By Sarah Barkley
Medically reviewed by Lori Lawrenz, PsyD
Friendship breakups aren’t easy. But reflecting on how the loss of a friendship has affected you, prioritizing self-care, and speaking with those you trust may help you overcome the loss.
A friendship breakup hurts, sometimes more than a romantic relationship ending. You may have drifted apart from your friend, had a falling out, or experienced a hurtful situation.
Many people constantly think about what went wrong or what they could have done differently. It’s natural to wonder about these things, but it sometimes becomes a frequent preoccupation with how much you miss your friend.
Reflecting on lost friendships is part of the healing process, but it becomes difficult to move forward if you “obsess” over it. Learning to stop overthinking about a friendship breakup can help you regain focus and look forward to the future with a new perspective.
How to move on after a friendship breakup
Practice mindfulness meditation
Meditating and practicing mindfulness can help quiet your mind and stop ruminating over the past.
If you can’t stop thinking about your lost friendship, consider using mindfulness meditation to refocus your thoughts. It can help you become aware of your senses, allowing you to notice the present and stop obsessive thoughts.
Talk with someone you trust
Licensed marriage and family therapist Angela Sitka, LMFT, suggests talking with someone you trust to help you stop overthinking about a lost friendship.
She explains that since people don’t always realize the void a friendship breakup can leave, it’s essential to “communicate your needs to others with an open invitation for your loved ones to step up and support you.”
Talking with a friend or family member can help you process what happened. You can vent to them and listen to their advice or feedback to help you feel better.
Consider talking with someone who isn’t a mutual friend of the person you’re talking about to avoid drama or unnecessary discomfort.
If you’re uncomfortable talking with someone in your life, a therapist can help. They’ll help you process the breakup and discover ways to move forward.
Sitka explains, “a skilled relationship therapist can help you find closure for yourself, and also give you insights to consider with future friendships.”
Stop looking at things that remind you of them
Constantly looking at things that remind you of the person can make moving on harder. Consider boxing up gifts, photos, and anything else that prevents you from focusing on the present.
Becca Smith, LPC and chief clinical officer at Basepoint Academy, says it’s best to “stay positive and focus on yourself.” Focusing on caring for your physical and emotional needs can help you move forward. It’ll help you remember that you can thrive without that specific friendship.
When you focus on yourself, it can help you push the lost friend from your mind. It can help you build your self-esteem and see that you’ll be OK without that person. To prioritize self-care you may consider:
- eating healthy foods
- getting enough sleep
- focusing on your interests and hobbies
Make new habits and memories
When you’re close to someone, you might not have tried new things or stepped out of your comfort zone.
Without realizing it, friendships can hold you back as you become complacent. If that friendship ends, you can use it as an opportunity to create new habits and build new memories.
Shift your mindset about your mistakes
No one is perfect, including you, but that doesn’t mean you should beat yourself up over what went wrong. Dr. Fern Kazlow explains, “While it’s valuable to take responsibility for your part in the breakup, don’t create a story that gets you stuck or portrays you in a way that diminishes you.”
If you shift your mindset and view your mistakes as lessons instead of regret, it can help you move forward. The lessons can teach you how to behave in future friendships to prevent betrayal or drifting apart.
Shifting your mindset often requires forgiving yourself. If you blame yourself for what went wrong, you must learn to accept the experience because you can’t change what happened. You can use your mistakes as a learning opportunity to become a better friend in future situations.
Find a resolution when you can
Friendship breakups are hard because there’s not always a resolution. If the other person is willing, seek answers to what happened and why your relationship drifted.
It can help you find closure, apologize or express your feelings, and move forward.
Write about your feelings
Writing about your feelings can help you release the pain and confusion associated with them.
Consider writing everything you’re thinking, feeling, and doing. It may help you understand yourself and let go of the negativity.
Take a social media break
According to a small 2022 Australian study, excessive use of social media may lead to comparison, low self-esteem, and depression.
Consider taking a break from using social media for about 1 to 4 weeks. It might be hard, but avoiding social media can help you carve out time for activities you enjoy or focus on self-care.
