How To Get Over Losing A Best Friend

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“My best friend and I got into an argument, and since then, they won’t return my texts or calls. Recently I saw them at a party, and they pretended I wasn’t there, making it clear that our friendship is over. This is causing me more emotional pain than any breakup has, and I don’t know how to move on.”

Best friends aren’t always forever, and not all relationships have happy endings. Whether you are trying to cope with losing your best friend to a guy or girl, a betrayal, or dealing with friends who abandon you, it can be really hard to move on.

Like all grieving processes, a lost or broken friendship can be painful and will take time to recover from. This is especially true with a best friend because grief increases according to the level of closeness in the relationship.[1] Over time, the pain, anger, and sadness tend to lessen, and most people are able to move on.[2]

Whether your goal is to win your best friend back, to get over a best friend who hurt you, or learn how to accept that a friendship is over, this article can help you find ways to move forward.

1. Take time to cool off

Strong emotions can make it hard to see things clearly. If you had a bad fight or argument, it can take time for the dust to settle. Until it does, it is often best to avoid speaking or acting, as you are more likely to regret decisions made in the heat of the moment.[3]

Reacting too quickly can make things worse, causing you to say or do things that make things worse. To avoid adding more guilt and regret, it’s a good idea not to contact your friend until you’ve both had time to cool off. This way, you will be more able to express yourself without being rude.

2. Assess the relationship with a clear head

When emotions run high, it’s hard to see things clearly and understand the true scale of the problem. Waiting until some time has passed makes it easier for you to assess your friendship with a clear head, as well as helping you be more clear about whether you want to repair it.[3]

Sometimes conflicts are symptoms of a deeper problem or issue in the relationship and can even be signs that the friendship is toxic or unhealthy. Conflicts are often a time when friendships are re-evaluated and put to the test, and sometimes can help you know the difference between real friends and fake friends.[3]

After the initial hurt or anger has passed, reflect on these questions to determine whether the friendship can be repaired:

  • Was the original issue or conflict as big of a deal as we made it?
  • Was this an isolated incident or part of a larger pattern in our friendship?
  • Overall, do the pros of this friendship outweigh the cons? Is it worth it to try to rebuild?
  • Would it be possible for us to rebuild trust, forgive each other, and move forward?

3. Acknowledge your feelings

Because relationships sometimes end in other ways besides one person dying, it’s possible to experience grief after a really bad argument, fight, or betrayal. Grief is the incredibly painful feeling of sadness, loss, and emptiness a person feels when they lose something or someone they really love and care about.

Grief involves a range of different emotions that occur over a period of time after a person experiences a loss. It’s normal to experience shock, sadness, yearning, anger, and regret, and these feelings can also fluctuate and change throughout the grieving process.[2]

4. Understand what went wrong

While it might have felt like your relationship with your best friend was rock solid, the reality is that friendships are fragile and easily broken.[4] The most common causes of breakups between best friends include:[4]

  • Disappointments or letting each other down
  • Not being there when it counts or when you’re needed
  • Family feuds or conflicts with a best friend’s partner
  • Growing apart, life transitions, and not making an effort to keep in touch
  • Conflicting beliefs or values
  • Betraying or breaking trust
  • Blowing up, bad fights, or hurtful words or actions
  • Personal insecurities or feelings of jealousy

By reflecting on what went wrong with your friendship, you can often gain insight that helps you accept and make peace with what happened. Also, finding out what went wrong can provide an important lesson that can help you grow, improve, and avoid making the same mistakes again.[4]

5. Use your support system

You can’t replace your best friend or the special place they had in your life, but leaning on your support system can help ease the loneliness of a breakup. If you don’t have a support system and need to grow your social circle, you might find our guide on how to meet people and make friends helpful. If you need someone to talk to and can’t rely on friends or family, read our article on what to do if you have no friends or family.

Be clear and ask for the kind of help and support you need from others, instead of assuming they will know the right thing to do or say. For example, let them know if you want them to listen to give advice when you vent or ask them to come by to hang out if you’re feeling lonely.

6. Know that healing takes time

According to recent research, there are specific stages of grief that a person goes through after losing a loved one or having a relationship end. This process also has an estimated timeline, with one study suggesting that it normally takes about 6 months after a loss to go through the 5 stages.

Over the course of this time, most people go through the following stages:[2]

Stage 1: Disbelief, shock, and denial

Stage 2: Yearning and a desire to reconnect

Stage 3: Anger towards the person/circumstances

Stage 4: Depression, feeling sad, empty, or down

Stage 5: Acceptance of the loss, closure (increases over the 6 month period)

If your symptoms of grief are severe, last longer than 6 months, or interfere with your ability to function, it may be a sign of a mental health condition, and professional counseling or treatment may be needed.

7. Be a better friend to yourself

It will be easier to heal and recover from a friendship that ended badly if you are kind and compassionate with yourself. Stop obsessing over the mistakes you made and regrets you have. Instead, work on forgiving yourself and moving forward.

It can be hard to cultivate self-compassion, but doing so is important. In studies, people who were more self-compassionate were happier, healthier, more resilient, and also had better relationships.[5]

Here are some ways to become more self-compassionate:[5]

  • Reframe what happened as an opportunity to learn and grow, instead of a fatal mistake or lifelong regret
  • Remind yourself that you are only human and that, like all humans, you will sometimes make mistakes
  • Refocus your attention away from negative, toxic, and self-critical thoughts by shifting your focus to a task, your surroundings, or your breath
  • Improve your self-care by making ‘you time’ to do things that help you feel relaxed, renewed, and happy; you could also try learning a new skill or taking up a new hobby

8. Keep living your life

Sometimes, people who are going through stress, hardship, or grief will withdraw and put their life on pause, but this tends to make them feel worse. While you might need to take some time to grieve before jumping back into work, your routine, or your social life, don’t let this become the new normal.

