Grieving the loss of a friendship
It's happened to us all at some time of other, from the time at primary school when your best friend suddenly decided to relinquish that role to the natural ending of a friendship due to our lives moving on in different directions. We may, however, cling on to friendships which leave us feeling unhappy and unsupported simply because we've become so used to the subtle changes in the dynamics that this becomes our "normal".
Some friendships come to a natural end, where both of your availability becomes tricky and the length of time between speaking and meeting becomes more infrequent. Sometimes, however, we can go through a bad break-up which can feel just as awful and devastating as a separation from your partner, maybe following a row when unexpressed feelings are aired in a destructive way. It can be very hard to speak honestly to a friend when you think your friendship is in difficulty, but it can be even harder to ignore the negative feelings which arise when a friendship becomes toxic. It can take enormous courage to be able to face up to this, but if the friendship doesn't feel right anymore, it might be time to talk. You can try, without blame, recognising how things are between you, and a good friendship based on an equal footing will survive open and honest dialogue - but if the friendship is over, then a recognition and acknowledgement of this can be helpful to enable you both to deal with the loss of it.
The feelings of grief that an ending of a close friendship can evoke are just like any loss; there may be feelings of sadness, anger and blame before any kind of movement towards acceptance, and this is where we can be compassionate to ourselves by recognising that these feelings are valid and by not trying to ignore them. It's very normal to have these feelings, but if you get to a point where you're feeling "stuck"- maybe replaying events over and over again and they continue to feel overwhelming - then talking to a therapist can help make sense of them.
Any loss needs a period of grieving - just the recognition of this can be helpful in itself.
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About Una Cavanagh
Una Cavanagh MBACP (accred) is a counsellor in private practice in Wiltshire working one-to-one with adults.