Recovering from the loss of a friendship is difficult and painful. When a friend holds a special place in our life and we have shared secrets, hopes and dreams, a loss affects every part of us…spiritually, physically and emotionally.
In my experience, I have found there is no shortcut to healing from the loss of a friendship. A broken friendship is hard and recovery can take a long time.
When we lose a friend due to a change of circumstances, conflict or death, there is a hole in our heart that was once occupied by their presence in our life.
A Broken Friendship
When I was in grade school, I had two best friends-Vickie and Milisa-one lived on the left of my house and the other on the right.
We played records, Candy Land, hopscotch and jump rope. We rode banana seat bikes and bought ice cream from the man in the old van ringing a bell.
These neighbors were my first best friends, and they were special to me. I still have vivid memories of our time together.
Everything was perfect in our small world, until the day Vickie’s family moved. I remember they bought a nice, new brick house about 20 minutes away from our neighborhood.
In my young mind, Vickie could have moved to another country. I saw Vickie once or twice after her family moved and then we lost touch.
The friendship was broken…lost. When a friendship ends suddenly, there is an ache associated with the person’s absence.
Although Milisa and I remained friends and continued to share experiences, I remember the special place in my heart that my short-lived friendship with Vickie held, and the pain associated with the loss of her friendship.
The Loss of Friendship is Inevitable
My daughter recently experienced the loss of a friendship at school and mentioned to me, “This feels awful…I hope it never happens again”.
I wish I could have told her losing that friend was the last time it would happen.
It grieved me to tell her that in life the loss of friendship is inevitable and never gets easy to understand.
Like my friendship with Vickie, that was unexpectedly cut short, it is difficult and unnatural to disconnect with someone regardless of our age; it is just sad to say goodbye to a friend.
For a long time, I naively thought that the loss of a friendship, at least through conflict, was preventable if I did the right thing.
If I was a good, loyal friend then all of my friendships would endure and pain would be avoided.
There are a couple problems with my thoughts.
- First of all, I will say or do the wrong thing and cause someone to be hurt, and I cannot control if they chose to forgive me.
- Secondly others may hurt me and I may struggle with moving past it.
Either scenario can end or permanently alter a friendship.
Regardless of our best efforts, there are reasons people choose to end friendships such as unavoidable changes in life or circumstances outside our control.
“Are you grieving a relationship that has deteriorated? Whether it dissolved in a long, tangled mess over the years or conflict erupted out of nowhere, broken relationships hurt. Maybe it felt good to get out of that relationship then, but now, as you lie awake staring at the ceiling, regret begins seeping into your bones. Maybe you long for reconciliation, but it hasn’t come — even after years of praying. Dear child, it is grievous when our actions caused a broken bridge or when those we love don’t respond to our outreached hand.” Christina Vinson Faithgateway.com
A broken friendship can be very sad and hard to process, but in life the loss of friendships is also inevitable.
We can’t control the loss of a friend, but we can:
- recover from the pain of a broken friendship
- grow in our love and trust in God
- learn to be a better friend to others.
As difficult as it is to accept the loss of a friendship, it doesn’t mean we have to hide behind a wall of pain.
We can seek out new friends, and embrace the possibility that a new friendship may blossom.
Although it is sometimes inevitable, losing a friend does not reflect our value or ability to be loved by others. God is always our friend and sees and knows our worth. We can move on and find a new place of belonging.
4 Ways We can Lose a Friend
From my experience, I have witnessed four ways we can lose a friend:
- The friendship ends suddenly due to uncontrollable circumstances such as a move or a finished assignment.
If possible, learn to continue the friendship in a new way.
- The friendship ends after slowly changing over time and naturally fades due to differences in our life path.
It can help us accept the loss of a friendship when we understand that some people come into our life for a season.
- The friendship ends because of conflict.
It can help us move on after the loss of a friendship if we understand what went wrong. In some situations, it is a simple misunderstanding that can be unpacked and possibly lead to reconciliation. In other situations, we will have to grieve the loss.
- The friendship ends because of death.
This is very painful and very final. We need time to grieve and celebrate the love that was shared and sometimes seek outside counsel.
Nancy Guthrie writes in Hearing Jesus Speak into your Sorrow: “I don’t know what has brought sorrow into your life. Maybe you too, have stood by a grave and said good-bye. Or maybe you have had to bury your dreams for a future with someone you love… In times of sorrow and disappointment, everything we believe can be called into question, can’t it? Yet if we turn away from God, there really is no other place to go for meaning or peace. Anywhere away from Him is hopelessly dark and empty.”
How do you Get Over the Loss of a Friendship?
When my friend Vickie moved, I was disappointed and sad. She had been an important part of my daily life, but I had to move on and, like most children, rebounded quite quickly.
