Healing from the Trauma of Broken Friendship

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 for 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 20s—and the friendships we cherish in our 20s may be long gone by the time we're in our 30s.

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 follow me on Instagram, you'll recall how I shared a bit about my own friendship breakups and how important it is to do the healing work.

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 grief to the next. (Yes, healing from a broken friendship is a grieving process!)

The five stages of grief are:

  1. Denial – Saying things like, "I can't believe this is happening to me!" are common in the stage of denial. The danger of denial is that it can cause us to blur the lines between healthy boundaries and barriers as defense mechanisms. While boundaries hold space for friendships to blossom, barriers are put up to protect us from letting anyone get close enough to hurt us again. Giving yourself a little extra me-time may be needed, but creating a life of isolation is a recipe for loneliness, resentment, and depression.

  2. Anger – Once you move from thoughts of denial to thoughts of, "How could she? Why would she do this to me?" then you've officially entered the anger stage. You may even be mad at yourself for allowing the situation to happen. In this phase, remember to give yourself grace. You're only human.

  3. If/Then – This is the phase where you start reimagining the situation and thinking about what you could've, should've, or would've done given the chance to course-correct. Simply put, this just isn't healthy. Allowing your thoughts to ruminate isn't going to change anything. Now is the time to start working on forgiveness. Forgiveness is a powerful energy. That means that even if you don't ever talk to that person again, forgiving them will only help you in the long run.

  4. Depression – Thoughts like, "What's wrong with me? I'm incapable of having healthy friendships. This is all my fault," may try to creep in at this stage. These thoughts are lies that need to be cast down and replaced with truth. Build upon the grace you've established for yourself and the forgiveness you've given them to restore your confidence. Coming up with an affirmation or positive mantra to recite when you're down can help you refocus on your awesomeness.

  5. Acceptance – You know you're in the final phase of acceptance when you start to pick up on different lessons that you've learned. Here, you're able to 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. 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 whole again.

  1. Get it out of your system. Buy a fresh, clean notebook and journal the experience. Whenever you feel triggered, write down your feelings and process them. Also, write out the lessons you learned during the friendship that come to light. If counseling is part of your process, this is a good place to keep track of advice received in that capacity.

  2. Honor the humanness. My mantra was, "We're all just human beings trying to figure out this thing called life." Remembering that for yourself and the other person removes the intensity and allows your thoughts to be rooted in grace and forgiveness.

  3. Take your thoughts captive. When you notice your mind starting to play out situations or conversations that took place, don't fantasize about what hurtful words were said to you or what you wish you would've done differently. Instead, imagine yourself telling the person, "I am grateful for what this friendship taught me. Now, this season of my life has ended and your job is done. I release you."

  4. Speak life. One Jedi mind trick is to literally wish the best for the person. For example, if you were in a situation in which the person was jealous of you, start affirming that person aloud. Literally 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 will return to you ten-fold.