In my twenty-five years on earth, I’ve had friendships end in a lot of ways. Suddenly, in a large blowout after the HSC finally finished. Over a short period of time, as we learned that some people just don’t work well as travel companions. Or over a longer period of time, drifting apart as our lives headed in different directions.
It’s hard to say which way of losing friends was the most painful, but losing friends almost always sucks, yet we’re often expected to move past it as though it’s just an everyday occurrence.
It’s not. What it is is a loss, and it’s natural to experience feelings of grief after losing a friend. Depending on how long you’ve known them, you might even feel worse than you do after a breakup with someone you’ve only been dating for six months.
But where the ending of a romantic relationship is widely understood to be sad, often devastating, the ending of a friendship doesn’t inspire that same widespread understanding.
It should. Especially when you’re a teenager, losing friends can feel like the end of the world, and while time brings perspective, it’s not helpful to simply tell people that they’ll get over it soon enough, or find new and better friends eventually.
Breaking up with a longtime friend should be looked at the same way as breaking up with a romantic partner, and the fact that it isn’t highlights how much we value (monogamous, heterosexual) romantic relationships over platonic ones.
We need to get better at respecting people’s feelings after a friendship breakup. No telling them that this too will pass, no telling them that they still have other amazing friends – they know these things, but simply knowing them isn’t enough to make them feel magically better.
Take time to grieve your friendships, and don’t beat yourself up for feeling sad that they’re over. Losing a friend is a loss, even if it isn’t one traditionally recognised as such.