BFF breakups are notoriously brutal. Unlike romantic relationships where you can vent to your bestie for hours, losing your closest friend can leave you feeling even more hollow and isolated. Getting through it is no easy feat, but it can be done. Eventually, things can get so much better than you'll be weirdly grateful that the breakup happened. I spoke with Dr. Andrea Bonior, author and adjunct professor of Psychology at Georgetown University, about the best ways to cope:
1. Don't try to force closure
Closure feels like an emotionally healthy thing to seek – but it has to come naturally, and when you're both calm. If you're in the thick of a dramatic breakup with your best friend, it can get really tough to explain how you both feel without escalating the situation.
"If the relationship had grown dysfunctional, then the same factors that made it end will also likely prevent there being a healthy and mature 'closure' process," says Dr. Bonior. "[You] can accept that something is, without always knowing why. (And [you] can keep reminding [yourself] that no matter the reason, [your] friend simply wasn't capable of being the person [you] needed in order for the friendship to be sustained)."
Maybe one day, with time and distance, you'll be able to better understand what even went wrong. Maybe you won't. But in the meantime, you still have to move on.
2. Give yourself a lot to look forward to
Since friend breakups can hurt just as much (if not more) than romantic breakups, some of the antidotes – like keeping very busy – are the same. Dr. Bonior recommends "the same coping techniques that help boost mood in other circumstances – exercise, time outdoors, expressing gratitude, looking to help others, spending time with people whose company [you] enjoy, [and] learning new things."
She emphasises that booking your schedule with empty distractions is probably not the best, and stresses changes that actually improve your life in the long-run. "Setting a new goal for yourself – whether professional, financial, fitness-oriented, or anything else – can be helpful to work toward as well."
3. Meet new people – but don't pressure yourself to find a new BFF ASAP
If the friend you lost was the person you hung out with most of the time, you can have an overwhelming desire to fill that void immediately (much like wanting to date someone new right after a devastating breakup). Stronger bonds have to happen organically. In the meantime, casting a wide net and opening yourself to new people is never a bad thing.
"Focus on becoming a part of a community, which often helps friendship form through creating repeated contact, and could take the form of anything from a yoga class to a coffee shop to a volunteer site to your neighborhood listserv," says Bonior. You will either make friends who like the same things you do, or you'll keep yourself occupied doing something you actually like on a Saturday night. Win win!
4. Tailor your social media if needed
Is there anything more enraging than seeing the ex-friend who wronged you having a BLAST with their new squad on Instagram? Being reminded of them at all (but especially when they seem unbothered with losing you) can be super hurtful, but it's also easily avoidable.
"In general, you don't want to do something aggressive that will only make you feel worse (or lead your friend to escalate things), but you also want to protect yourself from constantly being reminded of your upset," says Dr. Bonior.
The "unfollow" and "untag" buttons were invented for this reason. Don't block them if you don't want to, but keeping their stuff off your radar for now is probably for the best.
5. Have a game plan when dealing with mutual friends
If you hang out with some of the same people or might feasibly see each other at a party sometime, you have the added issue of "What do I say to everyone who still thinks we're best buds???"
Ideally, the answer is: not much at all, if you want to avoid drama. "Develop a mantra that you might need to repeat over and over again – both to yourself, and also to people who may ask," says Bonior. "'She and I don't really spend much time together' said with a basic, pleasant face can go a long way. If you bump into the friend, some similar, civil acknowledgement –'Hope you're doing well' can help stave off the awkwardness."
6. Try to learn something from it (if you can)
"Look for patterns," suggests Dr. Bonior. "Do you tend to have a lot of friendships where this happens? Did this friendship break up for reasons that you've seen other relationships in your life have problems about? Do you tend to choose a lot of friends like this person?"
The silver lining to a friend breakup is addressing your own potential toxic behaviors, if there are any. On the flip side, your friend may have just been deeply problematic on their own, and you might have to realize a sometimes-harder truth: there was nothing you could've done to fix it.
7. Accept that you may never reconnect
Chances are, you either never want to see this person again...or you're holding onto hope of a reconciliation someday. While the idea of forgiving them and hugging can sound beautiful, you can't actually count on that as a possibility.
"Sometimes, there are specific things that you will hold out hope for – your friend getting sober, or not being so emotionally exhausting if she finally works through her own stuff – but you have to realize your own lack of control in any of that happening," says Bonior.
In a few years, one of you might reach out and you can rebuild your friendship and make it stronger than ever. Or you just won't ever speak again. Forgiving them (and yourself) can happen regardless. Whatever happens in the future, you need to move on now.
H/T Cosmo US