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When Friendships End: Mourning the loss and Moving Forward

The Complexity of Friendship Endings

by Judy Wanjiku Jørgensen

Friendships end, just like all other relationships, yet the end of a friendship and the grief it may yield does not get the same legitimate permission to grieve as do other breakups. Friendships have unique ways of ending – some dissolve without conflict, and others involve exchanging words. At the same time, some individuals consciously choose to walk away when the relationship no longer serves its purpose.

These are the profound lessons I’ve learned from the ebbs and flows of friendships. As humans, we belong to a complex social scheme where connections with others, be it a spouse, friend, child, or lover, are essential for survival and thriving in society.

In recent years, I have experienced significant changes, moving to various countries, making new friends, reconnecting with old ones, and losing some. The impact of these losses varies, leading to either relief or grief, depending on how the friendships end.

The Myth of Eternal Bonds: Understanding Transient Friendships

Within the realm of friendships, the mythical idea of Best Friends Forever (BFFs) exists, with supposed eternal bonds that last through time, distance, and the challenges of adulthood. However, pain and loss are inevitable aspects of life, and friendships are not exempt. Sometimes, friendships naturally fade away, while others may end due to conflicts or a conscious decision to part ways.

Making friends has never been difficult; I find meeting and interacting with new people easy. Some encounters have been so intense that it felt like I had known them for a lifetime, yet the friendship ended as quickly as it had begun, with no goodbyes or words exchanged. Despite the abruptness, there are no lingering ill feelings, only gratitude for the magic and positivity they brought during their short presence in my life.

Silent Yet Ever-Present: Valuing the Support of True Friends

Amidst these dynamics, I’ve come to cherish the value of silent yet ever-present friends. Although not physically present or in constant communication, their unwavering support and understanding make them essential parts of my life. They keep the door open, ready to reconnect whenever possible. And when the time comes, you pick up from where you left the last time you saw each other because you recognise that life happens and priorities change.

So, what lessons can we learn from these experiences of friendships ending? First and foremost, human beings are inherently social creatures, and relationships are vital for our well-being. We all require social support to thrive regardless of our extroverted or introverted tendencies.

Secondly, forming and losing friendships is a natural part of life. We encounter various changes, such as moving to different places, meeting new people, reconnecting with old acquaintances, and sadly, losing some friends. These experiences shape us and contribute to our personal growth.

The Stages of Grief: From Denial to Acceptance

Lastly, just like the five stages of grief apply to romantic breakups or the loss of someone through death, these stages also apply to the often brutal and painful end of a friendship. Denial may come when we realise a friendship is fading or ending, and we can do nothing about it.

Anger may arise if conflicts occur, leading to hurt feelings or betrayal. Bargaining may happen as we try to salvage the relationship, especially if this friendship is a cornerstone of our comfort zone. Depression may follow when we accept the loss and have to deal with the rage of emotions that come from an immense loss. Finally, acceptance allows us to move forward, appreciate the memories and lessons learned, and perhaps forge new friendships.

In conclusion, friendships can be transient, and the myth of eternal BFFs is not always true. Nevertheless, the value of active or silent yet ever-present friends should never be underestimated. Embracing the lessons learned from the ebb and flow of platonic love and how it helps us navigate the complex social landscape.

Cherish each person’s positive impact on our lives, regardless of how long they stay or how challenging it may be to create and sustain friendships in adulthood in a new country or town—a topic for another day.

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