Healing from the Trauma of Broken Friendship
Updated: Sep 3
Heartbreak is something we're rarely prepared for, especially during those early puppy-love phases of life. The older we get, the more prepared we become of the fact that there's a 50/50 chance the love will last. But, this isn't the only relationship that has a 50/50 chance of survival. The friendships we develop over the years see the same fate. The reality is that the friends we have as teenagers may not be around in our twenties – and the friendships we cherish in our twenties may be long gone by the time we're in our thirties.
Sometimes, people just naturally drift apart. You go to different colleges, move to different cities, and before you know it you haven't spoken in years. Then there are friendships that are broken because of deception and dishonesty. More often than not, friendships that face a certain level of scorn are beyond repair and simply can't be mended. Be it gossip, insecurity, jealousy, or another issue, experiencing betrayal in friendship can be just as devastating as heartbreak from romantic relationships and they're just as hard to bounce back from.
The Grieving Process
I'm grateful to say that I can count on one hand how often I've experienced this sort of disappointment in my life – but every, single time it hurt like hell. If you've seen the first episode of my show on IGTV, you'll recall how I share a bit about my most recent experience in this department and how important it is to do the work and heal.
There were five action steps that were part of my healing process. The thing about these action steps is that you can go through them multiple times as you move from one stage of the grieving process to the next. (Yes, healing from a broken friendship is a grieving process!)
The five stages of grief are:
Denial – Saying things, "I can't believe this is happening to me!" are common in the stage of denial. The danger of denial is that it also makes us put up a wall as a defense mechanism to protect us from letting anyone close enough to experience this type of pain again. While it's important to learn the lessons, creating a life of isolation is a recipe for loneliness, resentment, and depression.
Anger – Once you move from thoughts of denial to thoughts of, "How could she?! Oh, I oughtta...!!" then you've officially entered the anger stage. You may even be mad at yourself for allowing the situation to happen. Remember to give yourself grace. You're only human.
If/Then – This is the phase where you start reimagining the situation and thinking about what you could've, should've, would've done. Simply put, this just isn't health – especially if your alternate words or actions are harmful.
Depression – In this stage, you start to beat yourself up. Thoughts like, "What's wrong with me? I'm incapable of having healthy friendships. This is all my fault," may try to creep in. These thoughts are lies that need to be cast down and replaced with truth.
Acceptance – You know you're in the final phase of acceptance when you take the friendship for what it was worth and begin to move on.
The Healing Process
Healing can involve many layers from professional counseling to therapeutic arts. For me, I found these five action steps to be extremely beneficial. What I found most surprising was that a lot of steps were repeated as I moved from one stage of the grieving process to the next. There is no set timeline for anyone's healing process, but just to give you some perspective, it took me about three months from the date the incident occurred to the day I felt... healed. My prayer is that these steps help you heal and move forward, too.
Get it out of your system. Buy a fresh, clean notebook and journal the experience. Whenever you feel triggered, write your feelings in this notebook. Also, write out the lessons you learned during the friendship that you're now recognizing in the healing process.
Honor the humanness. My mantra in these seasons is "We're all just human beings trying to figure out this thing called life." Remembering that for yourself and the other person removes the weight on the intensity and allows your thoughts to be rooted in grace and mercy.
Take your thoughts captive. When you reimagine the scene, don't fantasize about what hurtful words were said or what you wish you would've done differently. Instead, imagine yourself telling the person, "I am grateful for this season and the lessons I have learned. Now, our season has ended and I let you go."
Speak life. One Jedi mind trick is to literally wish the best for the person. For example, in the situation of jealousy, I would say aloud, "[Person's Name], you are blessed. You are confident. You are secure in who you are. You are enough." The good vibes you send out will return to you ten-fold.
Cleanse with fire. Eventually, you'll get to the point where you realize you can think about the person or situation without going through an emotional upheaval. When this happens, burn the pages of the notebook. It may sound crazy but you'll be surprised how doing so releases energetic residue and allows you to move on.