It’s fair to say that all breakups, no matter their nature, are painful to some extent. You might be mourning the relationship, who you were in it or what it cost to get out of it. The ending of something we held dear naturally sears with the sting of change, even when we know it’s for the best. Usually, with romantic relationships, there are familiar and culturally prescribed relationship beats we follow: we ideally define the relationship through conversation or physical touch and end it the same way.
With platonic relationships, we’re rarely afforded the formality of clear relationship stages. It’s relatively normalised to just bumble along in friendships without the same degree of intentionality we dedicate to romantic connections. Nevertheless, the degrees of intimacy cut just as deep with our friends so that when they are lost to us, the grief can be all-consuming. Friends are our chosen family, the people we form bonds with based on our personalities, shared experiences and interests. They are, in many ways, the people who shape our present and thus their importance cannot be understated.
If we don’t have the relatively familiar, if flawed, crouches to support us when navigating their ebbs and flows, the grief is compounded by another sense of loss. When a friend exits our lives, whether it be through conflict or a slow drifting apart, we’re less versed in how to deal with it. So, what can we do when navigating these breakups?
Validate your own feelings
Admit to yourself that this is what you’re going through and that it’s a normal part of relating to other humans. Sitting with our feelings can be deeply uncomfortable, but not life-threatening in and of itself. Care for your suffering. Take your time to mourn, journal and speak to other friends about your feelings. Try to relay your own experience, dropping the storyline of who said what and when. What are you left with? How can you, and other people around you, support you in that?
Ask yourself what the situation is teaching you
Endings bring new light to relationships. They can inform us of how we want to feel in a relationship moving forward or what we need to learn. Through this growth, we can move towards the friendships we desire, the kinds of connections that feed our souls. There are many different kinds of friendships — ones that survive anything, ones that reconnect after gaps apart, toxic ones, ones that don’t weather changes, ones that nurture us and ones that simply are good fun. Figure out what you need and what steps you can take towards your desires. If you recognise your role in how the relationship ended, coming to terms with your mistakes means extending yourself the grace to do better next time.
Accept that life takes us on different, sometimes diverging, paths
Sometimes, the biggest struggle of breakups is adjusting our expectations of what we thought the relationship was. People we imagined to be in our lives forever aren’t, throwing our worlds into an emotional free fall. Friendships are subject to external influences that we sometimes have no control over. Life stages like having children, moving away or simply forgetting to reply to texts can mean that people drop out of our social circles without it being anyone’s fault.
Luckily, your life and purpose exist beyond the connections you have with other people. Give your time and energy to understanding what that purpose is, even if it’s simply to take the next breath. Excavate what brings you joy and pour your energy into it. Bring it back to the fundamentals of what makes you tick. Whether that be hobbies, taking a long bath or cooking a meal for yourself, provide yourself with pleasurable sensory experiences to soothe your heart.
Nurture the relationships you still have in your life
Finding sources of support as you move through this experience is crucial. Make sure you check in with your remaining friends and ask for honest feedback when you’re ready to hear it. Putting a smile on someone else's face can also jolt us out of the anxious spiral that’s easy to get swept up in when we go through painful changes.
More than anything, remember that by observing your emotions you will witness them change. The acute pain after a breakup doesn’t last forever, no matter how cliché it might feel in the moment. This too shall end. Not every experience is inherently fruitful — some things just suck. However, you are never alone in your feelings.
Take stock of your relationships
This might be a good time to reflect on the other relationships in your life. Are there others at risk of ending? Do any need some TLC? Our relationship MOT resource can help you assess where you're at and take the right steps to strengthen your relationships.
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