on our own.
We are often left wondering about this person and the experiences that they’re having in the world that we’re not part of.
I believe the following are important when healing from a friendship breakup:
Have the breakup conversation if you can
It’s really important to be able to say goodbye, honor your relationship with a friend, and understand your and your friend’s boundaries for the future.
Are you allowed to keep following them on social media and say hello every once in a while, for instance, if a huge life event like a birth or a marriage occurs for your friend?
How did this friendship serve and shape you as a human, and how can you thank someone for that? This allows some completion of the relationship and helps with some of the painful ambiguity.
Memorialize the relationship
If you never see this person again, memorialize the relationship. Whether it be keeping a book they gave you as a gift, a piece of jewelry, a ticket from an event you attended, or some small token that represents them, it’s essential to have some sort of moralization of the loss, especially if it’s a painful one.
Once you’ve agreed upon that object with yourself, you can “lay it to rest” either in your direct site or out of sight. Humans love a ritual because it completes the story.
Make yourself a ritual to memorialize what this friendship was or who you were explicitly in that friendship, and create a meaningful ending to that chapter of life.
Let yourself feel through the feels
Friendship loss is painful, more painful than the nonchalant attitude we hold about making friends makes room.
There are memories that you’ve shared, secrets that you’ve traded, maybe fantasies for future travel, or experiences that you would have liked to bring your friend to. This loss is important to let yourself be sad about.
Make new memories
We can’t find the eternal Sunshine of the spotless mind our way out of painful memories of a person. The brain typically remembers everything that’s ever happened to us, even if we don’t know that we remember these experiences.
The way to actually heal from pervasive painful memories is to make new ones. Did you go to a specific concert with your friend every summer? Start making new memories around that with someone meaningful to you.
Associate that person with a certain neighborhood? Find a new reason to go to that neighborhood and make a new association. You’re able to activate new memories and associations, and this is a great way to soothe the pain for ourselves.
Engage in friendship the way you would in romantic relationships
After a friendship ends, it’s really important to take stock of the pieces of the friendship you really loved so that you can find those relationship dynamics that are good for you again.
We need to date our friends just as much as we date romantic partners. Someone doesn’t have a place in our life just because we’ve bonded over a certain commonality.
Be intentional with how you seek friendship and date your friends that create healthy relationship dynamics and add to your life.
Dr. Nick Bach, Psy.D.
Clinical Psychologist | Owner, Grace Psychological Services
We all know that breakups can be tough, but it’s especially hard when the breakup is with a close friend. A friendship breakup can leave you feeling lost, lonely, and hurt.
You may have had a long history together and now find yourself alone without the person who was always there for you. But don’t give up hope! There are ways to get over the breakup and move forward in your life with confidence.
The pain of a friendship breakup
When a friendship breakup happens, it can be just as painful as any other kind of breakup. You may feel like you have lost a best friend, and the void left in your life can be difficult to cope with. However, there are some things that you can do to help yourself get over a friendship breakup.
Here are some tips:
Give yourself time to grieve
Just like with any other kind of loss, it’s essential to give yourself time to mourn the end of the friendship. Don’t try to bottle up your feelings or tell yourself that you shouldn’t be feeling sad. It’s okay to cry, and it’s okay to take some time for yourself.
Talk about what happened
It can be helpful to talk to someone else about what happened and how you’re feeling. This could be a close friend, family member, or even a therapist if you feel you need professional help. Talking about the situation can help you make sense of it and start to move on.
Do something for yourself
Friendship breakups can be tough, so doing something nice for yourself is important. This could be something minor, like buying yourself a new book or taking yourself out for coffee. Or it could be something bigger, like taking a trip or starting a new hobby. Whatever makes you happy, do it!
Understand that it’s okay to be sad and angry
It’s never easy to get over a friendship breakup, but there are some things you can do to make the process a little easier.
First, it’s important to understand that it’s okay to be sad and angry. It’s also okay to talk about your feelings with someone you trust. Just don’t dwell on the negativity too much.
Try to stay busy
Second, try to stay busy and keep your mind occupied. Spend time with other friends, go out and do things you enjoy, and take up a new hobby.
Remember that this isn’t the end of the world. You will make new friends and have new experiences. The pain of a friendship breakup will eventually fade.
What to do if you want to stay friends
If you want to stay friends, you must be honest about your feelings and take time to heal. You also need to be respectful of each other’s space and boundaries. Lastly, you need to be patient, as it takes time to rebuild trust.
