"But I thought we were friends...?"
The pain caused by loss is more 'obvious' when a loved one dies, but what about when a friendship you held closely ends.
The fact is that often what we feel, would be correctly defined as grief.
Some definitions of grief acknowledge grief to be;
"The response to the loss in all of its totality – including its physical, emotional, cognitive, behavioral and spiritual manifestations – and as a natural and normal reaction to loss. Put simply, grief is the price we pay for love, and a natural consequence of forming emotional bonds to people, projects and possessions."
Grief according to the above definition is a natural consequence of forming emotional bonds to people. Our friends do become bonded to us. They share in our highs and lows, our wins and losses. They are at the end of a phone or across the table or in the passenger seat of our car. They help us experience the beauty that life can bring and enhance our lives for the better. They are always there, even after we have a silly argument or fight.
Simply put, friends make life better!
The truth is that none of us really ever expect a friendship to end…especially the ones that have been present for 10, 20 or even more years.
I remember I was sharing with one of my lifelong friends about another friendship that ‘out of the blue’ had come to an end….and a messy end at that.
I said “I find it so hard to get my head around the fact that we were going to walk away from almost 20 years of fantastic friendship over a moment in time, a misunderstanding, a perceived justified anger, whatever the reason actually…but to end our friendship over it…really?”
The pain a loss of friendship can cause must never be understated.
In many ways (if we’re honest with ourselves), it affects our relationships moving forward too, because those lost friendships are always in the back of our minds. The walls around our heart become almost impenetrable, making it easier and more justifiable to remain at arm’s length – as we ask ourselves the following; “is it really worth investing in this friendship?” “how vulnerable should I be?” “can I even trust this person?” and so on. The reality is that it is hard to maintain friendships over time; just like anything, they take significant investment from both sides. Alas the loss of something so treasured can have devastating consequences.
I was having a conversation with a friend recently, and we were discussing the difference between friendships based on a “role” compared to “relationship”. Let me unpack that a little for you … friendships can be circumstantial; they can be environmental; they can be nurtured based on external influences (such as your employment, residence, passions and so on). But what about when those factors change or shift in some way?
I have found that it is then that we discover which friendships were founded on our role’s, rather than our relationships. It is when those factors change that we learn the foundations of our friendships.
Over the years I have had many friendships change and shift in some way – and let me assure you, it can be (and is!) excruciatingly difficult. You begin to dissect every interaction, overthink motives, diminish once fond memories and question the depth of a once seemingly unshakable friendship.
I wish I were here to tell you that all will be well and that the friendships in your life will never endure rough seas, but alas, I am not and cannot.
I am here to tell you however that sometimes, just sometimes, friendships (like everything) are seasonal. There will be relationships in your life that change, shift and even become obsolete. Don’t ignore them, instead acknowledge them; process them and grieve them – because it will only be then, that you will truly allow yourself to be vulnerable once again; investing in the unknown; the new seasons; the new friendships and the new relationships.
You never know who is about to walk in to your life and change it for the better. Always stay hopeful for your best is yet to come.
By Steve Morrison and Angelica Klein-Boonschate