Doing less, isolating yourself, and putting important activities on an indefinite pause is a recipe for depression. If it’s been weeks since you saw your friends, combed your hair, or went to the gym, push yourself to get back to some sense of normalcy. While it can be hard at first, getting out and being more productive and social is one of the best remedies for depression.[6]

9. Don’t erase your memories

Deleting any mental records of your best friend may provide temporary relief, but it won’t help you move through the grief process. In fact, avoiding these happy memories can stunt the grief process by keeping you from being able to move towards acceptance.

For better or worse, your best friend was an important part of your life, and you probably shared a lot of memories together. While you don’t have to keep pictures of them on your nightstand or as your social media profile picture, it isn’t healthy to completely try to remove all traces of them from your past.

10. Find ways to get closure

Getting closure can help you move forward, regardless of whether this changes the outcome of your friendship. Sometimes, it’s possible to get closure with your friend by asking them to talk through things once you’ve both cooled off. According to experts, the best way to have these important conversations is face-to-face, so try to arrange an in-person meeting.[3]

Some examples of things you can control when trying to talk with your ex-best friend include:

  • Letting them know how their words or actions affected you
  • Apologizing for things you said or did that may have hurt them
  • Clarifying something you said or did that you feel was taken the wrong way
  • Letting them know you would like to talk and try to work things out
  • Explaining that you need space or time but may be open to talking in the future

In some cases, it’s not possible, healthy, or a good idea to try to talk with your friend. If this is the case, you may benefit from trying one of the following closure rituals on your own:[7]

  • Write your friend a letter expressing your feelings (even if you don’t decide to send it)
  • Talk through your feelings with a counselor, loved one, or in a support group
  • Find a song, poem, or create a piece of art that captures your feelings
  • Make a list of the things your friend taught you or ways you learned or grew stronger because of the breakup

11. Strengthen your other friendships

While no one can ‘replace’ your best friend, it may be possible to make new friends or deepen your connection with existing friends. Close friendships are important for a happy and fulfilling life, and losing a friend doesn’t have to mean a life of solitude or having no friends.

If you want to get closer with your friends, spending more one-on-one time with them, opening up more and going deeper in your conversations, and leaning on them for support can help.

These are all great ways to build trust and closeness with your existing friends and can sometimes lead to deeper and more rewarding relationships.

Often, you can take some of the lessons you learned from what went wrong in your past friendships to improve your current friendships by:

  • Getting clearer about what you need and want from your friendships
  • Learning what makes a good friend and how to identify the signs of a true friend
  • Learning how to better handle conflicts and disagreements with friends

12. Don’t let trust issues taint your other relationships

When a best friend betrays you, abandons you, or isn’t there when you need them, it’s normal to develop trust issues with friends. Sometimes, these can bubble over into other relationships, causing you to shut down, withdraw, or be less open with people who haven’t done anything to break your trust.

If you notice these patterns developing, try to interrupt them by:

  • Remaining open and vulnerable with your other close friends
  • Recognizing when trust issues are coming up and working to not act on them unless they are related to something that person said or did to break your trust
  • Letting close friends know about some of your trust issues and what triggers them
  • Working through your own insecurities, old wounds, and trust issues by seeing a counselor, attending a support group, or reading self-help books

Final thoughts

Mourning the loss of a best friend is difficult and painful, and like any form of grief, it is a process that takes time to heal from. In some cases, the loss is temporary, and it is possible to repair the friendship after some time has passed and you are both seeing things more clearly. Other times, the friendship may have been damaged in ways that aren’t possible to repair. Take care of your own emotional needs, making sense of what happened, and using coping skills and your support system to help you grieve this loss and move on with your life.

Common questions about losing a best friend

Is my friendship broken, or can it be repaired?

Sometimes friendships can be repaired, and trust can be restored, but it requires the willingness and effort of both people. Even when you are both willing to put in the effort, it doesn’t guarantee that things will go back to normal.

How can you cope with losing a best friend to death?

The death of a best friend can be devastating, shocking, and heartbreaking. Many people benefit from counseling or therapy, especially if their friend’s death was untimely or unexpected, which makes it harder to accept.

We recommend BetterHelp for online therapy, since they offer unlimited messaging and a weekly session, and is much cheaper than going to an actual therapist's office. They are also cheaper than Talkspace for what you get. You can learn more about BetterHelp here.

How do you deal with a friend who ghosts you?

The grief that comes when a friend ghosts you, disappears, or stops talking to you can be more difficult, causing you to question what went wrong. If this happens, you may need to pull back and work on getting closure on your own through some of the rituals described earlier.

How long does it take to get over losing a best friend?

According to research on people experiencing grief, it can take up to 6 months to fully grieve the loss of a loved one. By this time, your sadness, anger, and grief should feel less intense, and it should be easier to accept the loss and move on.[2]

What if my ex-best friend and I have mutual friends?

If possible, try to keep your conflict contained and form an agreement to not involve your other friends. If they don’t honor this and it becomes messy, you may need to make some additional cuts to your friend group.

What do I do if I still have to see this person?

Not all friendship breakups are “clean breaks,” and you may need to think about what you will say or do when you see your old friend at work, school, or social events. If possible, try to be cordial and polite, but avoid deeper conversations that could lead to conflict.

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Hailey Shafir is a licensed mental health counselor, licensed addiction specialist, and clinical supervisor working out of Raleigh, NC. She has a Masters in Counseling from NC State University, and has extensive professional experience in counseling, program development, and clinical supervision. Read more.

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