Dr. Cynthia Shaw
Licensed Clinical Psychologist | Owner, Authentically Living Psychologist Services, PLLC
Whether a friendship breakup occurs due to a change in values, a toxic dynamic, a breach of trust, or a lack of reciprocity, it can be painful and difficult to get past.
As social beings, we rely on relationships to aid connectivity, trust, and enjoyment. So when a friendship ends, it can disrupt our view of healthy friendships, trust, and motivation to continue seeking connections.
There are many steps you can take to best support getting over a friendship breakup:
Take time to grieve
Friendship breakups are a form of loss. A loss can best be understood as an ending, a termination, a conclusion, or a ceasing. When we experience loss, it is expected to experience grief: sadness, confusion, absence, loneliness, and frustration (among other emotional experiences).
It is crucial to allow ourselves time to grieve the loss of friendship and experience the large array of emotional experiences accompanying grief.
Don’t forget to take care of yourself after a friendship breakup. Stay connected with your support system, engage in enjoyed activities, and attend to your sleep hygiene and nutrient needs.
It can be very easy to slip into a low head space after a friendship breakup — taking care of yourself is critical to combating lowness and towards healthy overall well-being.
Cultivate new relationships
Though one relationship has ended, new relationships can form and flourish. Take the time to reflect on what went wrong in your previous friendship and ask yourself, “What can you learn from the relationship?”
Take the time to also get in touch with your values and what is most important to you in your friendships. Consider what you would like to be different in future friendships. Now, this is the fun part — get out there and connect! Attend a social meet and greets, try a new activity, and put yourself out there.
When in doubt, talk it out
If you are noticing continued or prolonged grief, difficulty enjoying previously enjoyed activities, isolation, and significant changes in your overall functioning, it might be time to seek support from a mental health professional.
Psychologists, Therapists, and Social Workers are trained on how best to support and guide an individual who is struggling relationally or experiencing low mood and grief after losing a friendship.
Many individuals underestimate the grief that is associated with friendship breakups. Normally, when we think about a breakup, we think about this in a romantic sense. However, losing a friend can be just as devastating.
This person held some significance in your life, and to not have them there anymore, regardless of the reason, can be challenging to process. Similar to how we would experience a breakup with a romantic partner, in order to move on from friendship breakups, we would need to go through the stages of grief.
You would need to go through the stages of grief
There are five stages of grief — denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Depending on the individual and their specific situation, the denial, anger, bargaining, and depression stages do not constantly occur in this particular order.
In fact, the majority of individuals cycle through these four stages before reaching the final stage of acceptance, where they have finally come to peace with the breakup and can begin moving forward in their life.
Remember that processing grief really takes time
Although it is natural to want to rush through the initial four stages of grief to reach the acceptance stage as quickly as possible, it is vital for individuals to remember that processing grief really takes time, and that is okay. Everyone’s grieving process is different.
Be patient and kind to yourself
There is no wrong way to grieve. Being patient with yourself and being kind to yourself throughout this process is essential. Take things day by day, and eventually, one day, the situation won’t feel as heavy anymore.
We have all been through a friendship breakup. If you are going through one, I know it hurts more than it should. Now, with this comes your decision of moving on or staying there. Well, there are some questions that you need to ask yourself as to why your friendship has ended.
Some of these include:
- Is this a misunderstanding?
- Is my friend toxic?
- Do I feel judged or belittled around them?
- Can this disagreement be fixed, or can it harm us in the long term?
Obviously, overcoming a friendship breakup doesn’t occur overnight. But sometimes, moving on from someone toxic to your mental health is necessary.
Focus on your mental health
This can be done in a way where you focus on your personal growth. It can be quite threatening and frightening for some people at first. If the breakup is caused by your friend’s inability to grow with you, then you must applaud yourself for this bravery in choosing a separate path.
Acknowledge the pain
It is essential to know that the grief that you are in is real and normal. The loss of intimacy and connection is quite real. It is very valid and hurts like hell.
The best way to move on is by telling yourself that this pain is valid and it will stay there till you heal from this breakup. So, tell yourself that it is something and really just not nothing.
Resolve it, if possible
A lot of people do not know and cannot express the real reason behind a friendship breakup. This is because they fail to understand the feeling of what happened and why it happened.
Talking to someone can help as they can listen to the story from a third person’s perspective. If the friend, on the other hand, is not willing to talk it over, then wish them well and move on. If they are willing, make sure that the problem between you two is resolved if possible.
Reasons behind friendship breakup
If all of the answers to these questions are indicating towards your friendship breakup, then you need to know some of the reasons behind the breakup like:
- Breach of trust
- Change of interest and values (political views, getting married, moving)
- Clashes or attraction to a partner of the friend
- Offensive Behavior
Dr. Jasmine Reed
Licensed Psychologist, Ubuntu Psych
People often believe friendships don’t hold the same weight as romantic partnerships. But friendships can be one of the most challenging relationships to move on from when things go downhill.
