Finding solace: sunset on friendships.
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Finding solace: sunset on friendships.

Friendship endings can be heartbreaking, as the basis for any love relationship is companionship. Making new friends has been a constant theme throughout my life, mainly due to not always being assertive, self-confident and comfortable in my skin. Moving on from friendships made at school can have a profound impact on the mental health of a young adult. I discovered the hard way when many of my school friends were not on my team, yet I continued to spend time with them through fear of being alone. 

Overcoming fear of abandonment in relationships

As a university student, I subconsciously carried the grief of lost friendships I had previously dreamt and blindly hoped were genuine. This denial and submerging of true feelings lead to even more disappointment, as friendship endings caused by people moving away triggered periods of sadness and loneliness. 

Growing up with TV shows such as “Friends”, Dawson’s Creekand “Will & Grace” provided a fantasy blueprint in my mind for what kind of friends I wanted versus the ones I kept launching myself into in reality. Whilst fictional situations offer suggestions on how we could behave around others, comparing ourselves with onscreen friendships can be damaging. A TV director can yell “cut” and do many retakes, but we only get one chance to have a challenging conversation or make a mistake.

Finding solace: sunset on friendships. | Rock & Art

There is no reason to feel alone; we each have much to offer. People who genuinely love us would be lost without our presence in their lives.

Being an adult forces me to question other people’s intentions and assess whether a relationship with them is worth continuing, especially when is no reciprocity or when I overvalue a friend who has changed significantly since I first met them. Crossroads in relationships appear when effective communication is lacking or non-existent. Some friendships are elastic, like a rubber band, making it easy to pick up where you left off with the other person, even after a long hiatus. We must let go of other friendships, like throwing a stick into a flowing river.

Do you choose the first path based on fear or the second path that leads to growth? Fear of not doing something about a relationship on its knees is worse than actually trying to establish new boundaries with existing friends.

Empowering yourself through changes in friendships and embracing emotional releases during friendship transitions

There is considerable empowerment in change, and emotional releases provoked by friendship loss can be cathartic and powerful in helping you grow and transition into the next chapter. We have to train ourselves to adopt a growth mindset in friendships to learn mutual respect and understanding of the evolution of personality changes and let people go, grateful to have shared good and bad times with them. Coping strategies are vital for preventing your mental health from deteriorating and moving forward positively.

Friendships

Prioritising mental health when ending friendships

As someone who has seen a few friendships come and go, I have put together a short and practical “toolkit” for picking yourself up and keeping your mental health at the forefront of all your interactions, even in those moments when you would rather curl up in a ball.

Coping mechanisms for moving on from toxic friendships

  1. Warning signs and gut instinct are important signals to consider when balancing interpersonal dynamics with friends, at work, and in other areas of life. However, we often ignore them due to our perennial fear of abandonment and the destabilising impact losing friends has on our mental and physical health. We can always walk away from people, even if that means initially just creating space rather than rashly jumping to longer-term distances. Create time to talk, if appropriate.

Finding support during times of friendship transition

  1. Learn to be ready to finish a chapter before the final pages, especially if someone’s behaviour is verbally abusive, threatening or generally makes you feel unsafe. Allowing bad behaviour to continue unnoticed could have severe consequences for you. Your health and safety is always a priority. Only you can read your personal safety gauge. Consider speaking to family or other people you trust so you are supported.

Strategies for finding solace after friendship endings and building resilience after losing friends

  1. Choose to view your tears or sadness as energetic releases and part of the natural flow of life. There is nothing to fear about friendship loss, voluntary or involuntary. People may suggest that mourning the loss of someone is silly when there is no mortality involved. Still, comments like this can invalidate your feelings and hinder your maturity journey by involving shame. There is no shame in needing time to process your emotions about anyone or anything. The main thing is to lean into the problem, deal with it and then let it go.

Healing from the impact of friendship loss on well-being

  1. Some friendship “endings” are temporary; however, build a habit of believing that, no matter what, you will be okay. Get comfortable knowing each ending represents a lesson, and life lessons are precious.
  1. When receiving feedback from friends, try to cut through the minutiae and get to the point. If the message is simply: this friendship is over, please move on rather than be sucked into the other person’s issues. However, if you receive recurring feedback about a particular trait that spoils other relationships, it may be time to check in with yourself and ask why. People respect those who are willing to get rid of a bad habit.

Find solace as the sun sets on a tired friendship, find the courage to prioritise mental well-being over popularity and rediscover who you are as an individual…before finding someone new.

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