At some point in our lives, we’re going to experience a friendship breakdown.
Sometimes it can’t be prevented and let’s face it, it’s the absolute pits. It’s a completely different experience to say, breaking up with someone – for me personally, friends are much more of a necessity in my life than any romantic interest because as track records go, they’ve been through a lot more with me than anyone I’ve ever dated.
Going through a friendship breakdown can be incredibly stressful and it’s incredibly normal to experience a range of emotions like anger and grief.
When an important friendship breaks down completely, it’s natural to feel down. You honestly don’t realise how much you rely on your mates to help you through life, even if they don’t play a major part in it – occasional friends and close friends have very different roles but just knowing they’re in your life gives you a sense of comfort.
In a nutshell, when you lose a friend you lose some of that comfort. Perhaps you and that particular friend had a very specific bond – sports, sucking at maths, becoming emotionally invested in fictional characters – and now you don’t have them to share that part of your life with.
But, I’ve always been a believer that people who stay in your life are there because they want to be there, and if a friendship doesn’t work out, well, perhaps it’s for the best. I’m aware that’s of little consolation to anyone who’s just experienced a breakdown of a friendship, so let’s tackle healthy ways you can overcome the loss of a mate.
I’ve lost my fair share of friends in the past and the reasoning behind each breakdown varied drastically – sometimes I had more time for them than they did for me, sometimes it was the other way around. Other times we grew apart or found people we had more in common with, while a small handful of times I decided the friendship was unhealthy/disrespectful and decided to end the friendship.
After the last ‘nasty breakup’, I eventually started feeling better about myself and I soon realised that the former friend was not the type of person I wanted in my life moving forward. If a friend is behaving in a way that’s disrespectful, you may be in an unhealthy friendship. Everyone has a right to feel safe, cared for and supported by friends. Good friends should raise each other up, rather than tear one another down. A key part of a friendship is making sure you’re looking after one another and unfortunately some people just don’t have the capacity to do that. Your friends should always make you feel loved, wanted and supported.
Now look, admittedly it took me a while after I lost that friend to realise I’d be okay without them in my life. I often thought about apologising to them as I was quite nasty myself towards the end, which I regret. We’re all capable of making questionable decisions when we’re fighting with someone close to us, so the important thing is to acknowledge your own missteps and if you believe the friendship is too far gone to salvage, at least forgive yourself and your friend as much as you can. You don’t necessarily have to be friends but there’s no point holding on to resentment towards them.
I know that’s a very specific example of how a friendship can end and every friendship is wildly different to the next, and there’s no cookie-cutter explanation to how you’re personally going to feel. What if the friend you lost was someone you still like, love, miss, think about on the daily? What if you no longer want to be friends but they do?
All you can really do is cope with how you’re feeling at the moment. If you are feeling blue, you can chat to someone you trust or even speak to Kids Helpline if you’re really struggling with it and don’t want to talk to people you know. Talking to a professional like Kids Helpline can help you to gain further insight and perspective on the situation and make a plan to cope and move forward. It’s common to downplay your own feelings to your friends and family as a way to assure them you’re okay, but there’s no point pretending to be cool with it if you’re really not. Losing a friend sucks so hard so embrace your emotions and give yourself time to recover.
In the meantime, remind yourself of the people you love who are still in your life. Focus on the people and supports in your life that you feel grateful for.
Here are some more recommendations from professionals at Kids Helpline for people who are struggling with a friendship breakdown:
“Friendship breakdowns can be intense and complex. It’s normal to feel a range of emotions, including grief, anger and even relief! It’s okay to be upset about a friendship ending and it may take some time for you to heal. Fortunately, there are things you can do to cope and there are supports available to help you through this tough time.
Some things you can try might include:
- Seeking support – talk to someone you trust or contact Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800
- Put in some boundaries with your former friend/s – you might like some time apart, decide to keep your conflict to yourselves (rather than getting other friends involved) or to take a tech break for a while to de-stress from negative interactions online.
- Be polite and respectful to your former friend/s – even when going through a friendship breakdown, making sure you are calm and have a plan in place around how you will respond with respect if you see your former friend/s can be really helpful.
- Take care of yourself – it’s okay to have some time alone doing things you enjoy.
- Spend time with other friends, family or important people (or pets) in your life – a friendship breakdown can be lonely. Spending time with people who matter to you can really help.”
Kids Helpline is here for you – anytime, any reason. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800.