You may also consider using your time away from social media to focus on your community or to help those in need. Oftentimes, helping others and spending time in our community can remind us that we’re not alone and provide a sense of connection.
A 2018 study indicates that volunteering can improve your overall well-being. Depending on your personal interests you may decide to volunteer by:
- working at a local food bank
- working in a community garden
- assisting with voter registration
- helping animals in shelters and rescues
- mentoring a child
If you aren’t ready to take time away from social media, you also have the option to temporarily mute their profile. This can reduce your chance of seeing future posts on their page.
Ending a friendship vs. romantic relationship
Friendship breakups can be harder than ending a romantic relationship. You can heal from the pain and become stronger, but it takes time and self-care. 2023 research shows that adult friendships are essential and can predict well-being better than familial relationships.
Some of the reasons ending a friendship is harder than a romantic relationship include the following:
Differing definitions and expectations
In romantic relationships, expectations are more defined. You’re also more likely to state your needs and vocalize when you feel neglected. It’s not always the same for a friendship.
When one of the friends is afraid to communicate their issues, it can lead to growing apart. While the friend who felt neglected knows what happened, the second friend may be left wondering where they went wrong.
Not knowing how to talk about it
When friendships end because of growing apart, it doesn’t always involve a conversation for closure. You might not know if you should discuss it or how to address it if you do.
Talking about it also makes you vulnerable because it can lead to things you don’t want to hear. On the other hand, a romantic breakup typically involves a conversation that allows for closure.
It can involve more shame
Adults tend to think they should have friendships figured out because we know the importance of treasuring them. When it doesn’t work out, you might feel ashamed that you couldn’t work it out. You might feel like you did something wrong if you couldn’t maintain the friendship.
Sometimes you might think that you’re the only one struggling. If this happens, you’re more likely to keep your feelings to yourself than you would with a romantic breakup. Your shame and fear of talking with others can make you feel isolated.
Friendship breakup terms aren’t as clear
When you end a romantic relationship, the terms are generally pretty clear. If you and your ex decide to remain in contact, you may discuss that during the breakup. With a friendship breakup, that’s not always the case.
When you stop being friends, you likely won’t discuss if you’ll continue communicating in specific situations. You don’t always talk about how you’ll handle group settings, leading to potentially awkward experiences.
With distancing and compartmentalizing as options, it’s hard to know for sure unless you’ve discussed it. If possible, consider communicating terms that can be put in place to diminish awkward experiences, especially if you have mutual friends.
Grief over an ended friendship might be unexpected
Defining what love is for all people in our lives isn’t easy because it isn’t discussed frequently. It can come as a surprise because you know romantic breakups cause grief and heartbreak, but it’s not as commonly considered at the end of a friendship.
When grief hits, you might be surprised with:
What are the signs to end a friendship?
It’s hard when friendships end because they’re so complex and play a major role in your life. A friendship breakup hurts, and you may feel blindsided, but there are often signs that it should end.
These signs build over time and can include:
- betrayal or lack of trust
- frequent misunderstandings
- differing values
- changing interests
- lack of communication
- feeling unsupported or disconnected
- abusive behavior (physical or emotional)
- toxic behavior without attempts to improve
- feeling judged or belittled
- being held back
Sometimes it’s hard to face these signs and consider that it’s best to end the friendship. Take time to consider whether your relationship can or should be saved, or if you’re better off moving forward.
Try to prioritize yourself and your well-being when thinking about how to handle it.
The pain from a friendship breakup is real, and you’ll need time to heal. It’s sometimes worse than a romantic breakup or other loss, so try to not beat yourself up for having a hard time.
If you’re experiencing hardships in the midst of losing a friend, you’re not alone. The following tips may help you cope with the loss:
- speak with a person you trust
- put your well-being first
- reach out to mental health professional
- create new memories and habits
- set boundaries on social media
- openly communicating to find a resolution
These tips can help you move on from a friendship breakup and find happiness again. You can find other friends and experience joy in new experiences. Stay hopeful, and you’ll find friends who love and support you.
This post appeared on Psych Central.