A fresh wave of anguish flooded over Emily as she recalled the shocking conversation between her and Lindsay. They had been best friends — sisters of the heart — for the past 15 years, and now the relationship was destroyed. Lindsay had no desire to reconcile. Emily needed to deal with intense pain and come to terms with the broken relationship.

The loss of a dear friend is one of the most painful experiences in life.

For various reasons, friendships come and go. As people enter different stages of life, they may find they don’t have as much in common as they used to. Or one of the friends may have moved away. Or there might be unresolved conflict — this is the most painful reason of all.

So when you’ve lost a friend, how can you deal with it?

1. Grieve the loss

This may take weeks, months, even years. A lot depends on how deep the friendship was and on how it ended.

Accept the fact that the relationship has ended. Acceptance is an all-important step in the rebuilding process. You don’t have to take on a load of guilt in order to accept that the relationship is over. Avoid the “if only” game.

Experience the hurt. The way past the pain is to go all the way through it. What you are feeling is real. It hurts. Allow yourself to feel the pain but don’t become enmeshed in it. You can use suffering as an excuse to remain bitter, angry, and unhappy. Or you can allow the experience to help you grow.

2. Avoid unhealthy coping mechanisms

As you go through this painful process, try to avoid unhealthy ways of coping such as:

Withdrawing from others. Being alone can provide time for introspection, reflection, growth, and development. But it’s not healthy to avoid people altogether. Doing so might be a sign that you’re running out of fear of rejection, fear of commitment, or broken trust.

Becoming a "busy-aholic." Distracting yourself with tasks may feel like a good idea at the time, but continuing to do so can delay the healing process. By avoiding your pain, you’re not really dealing with it; you’re merely postponing it.

Surrounding yourself continually with people. Spending time by yourself is vital to healing. When you’re constantly with people, you can be tempted to have them become your strength. But you really do need to learn how to stand on your own to work through the situation. Striking a balance between spending time with others and being alone is so important as you work through the pain.

3. Let go

In letting go, we grow. Sometimes this may even require releasing the friendship entirely.

Deal with your emotions. Acknowledge feelings of love, anger, bitterness, or vindictiveness. Invest in your own personal growth rather than investing in the dead relationship.

Forgive. Forgiveness is an act of the will. It’s releasing feelings of bitterness, resentment, or vengeance toward another person. If you are seeking inner freedom, forgiveness is not an option — you simply have to do it. Forgiveness involves realizing how much God offers to forgive you. It enables you to forgive and see others’ failures through the eyes of mercy. Good friends are good forgivers.

Although forgiveness is to be offered unconditionally, trust needs to be earned. This is particularly important in dysfunctional relationships. It is not always wise to pursue reconciliation if the relationship is harmful.

4. Risk loving again

Intimacy is risky, no doubt about it. Reaching out may result in rejection. So why not play it safe? The cost is too high — there are friends in your future who will be worth the risk. You may never find them if you don’t try again.

Make yourself vulnerable. It is easy to fear rejection. If someone wants to share, but seems hesitant, lead the way by opening up first. It is a precious gift to your friends when they personally discover that you cherish confidentiality and hold their secrets close to your heart. Being vulnerable allows you to bond with each other.

Realize that the risk is worthwhile. As you reflect on your friends, realize some were in your life for only a season. Each of your friends has made an impact on who you’ve become. Realize you may never know why some relationships end. So reflect on the positive blessings and the influence a friendship has made on your life during the happy times. If the friendship was filled with betrayal and pain, reflect on the growth that took place in your own life as you learned to deal with this.

A broken relationship leaves you with a choice — to become bitter or better. Bitterness will only destroy you; it won’t touch the person you’re angry with. So which one will you choose?

If you’re going through trouble with a friend and need someone to talk with, we’re always here to listen. Contact us anytime. Just fill out the form in the Connect tab.

updated September 2019

Photo Credit: Zachary Staines