Recovering from the loss of a friendship is difficult and painful. When a friend holds a special place in our lives and we share 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. Losing a friend is hard and recovery can take a long time.
When we lose a friend due to a change in circumstances, conflict, or death, there is a hole in our heart that was once occupied by their presence in our life.
When a Close Friendship Ends
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 dingy van with 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, and I never dreamed our close friendship would end 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.
When a close friendship ends, it is broken…lost. When a friendship ends suddenly, there is an unexpected 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 I felt when a close friendship ends.
How to Accept a Lost Friendship
My daughter recently experienced a lost friendship at school and mentioned to me, “This feels awful. I hope it never happens again”.
I wish I could have told her it would be the last time she would feel rejected or betrayed and lose a friend.
But that is not reality. It grieved me to tell her that rejection and lost friendship is inevitable; loss never gets easy to understand.
With my friend Vickie, when our friendship ended suddenly, it was unnatural to disconnect. Regardless of our age; it is sad to say goodbye to a friend.
For a long time, I naively thought that losing a friend, 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 of problems with my thoughts on a lost friendship.
- 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 or betray 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.
How to accept that a friendship is over:
As difficult as it is to accept that a friendship is over, it doesn’t mean we have to hide behind a wall of pain and close ourselves off from other relationships.
- we can always recover from the pain of losing a friend
- we can grow in our love and trust in God
- we can learn from the loss of friendship and become a better more authentic friend to others.
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.
Why Do We Lose Friends? 4 Ways
Why do we lose friends? Although there are as many answers to this question as there are friendships, from my experience, here are four reasons why we lose friends.
- We can lose a friend suddenly due to uncontrollable circumstances such as a move or a finished assignment.
If possible, we can continue the friendship in a new way. When we lose a friend to circumstances we still experience loss, but it is not usually connected to deep pain or hurt.
- We can lose a friend after one or both people change over time and the friendship naturally fades due to differences in life paths.
It can help us accept the loss of a friendship when we understand that some people come into our lives for a season. Recovery from losing a friend because of slow separation seems less painful because it is not one big loss or blow.
- We can lose a friend because of a conflict.
When conflict causes the loss of a friendship it usually causes deep sorrow. When we walk in love and forgiveness it seems losing friends to misunderstandings should not happen, but it does. We are humans working out our salvation day by day, so disappointment, unmet expectations, boundary issues, and unforgiveness lead to the loss of friendships.
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 losing a friend.
- We can lose a friend due to death.
Losing a friend to death 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.
But as an adult, it is not as quick or painless to get over losing a friend. Here are some thoughts on how do you get over the loss of a friendship:
- 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 a friendship, but when there is no blame and forgiveness is involved, the transition is easier. It requires accepting the change and adapting to a new reality without that friend in your life.
- Getting over losing a friend due to conflict usually takes longer, but if there is some type of closure, it helps us recover and grow from the experience.
Closure after Losing a Friend
Closure after losing a friend 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 after losing a friend can be difficult especially when hurt feelings are involved, but it is a necessary part of moving on.
Once you have done everything in your power to reconcile or walk away from the loss of a friendship, you can begin the healing of your own spirit.
Jesus and Judas Had a Relationship that Was Lost
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. Even Jesus and Judas had a relationship.
I wonder if Jesus knew and saw traits in Judas during their relationship that would prepare Him for the loss of the friendship? Based on scripture, He did.
“But Jesus knew who would betray him. That is what he meant when he said, “Not all of you are clean.”
John 13:11 NLT
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 as a Christ-follower, I am encouraged and walk in the hope that I can move toward forgiveness and continue to love regardless of the reason for losing a friend.
How to Move on from Losing a Friendship: 5 Steps
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 persevere and learn how to move on from losing a friend, we can stay discouraged and stuck.
Here are 5 steps on how to move on from losing a friendship to help us walk out our healing and recovery and discover the power of mercy:
Step 1: Acknowledge the Loss of a Friendship
When we acknowledge the loss of a friendship and the grief associated with it, we can begin to heal. Sometimes we are tempted to fill the void with another person or thing and don’t commit to walking through the loss. This affects our ability to build and maintain healthy relationships. Our healing, after losing a friend, starts with acceptance.
“My flesh and my heart fail; But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”
Psalm 73:26 NKJV
Step 2: Pray about the Loss of a Friendship
When we process the loss of a friendship with God through prayer, we grow closer to Him. He replaces our sadness with peace and guidance.
“Lord, be gracious to us; we long for you. Be our strength every morning,
our salvation in time of distress.” Isaiah 33:2 NIV
Step 3: Ask a Trusted Friend for Advice after the Loss of a Friendship
When we ask a trusted friend for advice we can process our thoughts and feelings and get clarity. Losing a friend is difficult but 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.”
Step 4: Give yourself Time to Heal after the Loss of a Friendship
To give yourself time to heal is a hard step. Patience is not easily acquired especially when we are sitting in a pool of hurt. But time to heal is the only way to truly move on after the loss of a friendship.
“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed.”
Psalm 34:18 NLT
Step 5: Learn to Forgive after the Loss of a Friendship
Forgiveness is the gift we give to ourselves that brings freedom from current pain and space to love and embrace others in 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 on how to move on after losing a friend help us experience growth through the loss. We can 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.”
How to Grow Closer to God & Comfort 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 losing a friend is we can grow closer to God and our reliance on Him. We are also able to encourage and 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.