I recently ended a friendship.

That might make it sound like it was my choice, but we were both equally hurt, angry, and confused. It started with something small, like all big problems do, and ended in stony silence.

Honestly, I’m still reeling from the aftermath. Because the truth is, it doesn’t matter how or why a friendship ends, there are just some things you’re never prepared for when it does.

When a friendship ends, it’s painful. 

We talk about the agony of breakups all the time, but no one talks about how much it hurts when you lose a friend.

No one talks about the deep gash it cleaves in your heart and the void it forms in your life. It’s a different kind of heartbreak because, unlike family, you get to choose your friends. So it hurts that much more when they don’t choose you back.

When a friendship ends, it’s all-consuming.

It keeps you up at night, tossing and turning in bed, replaying every single word of the last exchange you had. Was there something you could have done differently? Something you should have said? Was it your fault? You literally can’t sleep with the knowledge that someone who used to be such an integral part of your life is no longer in it.

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When a friendship ends, it’s like a death.

You have to accept it, grieve it, and come to terms with it. The only difference is that you’re mourning someone who is still very much alive. The worst part is having to move on, but apart—you’re both walking your respective paths, they just never intersect anymore.

When a friendship ends, it’s messy.

Suddenly you don’t know where you stand. Your sense of equilibrium is off. It’s hard being around mutual friends because you all can see the giant elephant in the room, you just don’t acknowledge it. One chance encounter can ruin your day. People pick sides. They say things behind your back. There’s jealousy and resentment, and it’s never a clean break.

When a friendship ends, it doesn’t just disappear.

You see old memories pop up randomly on social media, and every time it feels like a scab being ripped off. Sometimes her name comes up in conversation, or you happen to glance at a picture she’s tagged in as you’re scrolling. Maybe you’re technically still “friends” as far as the rest of the world is concerned, but deep down you know it will never be the same.

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When a friendship ends, it’s revealing.

You see people for who are they are. You realize you can’t control what others think or how they respond.

You figure out what your boundaries are. You attempt to find closure even if it’s never offered to you. You try and turn your mistakes into learning opportunities. You give yourself grace. You work on forgiveness.

When a friendship ends, it’s one of the hardest things you’ll ever have to go through.

You’ll be heartbroken. And angry. And unbelievably sad.

But you’ll also learn a whole lot about yourself.

And most of the time, when a friendship ends . . .

You’ll find out what a good one should look like.

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