There are some lessons to be learned from my transition that I have used in adulthood.
- It many ways it is easier to process the loss of friendship when it is not connected to a wound.
- It takes time to get over the loss of any friend, but if there is no blame or forgiving involved, it seems easier. It is just accepting the change and adapting to a new reality.
- Getting over losing a friend due to conflict can take a lot longer, but if there is some type of closure, it helps us recover and grow from the experience.
Closure after a Friendship Ends
Closure can include a conversation with each other, a note that is either sent or used as a journal for only yourself, or a meeting with a third person to repair or end the friendship in the best possible way.
Closure can be very difficult when hurt is involved but usually a necessary part of moving on.
Once you have done everything in your power to reconcile or walk away from a broken friendship, you can begin the healing of your own spirit.
Jesus Lost a Friend
Jesus’ friendship story brings me hope, comfort and provides insight. He was a good friend who still experienced great loss and betrayal.
When Jesus walked around with his disciples for three years, He probably created memories and deep attachments. I don’t know for sure, but probably even Judas had fellowship with Jesus .
I wonder, if Jesus knew and saw traits in Judas that would prepare Him for the loss of the friendship? Based on scripture, He probably did.
Even after Judas’ betrayal, Jesus went on to fulfill his purpose on the Cross and extend mercy to those around Him until His last breath.
Despite being in excruciating pain as He hung on a cross wrongly accused, some of His last words were merciful,
“Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.”
Luke 23:34 NLT
That is remarkable because when I feel betrayed, it is difficult to be gracious as I process my hurt. But because I am a Christ follower, I walk in the hope that I can move toward forgiveness and continue to love.
How to Move on from a Friendship
Regardless of the reason for the loss of friendship, we can grow and become better at relationships if that is what we desire. If we don’t learn how to move on from a friendship, we can stay stuck.
Here are 5 steps to help us walk out our healing and recovery to discover the power of mercy:
- Acknowledge the loss of friendship and the grief associated with it. Sometimes we are tempted to fill the void with another person or thing and don’t commit to walk through the loss.
“My flesh and my heart fail; But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”
Psalm 73:26 NKJV
2. Process the loss of friendship with God through prayer.
“Lord, be gracious to us; we long for you. Be our strength every morning,
our salvation in time of distress.” Isaiah 33:2 NIV
3. Ask a trusted friend for advice or just to process your feelings. Losing a friend is difficult but also gives us an opportunity to grow closer to another friend.
Lisa-Jo Baker writes in her article 7 Ways for Woman to Find Soul Friends:
“I’m so hungry for conversation with someone who knows me and is interested in me beyond a witty tweet or Facebook update. We talk for hours. I didn’t realize how much I had been needing to say, to process out loud, until someone was willing to listen without rush or deadlines.”
4. Give yourself time to heal.
“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed.”
Psalm 34:18 NLT
5. Forgive…this is the gift we give to ourselves that brings freedom from current pain and space to love and embrace others in our life.
“Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.”
Ephesians 4:31-32 NLT
These 5 steps help us experience growth through the loss of friendship. We can then move forward and release the pain and the person from any debt that can cause us to focus on unhealthy emotions.
We can cover our feelings of vulnerability with the knowledge that we are loved by God.
Bible Verses to Provide Comfort after the Loss of a Friendship
Reading about characters in the Bible, such as Aaron, Jonathan & Caleb, who struggled with their relationships helps me gain perspective.
There are also many encouraging Bible verses that speak of the complexity and reward of friendships. Here are a few that have brought me comfort after the loss of a friendship.
John 16:22 NLT
“So you have sorrow now, but I will see you again; then you will rejoice, and no one can rob you of that joy.”
Matthew 5:4 NLT
“God blesses those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”
Growing Closer to God & Comforting Others after Losing a Friend
We don’t always know what caused a friendship to end. As we walk through the healing process and gain wisdom, our scars guide us and help us become a better friend.
One great byproduct of a broken friendship is we can grow closer to God and our reliance on Him. We are also able to comfort others who are going through a similar story.
Through our experience of struggle and loss we can move into current and new friendships with fresh insight and a stronger identity in Christ. This new confidence helps us love and comfort others.
2 Corinthians 1:3-4 NLT
“All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.”
Have you recently experienced the loss of a friendship? Would love to hear how God has helped you walk through your experience in the comments.
Mary Rooney Armand loves to write inspiring, faith based stories. She focuses on helping others grow in their intimacy with Christ and thrive in their personal relationships. Mary lives in New Orleans with her husband Cory and four children. Besides writing, she teaches Bible Studies and leads small groups. In 2020 she created ButterflyLiving and a Bible Study titled “Identity” which is available on Amazon. To learn more visit maryarmand.com.