Friendship Breakup & What to Do About It

By Alyssa Schmid

Here I was, looking at an undelivered Christmas gift that was meant for a former best friend. It was two years after I had bought it and I was questioning why I was still holding onto it. Did I intend to deliver it? No, that would just be too awkward… Did I want to use it and pretend like it was never for them? No, that would bring up too many painful memories… Ultimately, I decided to just throw it in the trash. It was a hair accessory and I felt that it would be too weird to give to the thrift store. However, the stress of making this small decision had been rolling around in the back of my mind for so long that I felt a sense of relief when it was over. After letting it sit on my desk for a year, I had put it into a drawer to forget it. Only – I hadn’t forgotten it. It’s presence called out to me like a dark secret stashed away. To finally burry it into a tomb of trash felt right and I walked away hopeful that maybe this was the first step to moving on. 

This was the hardest end to a friendship I had ever experienced. Sure, some friendships come and go naturally – but this was abrupt and cold. It wasn’t that we had grown apart, they had just grown apart from me. I realized that I was grieving; a deep sense of loss was inside me for a long time. Eventually I decided that this was a breakup, which was a new idea to me, but all the emotions fit. I had lost someone who was a significant part of my life. So I just blundered through all the stages of grief and here are some of the things I learned. 

Accept My Feelings

I had told myself at first that it didn’t matter to me. I put up a wall of anger that kept any other feelings from being seen. I was just so angry after giving so much loyalty that they would simply walk away. So I said good riddance and that I didn’t even want to be friends. Of course, this feeling ebbed into sadness because all the cherished traditions were gone. I questioned the legitimacy of our closeness in the first place. Finally, I settled into a gray haze of loneliness. I felt unmotivated to sink the work into building any friendship and I felt insecure in the value I brought to future friendships. I especially felt nervous about being accepted in these future friendships. This has sometimes been called “Friendship PTSD.” Sughnen Yongo-Okochi wrote in 21Ninety that friendship PTSD can happen when friendships break off in a traumatic way. This experience can make people more wary of developing close friendships out of fear that it will have the same outcome. However, the key is to be incredibly patient with yourself. Engage in some self-reflection and determine the priorities you want in future relationships. For me, it was important to realize that I would be ok making new friendships. I began to value being true to myself to the point that I was willing to let people walk away instead of changing myself.  

Don’t Put All My Emotional Needs Into One Friendship

This was a big change in the way I maintained relationships. I was the kind of person who had one and a half close friendships and would be extremely loyal. I still think of myself as a loyal person (go Hufflepuff!), but I don’t let it handcuff me anymore. I’ve worked on building a handful of friendships that I hope to grow in the future. I think this diversity in friendships has allowed me to be a more balanced, happier person. I don’t feel quite so desperate for one person’s attention because I know I have a strong network to support me. This has allowed me to be more confident as well since I don’t need to put myself in uncomfortable situations for acceptance. Best of all, I have different types of friendships that support different needs or interests instead of funneling my personality into one genre of friendship. Relying on just one friend kept me unaware of some of my weaknesses since we both shared similar weaknesses. Having several friends allows me to see the line where my personality stops and theirs starts. That has overall helped me understand and feel more confident in myself.   

Reflect on the Unhealthy Patterns That Friendship Had

There were many things I ignored in the friendship that I had to come to terms with. Some were rooted in unhealthy behaviors I had out of insecurity and others were feedback loops of behaviors that we encouraged in each other. Regardless, I didn’t realize how these dynamics were affecting me and my mental health until after I had some distance. I’m thankful now that a reset happened so I was able to reevaluate my patterns of behavior and make some healthy changes. Sometimes I wonder if our friendship breakup was able to help the other person grow as well. It’s nice to think that some good came out of this experience. I know that my ability to make new friends is especially healthier now that I’ve been through this experience. 

If you’ve had a friendship breakup, I hope my experiences have been helpful to you! Broken relationships are heartbreaking and devastating but can often give us a chance to understand ourselves and our values better. Although it doesn’t change the pain you are experiencing right now, it might be comforting to know that you can come out of this stronger, happier, and more content than you were when you thought everything was perfect. I want to encourage you that no matter the circumstance, know that you have value, your feelings are natural, your unique personality can’t be replaced, and you can get through this.   


Yongo-Okochi, Sughnen. (2022.) Friendship PTSD Is A Thing We Should Discuss More. 21Ninety.

About the Author

Alyssa Schmid is a freelance writer working on finishing a double degree in horticulture and sustainability at Oregon State University. She deeply loves traveling, baking, gardening, and researching sustainable fashion brands.

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