How To: Coping with a Friend Breakup

In an episode of “Gilmore Girls,” one of the main characters, Rory, goes through a devastating teenage breakup. Rory’s mother, Lorelai, insists that her daughter take time to wallow, but Rory refuses. Instead, she throws herself into a variety of distracting activities, often bringing her mom along. This lasts for about a week, until she finally breaks down with a tub of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream and announces that she’s finally ready to be sad.

Breakups with significant others have a pertinent role in media today. Many TV and movie couples break up in exaggerated ways in order to show how difficult coping with a breakup may be. Although romantic breakups are difficult, there are other relationship fallouts that should also be recognized, including friend breakups.

Some friend breakups can be easier. Maybe it was a natural parting or a friend moved away. Maybe it was a toxic friendship, and a decision had to be made to cut them out. Maybe it was a mutual realization that the casual friendship wasn’t worth holding on to. But the friend breakups that aren’t easy are the ones that include friends you always thought you would have.

At least, that was where I found myself this past summer. During my teenage years, I knew three things for certain: my favorite food was pizza, my cat Hazy was (and still is) the best pet ever, and my two best friends would always be there for me. When I reached my third year of college, I realized that those two friends were no longer by my side, and the decision was not mutual. As someone who fears change and loves consistency, I was disoriented because of the absence of friends I had grown accustomed to talking to every day. I realized that society has never really taught us how to deal with a friend breakup, or how to properly break up with a friend. Because of this lack of knowledge on what true friend breakups were, I felt like I was overreacting and that I was the only one going through this.

If you’re dealing with a friend breakup, know that you are not alone. Like Rory, it is okay to wallow in self-pity, just as you might for a breakup with a significant other. Both friendships and romantic relationships involve a level of vulnerability and trust, which can make losing a friendship just as difficult as a breakup. The difference is that friendships are always portrayed as something easy, when communication is just as important in friendships as it is between couples. In my experience, I found that giving myself a brief period to reflect and be alone was the best medicine in allowing me to feel better. A grieving process is necessary, because the first step to recovery is admitting to the emotions being felt. Watch rom-coms, eat lots of ice cream, have potato chips for dinner. Giving yourself time to feel sad will not make you feel better instantly, but it will help you accept what has happened.

Once you’ve given yourself time to grieve, allow yourself to reflect on the friendship. Although it can be uncomfortable to think about your mistakes when you’re already sad, remember that you did your best to be a good friend throughout the entire friendship and that you were kind, respectable, and 100 percent you. If you find that you have made a mistake, don’t wallow in self-blame, but use what you have learned and apply it to your current and future friendships.

What happens if you want to break up with a friend? In extreme cases, such as with toxic friendships, it is OK to simply cut off the friendship. However, if there is a specific event that is upsetting, and you care about them and value their friendship, be communicative. Tell them what’s bothering you instead of letting it boil up. Maybe they’ll correct their behavior, or maybe they’ll realize that they cannot change. You cared about this person at some point in your life, and they deserve some gentle explanation as to why you feel the friendship isn’t worth saving anymore.

Overall, friend breakups can be brutal on both sides, and it takes time to fully get over them. Remember that at this stage in our lives, we’re all trying to become who we are meant to be, and this occasionally requires a change in who we surround ourselves with. Friends should always be those who encourage you to be the best version of yourself, allowing you to grow as a person. Although I am sad to see my two most important friendships gone, I constantly remind myself that they probably did what they felt was best for them. I’m trying new things, focusing on school and work, and (most importantly) working on being a good friend with the friendships I still have. And while I’m still getting used to the idea that I don’t have these friends anymore, I am going to be OK, and you will be too.