Friendships shape the fabric of life for many from infancy until death. Almost every close relationship has a lasting impact despite how fleeting or insignificant it may seem at the time. Some bonds form lifelong connections that can resemble blood or love relationships in closeness. When severed, for whatever reason, the reactions to that loss can be equally as painful and devastating to endure.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- Is It Normal to Grieve the Loss of a Friendship?
- What Can Grieving a Friendship Look and Feel Like?
- Tips for Dealing With Grief After Losing a Friendship
- Tips for Helping a Loved One Deal With Grief After Losing a Friendship
There are many reasons some friendships end while others flourish. When we lose particular friendships to fallout, separation, or death, the following grief can potentially leave a person suffering from profound pain.
These feelings and emotions can feel akin to dealing with the loss of a loved one and may take years to resolve. Learning to navigate this type of setback presents particular challenges, including finding closure and healing from heartbreak. Here are 10 tips for dealing with losing a close friendship.
Is It Normal to Grieve the Loss of a Friendship?
Life transitions like moving away, getting married, and starting a new chapter of life contribute to friendships ending other than through death. Everyone reacts to life changes differently. It’s perfectly normal to grieve the loss of companionship. Whether you and your best friend have suffered a falling out, moved far away from one another, or died, the loss of friendship can be challenging to cope with.
While it's natural and normal to suffer the loss of a friendship, the grieving process isn't any easier when you lose a friend instead of a close relative. You can expect grief to last anywhere from six months to two years when you begin to process your loss and deal with the subsequent changes to your life that follow.
Sometimes, grieving the loss of a friend can feel lonely and overwhelming because our society doesn't always acknowledge this type of loss, leaving bereaved individuals to deal with their sorrow on their own. It’s important to give yourself grace and recognize these feelings as normal.
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What Can Grieving a Friendship Look and Feel Like?
The grief process of losing a close friendship looks and feels like any other profound loss in life. Almost every person dealing with particularly challenging setbacks will experience pain and suffering.
The stages of grief almost always begin shortly following a tragedy and can last for several months post-loss. Some of the common signs and symptoms of grieving include:
- Shock and denial
- Inability to process the loss
- Changes to eating and sleeping patterns
- Difficulty dealing with daily tasks
- Depression and withdrawal
Grieving a friendship feels similar to grieving the loss of a relationship. While you know your friend is unharmed, it’s difficult to see your life without them. It can take a while to navigate these new feelings.
Tips for Dealing With Grief After Losing a Friendship
People cope with loss in many unique ways, following an end to a friendship. Because grief is an individual experience, no two people will ever deal with their losses in an exact way. Many types of grief attach to friendship loss, and how a person processes the event will depend on the surrounding circumstances.
Your experience is entirely unique. Many people suffer profoundly after losing a cherished friendship, while others feel relieved that this particular connection has ended. Here are some ways to help you get through your grief.
1. Allow yourself time to mourn
First, mourning the loss of a friendship requires giving yourself space for the grieving process to take shape and for you to come to terms with the reasons for the lost relationship. Not every special bond ends in a death. When there are other reasons why friends fall apart, coping with grief can get complicated.
An essential step in moving forward from your loss is permitting yourself to feel the painful grief-related feelings and emotions that may creep up without making excuses or rushing through the process.
2. Write them a letter
Writing letters as part of the grief healing process isn’t dependent on the recipient still being alive. Letter writing is a form of therapy that can help you move through your grief, especially when you didn’t get closure at the end of the relationship.
When people die suddenly or unexpectedly, or if they leave without an explanation or saying goodbye, grief can get complicated. You’re left having to fill the voids they left behind with presumptions or made-up narratives that fit the story you tell yourself and others as to why they left. Sharing your final feelings is an opportunity for closure.
3. Remember the good times
After a friendship ends, you’ll inevitably have many memories of your time together. No relationship is devoid of ups and downs, and almost everyone at some point deals with disagreement and disappointment with the people they’re closest to.