When it comes down to it, the people we like to be around are those who make us feel good about who we are, what we believe, and what we enjoy doing.
Through these authentic connections with others, friendships are formed from these similar beliefs and interests and maintained through shared experiences and growth. We often share our deepest secrets and thoughts with friends, creating a deeper and more meaningful bond.
Within this cultivation, it becomes difficult to move on from friendship even if you no longer have the same values or the friendship has turned into something toxic.
Reasons why people have difficulties when their friendships have ended
Their friendship has been in place for a very long time
The first reason is that their friendship has been in place for a very long time. People may have friendships that formed when they were children, and that can make it really difficult to move on from when there is a historical attachment to someone.
Friendship breakup is a result of people gradually growing apart
The following reason is that a friendship breakup is a result of people gradually growing apart, which could result from external influences such as different lifestyles, physical distance, or even the mistreatment of each other.
When there are factors outside of either person’s control, it can be not easy to navigate exactly how to move on.
Aura De Los Santos
Clinical Psychologist & Educational Psychologist, HealthCanal
Remember that you can’t force someone to be your friend
If the other person decides to end your friendship with you, you can’t force them to be your friend. It hurts when people we want to be friends with leave our lives, but this is part of the process of growing up. Not all people are going to stay.
Think about the reasons why the friendship ended
Some friendships have to end because they may not be a good influence on one or both parties. There may be harmful behavior, betrayal, or teasing, so the friendship must end.
It is okay to mourn the loss of a friendship
When a friendship ends, the person can experience grief, the loss of something or someone. It is normal that you feel sad, miss that person, and want to recover their friendship.
Live your duel since there will be a moment when you feel better, and you can turn the page.
Grief & Relationships Expert | Founder, Grieve Leave
As we change over time, who we are close friends with will change, too. We’ll make new friends over the course of our lives, and sometimes friendships will run their course.
But it can hurt when someone you were once close with is no longer in your life. I’ve been through my share of friendship “breakups” over the years. Some of them I chose, some of them I didn’t, and some took me a while to realize they had even happened.
But we don’t just “get over” a friendship breakup. We have to recognize that what we are feeling is grief. And by grieving the loss of that friend, we can continue to learn and grow as individuals.
Recognize your grief
You might miss the things you loved to do with your friend that you feel like you can’t do anymore — maybe you miss hanging out with them after class, grabbing coffee with them, or just texting them.
It can be especially painful if that person is still someone you have to see often, but you both know you’re not close anymore. It’s crucial to give yourself grace and let yourself feel that grief. It hurts. And it’s something all of us will feel in our lives.
Make space for your grief
Now that you acknowledge your grief in this loss do the brave thing that isn’t easy: make the time and space to grieve.
Grieving can help you gain clarity over the situation and make sense of your emotions — maybe you can learn something about yourself and the types of friendships you want to build in the future.
But what does grieving even look like? It can be different for everyone to get in touch with their grief. For some, grieving might look like journaling or painting their feelings about the loss.
Others might find that quiet time — like meditation or yoga — can help them get clear on how they’re feeling. Whatever it might be for you, give yourself the time and space you need to process your grief about the end of a friendship.
Ask for help if you need it
It isn’t easy to work through our grief and all the feelings that come with it. Whether it’s another friend, a family member, or a therapist, find someone to lean on during this time. That doesn’t mean finding someone to bash your ex-friend with.
That means you take the time to seek out support when you feel like your emotions might be overwhelming to you or if you just need a listening ear to help you get more perspective on how you’re feeling. Grief hurts, and you don’t have to struggle alone.
Remember: Just because a friendship has ended for now doesn’t mean it’s ended forever. You and your life will evolve, and so will theirs, and you never know if you might reconnect in the future.
Dr. Scott Terry
Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, Restarting Relationships
All relationships affect the heart, and when they end, for whatever reason, they can really affect us. When a friendship ends, it is the same. And these days, when research shows that many people have few close friends, breakups can be especially painful.
So how can you best get over a friendship breakup?
Treat ourselves with compassion
If the relationship is definitely not able to be salvaged, then we should do whatever activities are pleasurable and try and restore some emotional balance in our lives:
- Have a warm bath.
- Go for a walk in nature.
- Dance to your favorite music.
- Reach out to other friends.
