As September flipped into October and the leaves blossomed into hues of oranges, my best friend and I parted ways. No doors were slammed, no definitive fragments of finality were screamed over half-eat salads, no exaggerated hug signaled the end of our chapter as besties. But there was a moment of clarity that marked a permanent turning point, just the same.
While our friendship may have ended (in all its soap-opera glory) over a boy, there are tons of reasons why best friends might split. Maybe she let a secret slip or said something so perfectly nasty and hurtful only someone super close to you could craft it. Maybe your pal has started knocking you down or undermining your successes. Or maybe one of you moves across country and the friendship becomes less convenient. “Having different life situations can really alter what a friendship looks like and in some cases even end it: divorce, a move, a partner, a baby, a new job, or even sickness” says Jacqueline Mroz, journalist and author of Girl Talk: What Science Can Tell Us About Female Friendship.
It’s also possible that the friendship has become downright toxic—yep, says Courtney Glashow, LCSW founder and psychotherapist of Anchor Therapy LLC in Hoboken, New Jersey, just like romantic relationships, friendships can become the opposite of healthy and fun. Ugh. “Healthy friendships should feel supportive, communicative, and reciprocal. Anything less than that is worth taking a step back, addressing the issue with your friend, and separating if it gets bad enough.”
Regardless of the reason, friendship breakups can be extraordinarily painful. Mroz interviewed hundreds of women for her book, and said many compared it to going through a divorce. “These splits can cause women to have a lot of self-doubt, especially if they don’t know why the relationship failed, or why the friend stopped being supportive and loving. These splits are a huge sorce of unease in women’s life and identity,” she says.
So what do you do if a friendship sours? Do you take a cue from your last Tinder date and ghost? Do you go to couples counseling? Or do you do… nothing? I asked Mroz and Glashow for advice on moving onward. Below, their top four strategies for healing.
Try to Have an Honest Conversation to Get Closure
Most friendship breakups happen because of miscommunication, which is why Mroz suggests trying to have a conversation where you hash it out and each shares your sides. “I had a really good friend from college and I felt like whenever we got together, she was on her phone all the time, but I never brought it up and we just didn’t get in touch. Then when I was doing research for Girl Talk, I felt inspired to call her and resolve our issues it turned out she had no idea she was doing it and she had a health issue which was why she had distanced herself.”
If you go this route Glashow suggests making sure it’s a conversation and not a blame game. “Express what you’re feeling using ‘I’ statements. Open up the conversation with vulnerability. Avoid placing any kind of blame, and instead just listen.” Remember, you’re having this conversation either for a sense of closure or to see if a rekindling is possible. Starting old fights isn’t going to help with either.
Consider Blocking or Unfollowing the Person on Social Media
If you’ve made the decision that you just want to move on and that a renaissance of the friendship isn’t possible, unfollowing or blocking the person on social media can help. “In our social media savvy world, not having to worry about what your ex-bestie is posting can helpful,” says Glashow. “But it depends on why the friendship ended. A block might be too extreme or dramatic if the friendship is on the outs because someone moved or had a baby. But it might be necessary if your friend slept with your partner or started a nasty rumor about you.”
Ultimately, clicking the unfollow or block button can be a massive act of self-care and self-preservation. And if it’s what you need to move on, Glashow says it’s a perfectly acceptable coping mechanism.
Give Yourself Time to Grieve
When a friendship ends, you’re losing someone that you loved from your life. “It is a loss, so you need to treat it like a loss. You want to give yourself permission to grieve, to miss them, to feel sad, and to feel any other emotion that comes up,” says Glashow.
Usually, we don’t expect friendships to end the way we might anticipate the end of a romantic relationship. That’s why Mroz says getting over a BFF might be even more difficult to mourn. Her suggestion: When you start to miss your friend, allow yourself to remember the good times, but also don’t forget the reason you split in the first place.
Turn to Your Other Friends for Support and Love
When one friendship ends, it may cause you to feel doubt or uncertainty about the other women you’re close to. “Don’t let your distrust of one friend, or the grief you feel spiral,” says Glashow. Instead, lean into your other friendships for support. And in turn, be the supportive, loving, trustworthy friend you wish your ex-friend had been to you.
Feature image via Stocksy