Recently one of my long-term friendships ended.
It sucks but it happens.
It always surprises me though how much it hurts.
It’s not the first, it won’t be the last, but it is still so hard.
We tend to place more emphasis on break ups of romantic relationships but friendships aren’t given as much air time and yet they can cut the deepest.
Sometimes it can be difficult to express the hurt, pain and damage left after the end of a friendship.
Whether it’s been a few months of intense friendship with a work colleague, a buddy you met while travelling, or a relationship you’ve had since childhood or school, it’s truly upsetting when it ends and can take quite some time to get over.
The most recent one has hit me hard.
I think because, on reflection, I’ve seen the cracks that were there for many years – that perhaps it wasn’t the close friendship I thought it was.
Or perhaps I wasn’t as valued in the friendship as an equal party and they were always going to have the upper hand, and the final word.
The end of this friendship also came out of the blue.
An incident was the catalyst, then a quick spiral into an eruption, and a catastrophic climax that well and truly marked the end.
For me, there is no return from this end.
As often happens, harsh words were spoken. Things were said that cannot be unsaid, and as someone who loves words, these words stuck in my mind.
Many years ago, someone introduced me to the concept that friends can be around for “a reason, a season or a lifetime” and I think it really helps when coming to terms with the end of a relationship and understanding people’s roles in our life.
Friends for a reason
The friend that’s around for a reason is the kind that comes into your life for only a short time. They are there for a specific purpose and once they’re no longer part of your world, you can understand why they were there for that brief period.
Friends for a season
Whether it’s a few months or a few years, these friends are with you for a season – a period of time in your life – be it school, university, work, sports groups or through another connection.
Once your lives begin to move away from that common interest, place or people, then the friendship may reach its end.
Friends for a lifetime
This is the friend that is in your life for a reason, and for seasons, and ultimately, they’ll be there for a lifetime. Importantly, they’ll be there when you need them most.
It’s hard when this type of friendship ends; when you thought the friendship was for a lifetime but turns out to be just a season. That’s what I’m experiencing right now.
The slow burn end
There’s another type of end to a friendship, unlike my dramatic ending – the slow fizzle out.
This can be hard to reconcile in your mind.
It’s the little things that chip away at the fragile ground of the relationship over time and one day it dawns on you: your friendship no longer has a foundation.
This is challenging to understand because nobody did anything mean or unkind (at least not obviously), there was no fight, no confrontation. Then, it’s over. And there’s often no closure.
Bringing up the confrontation and the little issues from the past seems petty, so you let it go. But you’re left with the confusion, the hurt and no real end. It’s a tough one.
Just like any loss, you need to give yourself time to grieve.
It’s sad when someone was a part of your life and then they’re no longer there.
I’ve tried to be kind to myself during this process.
You may even go through phases with a friendship ending, and I certainly went through the spectrum on this one.
At first, I felt sad and almost devastated.
Then I felt angry.
Then nostalgic; remembering some wonderful times together, smiling and laughing at the thoughts.
And finally, apathy; I felt nothing.
It is what it is, and now it’s a memory. I’d accepted the reality as it is.
Acceptance and moving on
From time to time, your friendship will again surface in your mind.
A Facebook memory will pop up. An old photo is dug out when moving house. Maybe their name comes up in conversation.
Instead of the stab of hurt and loss, you smile. You remember the good times that you shared and the person you loved, at that time, and for a time.
This is a beautiful place to be in: acknowledging the friendship for what it was, accepting that it’s now over and realising you are in a new chapter of life.
I’m not quite there yet, but I know I’ll get there.
I don’t know that friend anymore – not only are we not speaking, but in that I feel disconnected and know we are both changed. And that’s okay.
Right now, I’m focusing on the relationships I have chosen for my life – the ones that lift me up, encourage me and support me.
Whether they are people I see often or infrequently, they are the people I choose to have in my world at this time and that is beautiful.
I like this quote by Aristotle when trying to understand both the beginning and the ending of a friendship: “Wishing to be friends is quick work, but friendship is a slow-ripening fruit.”