Start the process of making new friends
Join that book group or sports group, help plant trees, or volunteer. Remember that the main thing in making a new friend is to listen. Don’t have any expectations of receiving something in return. Invite them over for a cup of coffee or herbal tea. Do whatever it takes.
CEO and Certified Counselor (CADC II), Sunshine Behavioral Health
Make new friends
It’s not always easy to get over any type of relationship breakup, especially if you invested a lot of time and emotions into it. And although you often need time to process your feelings, it can be beneficial for you to make new friends and hang out with the ones you already have.
There are many reasons why a relationship might not last, but it often has to do with the inability of you and your friend to be able to accept the boundaries that you have made. Boundaries in any type of relationship help establish rules that fit each other’s expectations around the relationship.
Everyone is different, and how you are with one friend might vary from another, but at the end of the day, as long as you both agree on how you can show up for each other, there is less confusion and hurt feelings.
Surround yourself with people who appreciate you for who you are
However, if your friend can’t respect that, then the relationship is not as likely to last. You need to surround yourself with people who appreciate you for who you are and find new friends you can rely on.
Join new hobby groups
Get out there and join new hobby groups or get to know other people through friends and family you already know. This can help you get over a friend breakup and find new friends.
Parenting Coach, Full Circle Hypnotherapy
A friendship breakup can be like a sibling breakup — but worse, as you didn’t choose your sibling!
You may have grown up with this friend, shared the most intimate secrets, shared significant life events such as birthdays, getting dumped and getting married, finding work, or getting sacked. So you will have stacked up a lot of memories where this friend is a massive part of your life.
It’s a shared life that may well have lasted longer than some romantic relationships or even familial relationships. They may well have been that one person who was always on your side and may know you better than your own family.
Acknowledge and validate the importance of the relationship
It’s important to acknowledge and validate the importance of this relationship and allow yourself to feel all the feelings when the friendship ends.
Sometimes, we may try to minimize the relationship in order to minimize the hurt, and that only prolongs the pain as memories will keep surfacing, and if you dismiss them, you dismiss your pain (temporarily).
Self-compassion and journaling as tools for healing
As hard as it may seem, it’s better to allow the pain of the breakup. This doesn’t mean that you have to suffer alone or for a long time. It can help you speak to other trusted people about what you’re going through.
Seek professional help
If it’s appropriate, seek professional help. The ending of any relationship can bring up feelings of failure, guilt, shame, loss, and grief.
Because these feelings can be so challenging, we may try to get over our pain in a hurry, especially when our self-worth has taken a hit. This hurry is short-sighted as it misses some important elements.
Slow down to cultivate compassion and self-love
In our impatience with ourselves, we forget to show self-compassion and self-love when we need it the most. In fact, we need to slow down, so we can really cultivate our own compassion and self-love and know that we are worthy of our own time.
Journaling is an excellent tool for processing emotions. If the practice is followed for a good length of time, you may see what your journal change, from feelings of sadness and loss to perhaps appreciating all that this friendship brought to your life.
You may also get some insights into why that friend came into your life and why they are no longer a part of it. There may have been other parts of this friendship that didn’t serve you so well.
The ending may give you permission to acknowledge and recognize these, and rather than getting bitter and resentful (which is completely understandable and may happen anyway as these emotions can be “easier” to access and manage than our grief and sorrow), use this opportunity to create healthy boundaries.
Breakups lead to breakthroughs in ourselves. It can help to understand that breakups and breakdowns are actually breakthroughs for yourself. You gain a deeper understanding of yourself, other people, and your interactions with them once you have processed any hurt.
Sometimes, we let this pain harden us, which means it becomes difficult to let anyone else in and form other relationships. If we recognize that we have hardened up, we can take gentle steps, again with self-compassion, to soften up to allow other people in and form new connections.
Acknowledge what this friend meant to you
Learn what you need from all the goodness of that friendship and the pain of the ending. Acknowledge what this friend meant to you and give thanks for that. Explore what needs or wants they met for you and when you’re ready, find a way to continue to meet those on your own or through other means.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Destroys a Friendship?
• Betrayal: This is one of the most common causes of friendship breakdowns. Betrayal can take many forms, such as lying, cheating, or breaking confidence. When a friend betrays your trust, it can be challenging to regain it, and the friendship may never fully recover.
• Lack of Communication: Communication is the key to any relationship, including friendships. When we don’t communicate with our friends, misunderstandings can arise and lead to conflicts. If these conflicts aren’t resolved, the friendship can gradually deteriorate.
• Different Life Paths: As we grow and change, our goals, interests, and priorities may shift. This can lead to friends growing apart, especially if their life paths take them in different directions. This can make it challenging to maintain the friendship, as the friends may no longer have much in common.
