By Tamara Syed
This article is part of a series called, “The Many Faces of Grief.” As someone who has experienced various forms of grief, I hope to help others navigate through this difficult, but necessary emotion.
The article’s headline was staring at me in cold black letters: “It’s Time to Cut Your Friends Off.” It seemed like everywhere I looked, there was a casual tone around cutting people off, ending relationships and labeling loved ones as “toxic.” Could it be an effect of the technology boom? For example, if I wanted a new friend, should I reach out to someone in my “Ladies of Los Angeles” Facebook Group or swipe through a few candidates on “Bumble BFF?”
I couldn’t wait to grow old with my best friend from high school. The one friend who came up with nicknames for my crush, helped me score a fake ID, or hopped the fence with me to get into our dream concert. I truly believed it was “best friends forever.” However, life had other plans.
Experiencing the end of three pivotal friendships has been the toughest experiences of my adult life. I went from talking to my friends every day to complete radio silence. All three relationships ended under different circumstances: one was my fault, one was their fault, and the last one… we simply drifted apart. I have experienced a distinct level of grief with all three and I’m here to tell you that it’s definitely not easy, but it does get easier.
First of all, understand that there are stages of grief you will experience when a friendship ends. The first is inevitably denial; I truly believed that my friend would forgive the text I sent. The text that was misconstrued. The text was a collection of words I should have saved for an in-person conversation. Her decision was made so it was time to move on and heal.
Before we do that, the next stage we experience is anger. I threw my phone across the room, but there are healthier ways of expressing anger. Although I wanted to fly through the different stages of grief, it was important to take the time I needed to heal.
I asked her if we could talk over the phone, thinking if we hashed it out in an honest conversation, we could become friends again. This is the bargaining phase; I was willing to backtrack on my honesty to save our relationship. For some people, it’s easier to cut each other off than to have difficult conversations. She refused to talk to me so I respected that.
Enter the next phase: depression. Ah, my trusted companion through most of my youth. It’s a long and arduous phase, but necessary. I was mourning the end of an era, the end of my youth, the end of a sure thing: best friends forever. This life and the next and the next and the, but life doesn’t always work the way you had hoped.
During a friendship breakup and especially in the “depression” stage, there is an opportunity that is gifted to you by God, the universe or whatever you believe in. It’s a secret not a lot of people recognize because in the midst of their grief, it is often overlooked. In this phase, a new friend enters the picture, someone who ends up being the best friend you always needed. They match your energy; your bond is built instantly as if you have known each other your whole lives. But, make sure you aren’t too lost in your grief that you miss this opportunity.
The last stage is acceptance; it’s inevitable that friendships that were supposed to last “forever,” will come to an end. Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “People come into your life for a reason, a season or a lifetime. When you figure out which one it is, you will know what to do for each person.” I have experienced all three instances and can say that the bonds we build are gifts.
I don’t regret the text I sent, ending that toxic friendship or drifting apart. They led me on a journey of discovering my resilience in the midst of heartache; I grew to love myself even more. I have completely shifted to focus on the friends that choose to be in my life: the friend I have known since the 4th grade, the friend I met at a shitty job, and the endless amount of cousins that feel more like sisters. It definitely hurts to lose a friend, but it hurts even more to miss out on the people who are still standing beside you.