A young Black woman bouncing back from a best friend breakup.

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How to Bounce Back From a Best Friend Breakup

Friendships grow throughout our lives. Sometimes that means growing closer with others and other times that means growing apart. Naturally, we usually chase that first option. We seek the building of friendships, the cultivation of intimacy. But sometimes, growing apart is inevitable. Sooner or later, we all go through a best friend breakup.

The reality of a best friend breakup

There’s really nothing like a best friend breakup. The feeling that you just lost someone so important to you and now there’s just an empty space where they used to be. It’s painful when that breakup is loud, messy, and ends in a fight. But it’s somehow worse when that breakup is quiet, gradual, and there isn’t a conflict. 

The quiet breakups, where you simply just grow apart and stop talking, are the worst. You know that you didn’t do anything wrong and that the other person didn’t do anything wrong, but the friendship simply fizzles out.

The summer after I graduated high school and before I started college, I went through a best friend breakup. It started with a text exchange to plan a farewell lunch, when this friend stopped responding and lunch never happened. Now, this friend of mine has never been good at answering their phone, so this wasn’t a surprise. I wasn’t worried about being ghosted. At first. But when my next 10 text messages over the following nine months all went unanswered, that was more of a concern.

This person had been someone that I was very close to in my senior year of high school. We had that special kind of understanding of one another that you don’t have with all of your friends. And then one day … it was over. No blow out fight, nothing done wrong, no hard feelings; it was just done. 

My journey of grief through that best friend breakup went something like anger, bargaining, more anger, depression, anger again, and then finally a mix of depression and acceptance. I had spent so much time being frustrated at my friend for not answering their phone, that my frustration slowly morphed into an overwhelming feeling of loss. 

After having an emotional breakdown over this, curled up with my mom, I eventually started to shift my outlook. By letting out my built up emotions, I was able to instead be grateful for the friendship we did have together and let myself miss it.

Let yourself mourn the friendship while also being grateful for it

The answer to bouncing back from a best friend breakup is not to pretend the friendship never happened. Nor is it to find a new friend to replace the old one. You have to sit with it — reflect on the friendship and be glad that it existed. 

There’s the clichéd phrase, “Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.” I’d love to edit that: “It’s okay to cry because it’s over, but also smile because it happened.” We can be sad and grateful at the same time; they are not opposites. 

Even though silent, fizzling friendship breakups are painful, this isn’t to say that big, blowout best friend breakups aren’t just as difficult. Dealing with betrayal, distrust, or jealousy is not easy. Losing someone in this robust way punches a different kind of hole in your heart. What were once big, happy feelings for this person are now big, angry feelings. 

It’s also important to note that just because a friendship ends does not mean it was a fake friendship. Real friends can break up and fake friends can break up, but the breakup alone does not define what kind of friendship you had. 

My best friend breakup came from a 100% real and authentic friendship. Just because we aren’t as close now as we were back then does not mean that it was fake. The connection was real, the love was real, the compatibility was real. And sometimes a friendship, a love, is only meant to be temporary.

People can be temporary for a reason

While it’s not fun to admit, some of the people in our lives are supposed to be temporary. They’re put in our lives to make us into someone or bring us to some place that we are supposed to be. 

I get weekly emails from The New Mindset Newsletter, written by Case Kenny. And a recent newsletter touched on this: “Temporary people move you in the direction you’re supposed to go. Temporary isn’t a reflection of what you lost. It’s a reflection of what you needed (even if that isn’t clear until later) and what you’ll come to gain.”

Kenny went on to say, “When their chapter is over, you’re not just moving on… you’re leveling up. You’re not walking away with nothing. You’re walking away with the experience, the wisdom, and the confidence of someone who knows their worth and won’t settle for less.”

Sometimes the only thing you can do is acknowledge that you and your friend have both grown and might not be compatible anymore. And that’s okay. It’s painful, but it’s important for you to let yourself feel all of those emotions.

We outgrow our friends and our experiences, life changes in ways we could never prepare for, and that’s messy and hard to deal with. But it’s also what connects us to a stranger on the other side of the world. It’s also what being human is all about.

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