Grieving a friendship

There’s a playbook for romantic breakups. You buy the ice cream (dairy free, obvi), listen to Sam Smith, re-download tinder, and get wine-drunk with your best friends. But what are we supposed to do when we break up with a friend? Especially a very close one?

I recently ended a 4.5 year friendship. One that began freshman year of college and has been a central relationship in my life since then. We’ve taken trips together, lived together, cooked together, bonded over struggling with mental illness and a difficult relationship with our fathers. I loved her – correction – I love her.

But the relationship had become increasingly fraught, and for me, somewhat toxic. I had forgiven and forgiven and forgiven, and one freezing cold morning in January, light snow beginning to fall, I realized I didn’t have any more forgiveness. At least at that moment. And I wasn’t sure why I was forgiving.

It’s been about a month since then, and I still get these phantom urges to text her when something happens that reminds me of her. I know there was an event stressing her out, and I wonder how it went. Last week, on Galentine’s Day I was looking through old photos to make an Instagram post celebrating the women in my life, and there were so many of her. We don’t always refer to the end of friendships as a breakup, but that is what it feels like.

But the emotions of a friend breakup are diminished. We have other friends, other people to fill our time and our lives. Why grieve this one person? This one failed relationship? Because people are not interchangeable. This person who is no longer in my life carries secrets about me that only she knows. She was the only friend I ever felt really understood what it was like living with a serious mental illness, and I know she felt the same way about me. We were part of each other’s support systems. She knew every guy I dated in college (and why I should have dumped him wayyyy earlier). I got her through a shitty multi-year relationship with an emotionally abusive ex. And now, we are strangers, who might never speak again.

I’m learning that I can miss her without having to reconcile. That I can appreciate the friendship for all it taught me – how to be more expressive in my love, how to work through conflict – without forgetting the reasons I ended it. She will always mean a lot to me and I wish nothing but light-filled days for her.

I got my aura read, a few days before it all happened. The middle aged Chinese woman reading my photo had told me that big emotional changes were forthcoming. Difficult ones, but ultimately ones for the best. At the time, I didn’t believe her.


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