How to Get Over a Friendship Breakup in 6 Steps

Disclaimer: I am not a mental health professional, so any advice offered in this post is based on personal experience and not meant to treat any trauma or mental disorders. Ask your therapist for that! This post is heavier than usual and mentions themes of death and loss. If that's not for you, please skip this week's post. I will be back with more lighthearted content next week!

Tw: death (mentioned in the next three paragraphs)
Yellow turn sign full of bullet holes.
A sign Carley found while hiking on a solo road trip she took after breaking up with two of her friends.

Two years ago, I lost friends after two major life events: my grandma's death and moving 250 miles from home to start my first year of college

Friendship breakups are a normal part of entering adulthood because everyone grows at their own pace on their personal and professional path. School, work, or online friendships commonly end when one or both friends graduate, quit their job, or move on because the friends no longer share the common ground on which they built their friendship.

This month, my family was finally able to gather safely to inter my grandma's ashes. And around the same time, I once again lost friends. 

But this time it wasn't because I was physically or emotionally distant from their lives. These friendship breakups stemmed from a moral disagreement and a lack of personal respect, which are deal breakers for me in my interpersonal relationships.

It's your friends' responsibility to educate themselves in this broken system, heal themselves enough so they're finally in a place where they can accept help and gain tools to help themselves. And until they do, you need to let them go.
Because you can't make lasting change on people who don't want to change the things they can control. 
So how do you deal with friend breakups in a healthy way when they happen?

1: Distance yourself from the friend(s) you just broke up with.

Like regular breakups, friendship breakups often end with a lot of emotion. If you break up in person, it's your responsibility to remove yourself from the situation and get somewhere safe. If you break up online, mute them and give yourself space to process your emotions so you don't say something you'll regret.  

2: Cry. Or get angry. That works too.

Allow yourself to feel your emotions. It's ok to feel sad, confused, angry, hopeless, relieved, or a combination of all five as long as you're not taking your emotions out on other people. Losing a friend is heartbreaking and it can feel like losing a part of yourself, the person you were when you were their friend. 

3: Practice self-care. 

Self-care looks different for everyone and while you may think of self-soothing gestures like taking a bath or listening to music, self-care could also be meeting with your therapist or consensual venting to a close friend or family member, sticking to your daily routine, or resting to restore your energy. 

As an empath, self-care is often journaling, calling my friends on walks, and napping. 

4: Do something by yourself.

This step has a bit of introvert bias in it, I know. But what I mean by doing something for yourself is shifting the time you would've spent with the friend you just broke up with into something you love or always wanted to try. You still have to process your emotions (sorry, no toxic positivity on this page) but distractions can help channel your energy (or lack thereof) into something tangible. 

As an anxious ambivert ™ , I spent time alone after my friend breakup by taking a solo road trip to meet up with one of my college friends (see next blog post for that story!). The three-hour drive there and back gave me time to recharge, but I wasn't alone long enough for those pesky intrusive thoughts to ruin my day.

If you're extroverted, you could take part in a safe large group activity like going to an outdoor concert (making sure to follow COVID guidelines), join a Discord server, or hop on a zoom call with other friends. 

5: Maintain healthy boundaries. 

Will talking to them again really bring you closure? Or will it just reopen wounds you've been working to heal? Sometimes the best course of action is to block them and move on, but this is difficult if you have to interact with them at school or work. Reach out to your teachers or boss and make them aware of the situation. Make a plan to minimize contact with them without compromising your needs. It's ok not to feel ok around them. 

6: Reflect on the Friendship

You might reflect on a previous friendship for years after it ends. If your former friend was emotionally manipulative, you could also end up invalidating your feelings. As a recovering people pleaser, I always feel some guilt when I lose friends, even if I wasn't "in the wrong." 

If you were toxic, apologizing is probably the right thing to do. But don't expect the other person to accept your apology. Again, both sides can reach closure without an apology and the damage done to your relationship will always be there. 

Give the good memories with them a place in your mind but don't romanticize your friendship. It ended for a reason.

Sign on wall reads "Always be prepared for slack action."
Sign printed on the wall of a caboose at a train museum Carley visited on her solo road trip.