May 29, 2012
A friendship ends and life goes on—but are we taking the time to properly grieve the loss of a close friendship?
"Just like when a marriage is over, the ending of a friendship — especially someone we'd consider a best friend — can take an emotional toll," said psychotherapist Roseann Adams. "In today's society, we spend more time with our friends than we do with our blood relatives. In fact friends are often replacing family members. So if you end a relationship with someone who was a part of your life for a long time … this can be as difficult as getting a divorce. The ability to recover and repair your wounds is essential."
Remembering the good times rather than focusing on how things came to an end, Adams said, is critical to the healing process.
"Maybe they went with you on vacation or spent holidays with you or helped you through your own health crisis," she said. "That person is a part of your history and shared part of your life. You wipe out that person, and you're wiping out many wonderful memories that make up who you are."
Adams said no matter what caused the relationship to end, it's important to get past the bitterness.
"This is a journey, but it takes much more energy to be in a place of anger than to move to a place of peace and acceptance," she said. "Sometimes I tell people that your heart has spaces, and so one person takes the mansion in your heart and when we end a relationship they move into the studio apartment. They're still there, they just take up less space."
If the feeling of loss is overwhelming, Adams suggests trying the friendship in a new way.
"You might be able to take on a different dynamic," she said. "Maybe someone was a confidant and now you just meet to play tennis. You can still have them in your life, but your connection has been altered."
But not every relationship can be this flexible, Adams said.
"Our effort is to sustain a relationship. But sometimes we have to accept that our differences are too varied because we no longer see things in the same way. And we have to try to accept that without making somebody wrong," she said.
Adams said you should never be afraid to reach out for help if you find yourself obsessing over the loss of your BFF, and to be sure to get other sources for support and companionship.
"Considering therapy when you're dealing with any kind of loss is a healthy choice," she said. "And put yourself in situations where you will meet new people. This will give you relational courage and the desire to want to make new friends."
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