One of my sorority sisters and I were comparing notes on having lost or needing to end friendships, and the toll that the stress of it all can take on your life and your health. Truth be told, I only have a handful of people that I call friends. Yes, I have sorority sisters, but they are in their own category. I have only a few people that have been in my life long enough and have gone through enough with me for me to call them friends, so for me to call someone a friend and then be betrayed in any way by them is to truly be heartbroken. And not only does she betray you but she doesn’t acknowledge or apologize and now your whole perception of her and who you thought she was has been demolished… and you find yourself going through the 5 stages of grief wondering how the hell did that happen; you didn’t bury a loved one, you just lost a friend… right?
Experts say there are 5 Stages of Grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. This isn’t only true for grieving the death of a loved one but also grieving the death of a relationship or friendship. When the friendship is over – and not like you just grew up and grew apart, but something truly devastating occurred – you (or at least I did) find yourself denying that your friend could ever do what you’re accusing them of. Once you realize that it’s true, now you’re angry… at them AND yourself for ever trusting them and letting them into your life, beating yourself up because you should have known better or listened to the warnings of others. Then you begin bargaining with God to make it right or with yourself to just forgive them and be a better friend and let it work itself out. When you realize the full weight of the situation, you find yourself depressed and unable to shake the pain and get back to the reality of the rest of your life. Then, at some point, you begin to accept it for what it is, pick up the pieces, and move on.
There’s no easy way to do this. We all feel what we feel and when our emotions are truly invested, it makes it that much more difficult to get over it, no matter how much we hear it from others and no matter how much we tell it to ourselves. At 35 years old, I’ve come to realize that life is far too short and too filled with beautiful people and things and opportunities to allow myself months and months of grieving over a person who clearly wasn’t worthy of my love in the first place. By no means was it easy, but I had to get out of my negative emotional space and fast, and I’m sharing with you what worked for me.
Pray. Whomever you pray to, however you “pray,” even if others may not consider it prayer. Talk it through with someone with more logic and reason and life experience than you who truly and openly listens with the intent of helping you work through what you’re feeling and dealing with so it hurts a little less. I pray and value my relationship with God, but I also know that there are people in my life that can say the right things at the right time to help heal my situation without even know what I’m going through.
Own your emotions. If you need to cry, cry. If you need to yell, yell. If you need to eat a whole pint of Ben & Jerry’s, veg on. No one should tell you that your emotions aren’t right because even if someone has gone through what you’re going through, the situation is not the same and THEY’RE NOT YOU. YOU have to live in whatever you happen to be feeling when you happen to be feeling it because suppressing those emotions don’t eliminate them, it just puts them on pause to rear their ugly heads later, and usually at a very inconvenient time and leave you looking like the crazy person sobbing in her cocktail on girls’ night out because the bartender said they were out of your favorite vodka… No one wants to be that girl.
Deal in YOUR way. Yes, we should talk to people that can give us good advice on the situation, but at the end of the day, only you know what actions to take that will get you out of your funk, your personal state of depression. Take a kickboxing class. Take a hot yoga class. Go to the gun range. Fill your tank, pop in your favorite CD, and drive the interstate in circles as many times as it takes. Whatever it’s going to take for YOU to shake off the pain and get back to the You that you know and love, do it and disregard the naysayers! They’re. Not. You! Don’t believe the “get over it” or “time heals all wounds” hype, you have to motivate and encourage yourself, especially when those listening ears are tired of listening to you cry the same tears.
Forgive them. I know people feel as though forgiveness is either a sign of weakness, something that we do for the person that’s hurt us, or both, but forgiveness is neither. Forgiveness is for you. Oftentimes we are holding on to hurt and pain and emotional damage that the other party or parties knows nothing about. They’ve gone on with their lives and we’re left holding the burden of hate. That burden is like a leash around our necks and the person we refuse to forgive is the owner tugging on that leash not allowing us to go further in our life’s relationships. They don’t know it, and sometimes we don’t even realize it, but ultimately, it stifles us and disallows us the opportunity to grow and change and move forward in both present and future relationships. Forgive them for you, for your growth and your joy. Don’t let them have it; they don’t deserve it.
Bury the friendship & move on. Ok. So of all the things I’ve said, you’re probably going to find this to be the craziest, and when I was doing it I thought I was crazy too, but – for me – it worked. Even after forgiveness sometimes we still need a sense of closure: a true end. No matter the pain of burying a loved one, a funeral or home-going service is a means of providing closure and giving an understanding that the chapter is done and while the memories may live on, it’s time to allow yourself the opportunity to live. The same is true of a lost friendship. This is the hard part because it’s truly final and it hurts like hell, but when it’s done, it’s done and we have to come to that realization in order to pick up the pieces of the rest of our lives and live on. We are still alive. We have other good friends and family that are still there for us. We have our careers and hobbies and other aspects of our life that have been neglected while we were grieving this ended relationship. Now it’s time to lay it to rest. Burn a favorite picture that you shared and spread the ashes somewhere. Release a balloon in the parking lot of your favorite hangout. Delete all the photos of them from your phone (and the cloud!). Return every piece of clothing and jewelry that you borrowed from them. Find a way – YOUR way – to come to terms with the fact that the relationship is over and deal with the finality of it. Clear your heart of the emotional clutter so that you can face them – and life – head on with a genuine smile and not allow this one person and one situation to hinder you.
Yes, it hurts and we feel that it’s unfair – especially when we genuinely gave them our love – but people will disappoint you and that’s a sad part of life. What matters is how we deal with it. Do we let it define us, or do we redefine the situation?
I choose the latter…