Flip on the radio and you won't be able to last an hour without encountering at least one song about heartbreak. There's something about the death of a romance that has inspired the entire spectrum of arts since time immemorial. Probably less eulogised is another kind of relationship death – when best friends call it quits. While card companies and advertisers will have you believe that the best friendships last forever, it is simply not true. Even the closest friends can fall apart, and when this happens, the heartbreak is just as painful.
Here are the stages of a friendship break-up.
This cannot be happening
The knee-jerk response to a traumatic experience is denial. So when your best friend suddenly starts acting cold for no reason, or betrays your trust, or does something to hurt you, the first reaction is to rationalise the behavious. “Oh maybe he's upset about something else.” “Maybe I'm reading too much into the situation.” You try to pretend nothing is wrong and reach out for a connection, i.e., trying to meet up for an adda, making plans together. When you receive a less than lukewarm response, you start realising that maybe you're missing something, and it's not just the company of your friend.
Interestingly enough, deep down, you know that the relationship is over, so this would be a good time to acknowledge that this is happening for a reason – whether it's because your relationship has turned toxic, or that the two of you have simply flowered into two very different individuals over time.
One step closer to the edge
Once you realise that this friendship is tanking faster than the Titanic after its date with the iceberg, you start to get mad. If this is your best friend we're talking about, there's got to be a lot of history, and a lot of emotional investment, and when faced with the prospect of losing something that's so loaded, you tend to get angry. This is the time to get a grip on yourself and not give in to the corrosive resentment. Don't say or do something that you will inevitably regret, even if it doesn't feel that way.
Find a more constructive outlet for your anger. Write about your feelings in a journal. Blow off some steam at the gym. Reconnect with your spiritual side through prayer or meditation. Things will soon look up.
If only I could turn back time
Once the anger cools, you find yourself poking at scabs, telling yourself you're trying to understand what happened, but really, what you're looking for is a way to regain control. This might play out in different ways – you could start feeling guilt, or look for someone to blame, obsess over the past, or obsessively stalk your ex-BFF online.
If you don't want to drive yourself crazy, it's best to keep yourself occupied during this phase. Work can be a great distraction, if you have the mind for it. Another way to deal, if you can afford it, is to take a trip somewhere. Sometimes a change of scenery is just what the doctor ordered.
All time low
Finally, after you've fought the feeling for a while – and it may happen when you least expect it – the crushing sadness happens. Your best friend occupies quite an important place in your life, some place that even your significant other can never reach, and when that goes, it's normal to hurt.
Give yourself time to mourn. When the tears come, take some time out and let them flow. Part of the healing process is to get all that sadness off your chest and out of your system.
This is where those sad songs and movies come in handy. Not only will they get your sob-fest going, in a roundabout way, they are able to articulate what you're feeling in a way perhaps your other friends and family can't, and can be pretty cathartic.
Just so this mourning process doesn't become the new norm, make sure you've confided in another friend, or a trusted family member to pull you out of it after an agreed grieving period.
I will be rising from the ground like a skyscraper
Once the tears have dried and you realise that the world hasn't ended yet, comes the welcome Zen-like state of being ready to move on. This means you're ready to cut your losses and move forward.
Get a makeover (it could be something as simple as a haircut) – it gives your brain the green light to accept changes into your life. Make plans with your other friends – maybe make some new ones. The world is a big place, and life is too short for you to stay down.