On losing a friend


I’ve talked before about being grateful: for your health, for your security/safety, for your freedom, but most of all for your friends and family. You may think that your most important work is your job, career, hobbies, or art, but I’d wager instead that your most important work is your relationship with others. Without meaningful connections, even the greatest achievements can seem hollow and unsatisfying.

I wrote the above linked post on being grateful around Thanksgiving, which is a natural time to talk about that sort of thing. It was a time when I was spending a great deal of time around people that I cared about. As someone who has spent a larger share of time by myself than I’m comfortable admitting, being around such good friends brought out the effusive, inelegant blubberer inside me. I value my friends deeply, and will pretty much go to the ends of the earth for them.

Which is why losing a friend is so painful.

Unsaid goodbyes suck

It happens. Relationships end, whether they are “intimate” or not. Sometimes these shifts are organic (you naturally drift apart), while sometimes they are abrupt (one or both people cut things off). Sometimes, it’s not always obvious why things end the way they do. When it’s not initiated by you, sometimes you don’t know which is harder to handle, knowing why it happened or not knowing.

So with that in mind, finding how to “suffer successfully” (to use a phrase copped from Alain de Botton) might be a good strategy. Here are some things I’ve learned:

Grieve. Regardless of who initiated the break or whether it was mutual, there’s bound to be some form of sadness. This is okay. Don’t feel like you shouldn’t feel any hurt, just because this wasn’t an intimate (boyfriend/girlfriend) relationship. Don’t stratify your feelings like that. If this person was a real friend to you, then you probably trusted them, confided in them, and shared many times together. Not having that any more is hard. It’s okay to feel upset.

Learn. I’ve often said that you learn who your friends really are when things go bad. If you find that people aren’t there for you, then it may be a tough lesson to have to learn in the moment, but be glad you learned now instead of later.

Unlearn. Sometimes these things just happen. Trying to figure out why may be neither productive or possible. You can drive yourself into the ground trying to understand, and it might not change the facts. Now granted, if you see the same patterns happening repeatedly in your relationships, it might behoove you to do a little soul-searching, but often there is no real reason “why.” Be accepting of that.

Practice abundance. Just as I believe that there is no “one true love” for anyone, I believe that there are plenty of people out there who you can be close friends with. Don’t get stuck in the pattern that you’ll “never find” such a friend again. While everyone is an individual and no one is truly replaceable, the idea that there is a fixed number of people you can be close to is an artificial boundary that you set for yourself. People are out there; go find them and let them in.

Silver lining

Which leads me to probably the most important point, a summation of all of the above, and the brightest of bright spots: When people leave your life, it gives you room for others to enter. While I don’t believe that we have a fixed amount of care to offer, we do have a limited amount of hours in the day, and losing a friend means that you have more time to devote to others.

I can personally say that I’ve recently let into my life some really amazing people who I now consider very close friends. I might not have ever done this had I not had that space open up in my life. For that reason and all the others, I never stop feeling overwhelmingly, effusively, blubberingly grateful.

But enough about me. How have you handled losing a friend?

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