• Jealousy or Envy: Jealousy and envy can also be toxic to a friendship. When one friend feels envious of the other’s success, relationships, or possessions, it can cause resentment and lead to the end of the friendship.
• Constant Criticism: No one likes to be constantly criticized, which can also apply to friendships. If one friend is always criticizing the other, it can lead to feelings of resentment and, eventually, the end of the friendship.
Why Do Friendship Breakups Hurt So Much?
Friendship breakups can be incredibly painful, often leaving us feeling hurt, confused, and alone. This is because, just like romantic relationships, friendships can be deep and meaningful connections that shape our lives. We invest time, energy, and emotions into our friendships, and when they end, it can feel like a part of us is missing.
Another reason why friendship breakups can be so painful is that we often don’t see them coming. Unlike romantic breakups, which can sometimes be anticipated, friendship breakups can happen suddenly and without warning. This lack of closure can leave us blindsided and unsure of what went wrong.
Moreover, friendships can have a profound impact on our self-esteem and identity. When rejected by a friend, it can trigger feelings of insecurity and make us question our worth. This can be especially hard if the friendship is a major part of our social network, leaving us feeling isolated and alone.
But it’s important to remember that friendships can change and grow over time, just like any other relationship. Sometimes, people grow apart or have different life goals and priorities. And while it can be painful, it’s important to accept the end of a friendship and move forward.
Is It Okay to Feel Sad After a Friendship Breakup?
Yes, it’s normal to feel sad after a friendship breakup. Friendships can bring joy and support to our lives, and losing one can be a significant loss. It’s okay to feel a range of emotions, including sadness, anger, hurt, and disappointment. These feelings are a part of the grieving process and show that friendship is important to you.
You must process your emotions and give yourself time and space. You can reach out to a trusted friend, family member, or mental health professional for support. Avoid self-blame and negative self-talk. Remember, friendships can end for various reasons, and it’s not always about you.
Endings can lead to new beginnings and opportunities for growth and self-discovery. Allow yourself to feel your emotions and seek support when needed. Be kind to yourself, and remember that healing takes time.
Can a Broken Friendship Be Restored?
Yes, a broken friendship can be restored.
Keep in mind that every situation is unique, and there’s no guaranteed way to repair a friendship. However, with effort and communication, it’s definitely possible.
One thing to remember is that both parties must be willing to work on rebuilding the friendship. If only one person is invested in repairing the relationship, it will likely be difficult to make progress.
Another important aspect is communication. It’s essential to have an open and honest conversation about what led to the friendship breaking down and to address any lingering issues or hurt feelings. It can be uncomfortable or awkward, but it’s necessary.
In some cases, taking a break from the friendship can actually be helpful. Sometimes, a little distance can provide clarity and perspective and allow both parties to approach the situation with a fresh perspective.
How Do You Know a Friendship Is Really Over?
It can be hard to determine when a friendship has truly come to an end. But here are a few potential signs that might indicate that it’s time to move on:
• Communication has significantly dwindled: If you’re the only one reaching out and initiating conversations, and your friend is frequently unresponsive or disinterested, that might be a red flag.
• You feel drained or upset after spending time together: If you leave every interaction with your friend feeling exhausted, upset, or drained, it might be a sign that the friendship is no longer bringing you joy.
• You don’t feel comfortable being yourself around them: If you find that you’re censoring your thoughts or actions around your friend, or that you don’t feel comfortable expressing your true self, it might be time to re-evaluate the relationship.
• You no longer have anything in common: As people grow and change, it’s natural for their interests and lifestyles to shift. If you and your friend have grown apart to the point where you no longer have anything in common, it might be hard to maintain the friendship.
• Your values or beliefs no longer align: If you and your friend have fundamentally different values or beliefs, it can be challenging to maintain a close relationship.
• You’re no longer a priority: If your friend is consistently canceling plans, forgetting to respond to messages, or not showing up when you need them, it could be a sign that they no longer value the friendship as much as you do.
• There’s a lack of trust: If you find that you can’t trust your friend or that they don’t trust you, it can be challenging to maintain a healthy relationship.
• There’s a lot of conflict or drama: If your friendship is filled with constant arguments, disagreements, or drama, it can be draining and take a toll on your mental health.
• You’ve outgrown each other: Sometimes, people simply outgrow each other. If you and your friend no longer have much in common or aren’t interested in the same things, it can be tough to maintain a close friendship.
It’s also worth considering if any particular event or situation has led to a breakdown in the friendship. Sometimes, friendships can survive conflicts or disagreements, but other times they might be irreparably damaged.
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