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friend: noun and not so forever

Change. It happens all the time. And it seems that it’s just happening at a rapid rate for me. But it’s always happened to me. All at the same time.

Recently, my best friend and I broke up. And it’s been one of the biggest changes I’ve had to deal with. I’m not going to get into reasons and I’m not trying to get you to side with me or feel sorry for me. The point is to present this thought that breaking up with a friend is harder than breaking up with a significant other.

“Research proves that female friendship can make us healthier, happier, less stressed and feel more beautiful,” says Debba Hauper, founder of Girlfriendology, an online community devoted to friendship. She notes that bonds with our friends can also be vital to our overall longevity: While studies show that single men don’t live as long as married men (because the latter have wives taking care of them), for women, female friends impact their longevity more so than whether or not they’re married.

Thus, losing a girlfriend can be an extremely lonely experience, says Irene S. Levine, Ph.D., author of Best Friends Forever: Surviving A Break-Up With Your Best Friend. “One of the things that makes [a friend break-up] really difficult is that there is no one to talk to about it. The person you’d most want to talk to is the person you broke up with.”

The impact is devastating not just because of the break-up itself, but because women lose much more than a friend in this situation. “Women are raised with the idea that friendship is supposed to be forever, and they are often judged by their ability to stay friends, so there is a lot of stigma involved with friends who break up,” Levine says.

So why when you lose touch with a friend, or decide to walk away…why is it so difficult to accept and then to move on?

An article from Daily UK says, “We all know that romantic relationships come and go. Most of us live too far from our families to share intimacies with them on a daily basis. But friends are the constant in our lives. In an uncertain world, with money worries and job losses, we need the security of our friendships more than ever. That’s why breaking a friendship is so traumatic. Or, if you’re the one being dumped, it can feel like having your very heart ripped out.

A blogpost repeats this notion, “This is the reason why the dissolution of a friendship can often be harder than the dissolution of a romantic relationship. In a way, it just feels more personal. Like a betrayal. People fall out of love with each other for a variety of reasons, many of which often have nothing to do with you. We know our hearts are fickle. We know that what we want today may be different than from what we want tomorrow. Best friends, however, are supposed to be the loophole. Jobs, boyfriends: those can be temporary, but best friendships are expected to transcend all of that. In a time of constant change, they’re there to remind you of the familiar. But a few years ago, I had a falling out with my very best friend, my number one, my life partner, and that’s pain that I can still readily access. That’s pain that never went completely away. Because I still think sometimes, “You should be here with me. I should be able to call you with this news or send you this funny YouTube video. You weren’t supposed to go away. You were supposed to survive it all.”

Can anyone relate? Have you felt those emotions? Maybe you’ve experienced that awkward moment when someone asks you how that person is doing, or you see them around and you run in the opposite direction.

I know this situation happens a lot and it’s almost played down, like you’re supposed to just pick up the pieces on move on. You have other friends. “But it’s not the same,” I insisted. “It’s not like you can update your Facebook status and notify everyone in your life that you’re no longer speaking with this person,” I said to a friend.

But there comes a time, where you understand why everything happened the way it did. Why both were at fault for the dissolving friendship. What you could’ve done better or know why you chose what you did. Most of the time. And when you get to that point, you can move on. The pain subsides little by little, but there will always remain a scar. It remains there as a reminder of what you’ve been through and what you’ve overcome. There is healing and it’s not the end of the world, although it might feel like that for a period of time. The sun eventually breaks through the storm you feel like you’ve been walking through. Your clothes can finally dry from all the rain that’s beaten you down.

You become a different person. It’s not baggage you carry, but memories. You let go of the regrets and don’t let them hold you down because it prevents you from moving on. You learn how to trust people again and you begin to smile more. You understand that you have to leave what happened in the past and look forward to the future. That God put that person in your life for a reason at that time, and now, quite possibly, He could have someone waiting for you on the other side.

It’s a roller coaster ride full of emotions, logic, tears, anger, fear, anxiety and hope. And you understand there’s a reason why you were put on that ride and experienced all that you did. And one day, it’ll hit you in the face that there was a purpose. It’ll come full circle, you’ll see the bigger picture. It may be a month down the road or 30 years. But no matter the time, you become strong. You’re strong because you made it out alive.

“When I look back at my life, I can see the pain I’ve endured, the mistakes I’ve made and the hard times I’ve suffered. When I look in the mirror I see how strong I’ve become, the lessons I’ve learned and I’m proud of who I am.”

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