When you focus on the negative aspects of your relationships, your bad experiences color your memories of the people you love from the perspective of fallouts and letdowns. Focusing on the positive moments that brought you joy and happiness can help you cope with friendship loss because you free yourself from the weight of the bad moments shared.
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4. Talk to your support group
Take the time to talk to your friends and other loved ones about what you're going through. Sharing your grief story helps you process what's happened and allows you to benefit from telling your story out loud.
When you share and compare your friendship loss to others' experiences, you gain different perspectives that may prove helpful in understanding your particular situation. Connecting with others also gets you out of the lonely and withdrawn mindset that contributes to feelings of depression post-loss.
5. Pick up the pieces
Failed friendships happen all the time, but not everyone openly talks about it. Many individuals suffer in silence because they fear that others won’t understand why their pain is so deep. Men, especially, find themselves holding in their grief and looking for other ways to let out their feelings and emotions, like picking up projects working with their hands, building things, or doing additional physical labor.
Picking up the pieces after losing a good friend isn’t always easy, but you must find ways to do it once the grieving process takes shape. Getting stuck in your grief is easy to do when you don’t allow yourself the opportunity to grow from your loss.
Tips for Helping a Loved One Deal With Grief After Losing a Friendship
Friends and family are excellent grief resources for people struggling with losing a friendship. A good friend or close family member actively listens without judgment, adding unsolicited opinions and advice or making matters worse for the bereaved.
Being there for someone who’s suffering doesn’t have to be complicated. The following tips may help you navigate a loved one’s friendship loss.
6. Be a source of support
After suffering the loss of a friendship, your loved one may be feeling sad, lonely, and vulnerable. Your loved one may be at a loss as to what to do now that their friend is gone. They may be confused about picking up the pieces after significant losses.
A suffering individual typically goes through several stages of grief, beginning with shock and disbelief. Lending support can be as simple as calling them on the phone, so you can help them digest the news, and so they have someone to talk to about their loss.
7. Acknowledge their loss
Friendships hold a special place in our hearts, and sometimes the bond created through these close relationships can be as significant or more so than those with family members. When a friend dies or otherwise falls off, getting the people around you to understand the source of your grief is sometimes challenging.
Some people don’t know how painful losing a friendship can be, and they tend to minimize the loss. A person suffering through this type of loss often does so alone without the support of their friends and other loved ones. You can show support by offering sincere condolences and words of encouragement.
8. Show you care
A loved one coping with friendship loss may feel that they’re all alone with no one to turn to for support. You can show care and concern for your loved one’s overall emotional well-being by doing something special for them, like sending flowers or another carefully thought out condolence gift.
Showing care can also mean being present and asking how they’re doing while encouraging them to open up about their loss. Don’t be afraid to ask questions or talk about the friend they lost. If you knew their friend, think of a special memory you have of them to share with your loved one.
9. Extend social invitations
A grieving person who’s left to grieve on their own may experience more instances of depression than someone who has strong social support. Extending invitations to events and social gatherings is integral for someone struggling to overcome a significant loss such as the death of a spouse or a child.
Often survivors of such losses find it challenging to maintain their social connections because of their changed circumstances and roles. Extending social invitations to a suffering loved one is a great way to support them as they learn to adjust to their new reality.
10. Help them discover new meaning
People who’ve suffered the loss of a close friend will typically go through several stages of grief as they learn to cope with their loss. Some of the most challenging aspects of healing from heartbreak are accepting the inevitable life changes ranging from losing a friend to a close confidant and someone to share life’s most significant milestones.
Sudden or unexpected changes to life’s rhythms can prove devastating to many suffering such a loss. You can help your loved one get their life back on track by encouraging them to find new ways to give meaning to their life after loss by doing acts of kindness in their friend’s honor, discovering a new hobby, or reconnecting with old friends.
Surviving the Loss of a Friend
Dealing with the death of a beloved friend can be profoundly devastating. You can expect several secondary or unanticipated losses that may take several months to adjust to post-loss.
The added love and support of people you know and trust can significantly impact the grieving process, especially in the first few weeks and months. Maintaining your social support network is often vital to surviving the heartbreak of losing a friendship.