You’ve been dumped by a friend. Or are baffled by a friend’s slow withdrawal. Or you are beginning to recognize that someone you thought was a friend was in fact not. Or you just noticed one day that life has changed and that a friendship that was once dear to you is now… past tense?
In countless sessions with clients, people share the fact will that some close friendship of theirs has ended, but they will tack it on the end of a litany of stressors, like it is worthy only of an off-handed “et cetera” reference.
But this is not true.
The end of a friendship is many things- painful, confusing, disorienting, hurtful, infuriating, embarrassing, stinging- but it is not merely an “et cetera.”
First of all, our identity in large part is in the context of our closest relationships. Who we are is influenced by who we are with. So the end of a friendship can trigger some identity ambiguity, and feelings of being unsettled. Secondly, some friendships end after a betrayal or confusing rejection, which can leave us questioning not only our own judgment but also the legitimacy of that friendship. Was it ever really a true friendship? Thirdly, friends are so often integral to the fabric of our daily lives- we text them news, meet them at the gym, or call for advice- that when a friendship is removed, we feel almost as if we could unravel. We reach for our phones instinctively to share something and remember, “Wait. I can’t talk to that person anymore.”
Losing a friendship can be a loss to grieve, and yet it is typically not recognized by others as such because both parties are still alive.
This loss is worthy of your attention and is a valid reason to be sad- even if you wanted the friendship to end or know it was for the best.
This loss is not an “et cetera.”