It’s never easy when friendships end.
You might have been the one to decide to end it, or maybe your former friend decided to end it. The friendship might have been toxic or codependent, or it may have been totally fine and wholesome. It might have ended out of the blue, or you might have just gradually drifted apart.
Either way, it’s a tough deal.
Though friendship breakups are not discussed as often as romantic breakups, they happen to everyone. And they can hurt just as bad – or even worse – than a breakup with a romantic partner.
Ashley Mateo, writing in Oprah Magazine, has this sage insight about friendship and friendship breakups:
“Our brain doesn’t know the difference between a romantic or platonic relationship.”
And oftentimes, neither does our heart.
treatment programs for teens
How to Get Over A Friendship Breakup
- Acknowledge your pain. First, know that your grief is normal. The pain from a breakup of a deep friendship is as real and valid as any other. You and your friend probably shared almost everything and spent practically all your time together. You talked on the phone for hours on end, and shared endless texts and messages. And now it’s all gone. That loss of intimacy and connection is real. It’s valid. And it hurts: please don’t try to tell yourself it’s nothing, because it really is something.
- Practice self-care. Though it seems far easier to mope in bed all day, make sure you get out and take care of yourself. Don’t neglect personal hygiene, and participate in your regular daily/weekly activities – even if they’re the last thing you want to do. Just going about your regular routine will help you recover from the pain of the breakup. It helps to take part in activities that bring you satisfaction or joy. For you, this could be reading, playing music, creating art, socializing, chilling on the beach, getting a massage, getting your nails done, or something else. If it’s a healthy outlet, and it makes you feel better, it’s self-care.
- Avoid rumination. Okay, that’s a fancy psychology word for going over old thoughts to the point where they interrupt your present happiness. In the case of the modern teen – you – we mean you should avoid browsing through your old texts and pictures all day if they bring you more sadness. If you think it will help you move forward, delete them – but remember, erasing their memory is not what you’re after. You want to process the emotion, not pretend the relationship never happened.
- Exercise. Join a new gym. Practice Pilates, yoga, or strength training. Run around the block. Or pick up something brand new. Physical fitness has wondrous benefits on mental health and overall wellbeing. It can help prevent the onset of depression and anxiety, and it can reduce already existing depressive symptoms in teens.
- Talk to someone. This could be a parent, caregiver, school counselor, or even another friend. If your ex-friend is in the same school as you, try seeking support from a peer in another friend group, like a camp friend, a friend who lives in a different city, or maybe a cousin or neighborhood kid who goes to a different school. Additionally, realizing you have other good friends – even if they don’t live close to you – can make you feel better about the breakup.
- Read about others in your situation. You might think you’re the only one grieving a lost friendship. Think again. Google “friendship breakup” and see what happens: it brings up a long list of helpful articles and advice about how to handle exactly what you’re going through. Reading about others in your situation can help make you feel better about your own situation.
- Try a new friend group. Your former friend might have been in the same friend group as you, which could make things are awkward. If this happens, consider branching out to other peers at school, or try becoming closer with new individuals. Prepare yourself in advance – both literally and mentally – for how to go about this. Be ready for the anxiety you might feel when you walk to another cafeteria table during lunch instead of your usual one. Here are some tips and skills for making new friends that work: we’ve seen it happen many times.
- Examine what went wrong in the friendship. Oftentimes, friendships turn sour when one friend behaves insensitively toward the other. Or sometimes the toxicity is mutual. The root of the toxic behavior can often be tied to mental health issues or an underdeveloped sense of or awareness of boundaries. If you feel issues you need to work on played any part in the end of the friendship, then consider outpatient therapy – especially if this is not the first time an important relationship has suffered, or if you’ve realized that this is a recurring pattern in your life and/or friendships.
- Check your emotional health. Platonic breakups can induce an incredible amount of grief. If you feel like life isn’t worth living anymore or have thoughts of suicide, seek mental health assistance immediately. Feeling an extreme amount of sadness after a traumatic breakup can eventually lead to clinical depression – if you don’t work proactively to process your grief, loss, and sadness. If you develop clinical depression, you might need outpatient therapy. If depression escalates, you may need to spend time at a mental health treatment center.
Friends and Friendships Change Over Time
When you’re in a close friendship, you might think you two will always stay this close. But friendships don’t always last forever, despite your expectations. Friends come and go throughout your life. Think about it: the friends you had in middle school are not always the same ones you have in high school. And – though you’re not there yet – you should know your high school friends won’t always follow you to college. And whether you go to college or not, things change when you join the workforce: you develop a new set of work-friends/colleagues, completely different than friends you had in the past. Let this bring you comfort. Although this friendship may be over, know that as you move on in life, you’ll keep making friends – and they’ll keep enriching your life, just as you’ll enrich theirs.