What is beneath the death of serious friendships? Subtle jealousy or rivalry can destroy trust, changes in job or income can create barriers that eventually become insurmountable. You may never really know the cause, but it can shake your emotional foundation and undermine a powerful and deep assumption—that there are at least a few people you can alway count on, no matter what, that their friendship transcends any conflict, that you will always talk things over, that you are as irreplaceable to them as they are to you. The details of the event haunt your memory—the last conversation not forgotten, the reserve that replaced the warmth you counted on. It can be easier to accept death itself than that such a friend no longer cares.
One of the most damaging aspects of being rejected by a best friend is the feeling of strangeness it induces. You find yourselfthinking, “can this actually be happening between us?” To lose someone who is still physically present yet suddenly psychically absent or altered can be unbelievable. Knowing you will never laugh together or share confidences with reckless abandon creates its own brand of helpless longing. The explanation, if any, never fully balances the loss.
There is no official term to describe the breakup of a deep friendship, no ritual or legal proceeding to mark the end in the way divorce does for a marriage even though it can leave just as large a hole in life. Lost friends are haunting, and often more difficult to replace than lovers. The more abrupt and inexplicable their departure, the more troubling and subtle the toll. The fallout from betrayal by a friend resonates for decades.
Yet, when there is something meaningful to retrieve from a past relationship, celebrating that thing can be a genuine compensation for loss. If anything in your friendship was real—imperfect, ambivalent, obsessive, or selfish in part, but true at the core—it is yours forever, even though the one you cared for, no longer or never really returned your devotion. The authentic core of friendship is eternal even if the person who inspired it will never return it. If you can, hold fast to that and fight through your despair and disappointment to find the core, resurrect it, and claim it.
After all, it was yours in the beginning and it remains yours even now.
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This piece originally appeared in 008 Magazine – Baton Rouge, a new publication in the city in which Frank Hopkins is featured in each issue providing life coaching for common problems.