The Death of a Friendship

I recently lost a close friend.  Not the casual kind of close friend, but one part of a whole family of close friends.  The kind where you travel thousands of miles to see them, spend entire weeks together, sleep at each other’s houses, trust them with your child.

To be clear, no one has died.  As far as I’m aware, my friend is still happy and healthy and out there living her best life.  It’s just that I’m no longer a part of it.

And that requires its own kind of mourning.

I have hesitated to write about this for months now.  It’s never my intention to gossip, or create drama, or indirectly ask anyone to take sides.  Plus, so much of it is just not my story to tell.  My son lost friendships over this too;  important ones.  Friends who were once as close as brothers literally just stopped talking to him and stopped being his friends, for reasons that he was never made privy to.

What I realized though, is that no matter the specific circumstances (and I’ll share just a few, for context) the feeling of mourning is universal, and it’s always worth talking about.  It’s a lucky person indeed that has never seen a friendship end.

The simplest way I can sum up what happened is to just say that something was handled very, very poorly in a way that was hurtful and disrespectful to us and to our child.  It was obviously bigger than anything that I could respectfully talk about in a blog post, but it began with a conversation.  A conversation that should have happened in person, involving adults, that was instead carried out in an email from their kids to ours.  As a result, our child was forced (due to his own desire to want to protect us, as his parents) to carry something painful, alone, that he never, ever should have had to carry.  When it all finally came to light – after many many opportunities for them to bring us into the loop, which they never took advantage of – we emailed our friends, and they took no responsibility or admitted any culpability.  Instead we were called liars, presented with a whole lot of dodging and double-talk, and given a very oddly specific set of conditions to follow if we wanted to make amends:

1) We had to call them (specifically, we had to call my friend’s husband. For some reason, I was not welcome to talk to her directly… just given her husband’s number again and again)  This could only be discussed on the phone, they told us, as they would not read or respond to any more emails about the matter.  Which is ironic given that the whole thing  – that ABSOLUTELY should have been handled in person – had started with … an EMAIL!  Ordinarily I appreciate irony.  This time, not so much.

2) We were given a literal time frame for reconciliation.  We had to call between these days and these hours, or our time would be up and they’d assume we no longer wanted to talk about it.

And 3)  We had to preemptively agree to listen to “every word, or none at all,” if we wanted to know the truth of the situation.

The whole thing was bizarre and insulting and not the words of people who actually had any desire to make things right.

Would it have been possible to salvage the friendship if a million little decisions along the way had been different?  Maybe.  Possibly.  If they hadn’t treated our child poorly.

I’ll never know.

I had a moment of weakness (or possibly, hope?) a month or so ago, and emailed my friend – which was, of course, breaking their rules – to basically say, “hey I miss you and I’m sad that this happened.”  I was rewarded with a big “F you” couched in a condescendingly polite single sentence followed by a smiley face.  I still can’t decide if she wanted me to hear her thinly veiled message or if she literally thinks I’m so obtuse I wouldn’t notice.  Either way, I was looking for closure, and I got it.  There would be no reconciliation.

As it turns out, the saying is true:

You can’t shake hands with a fist.

And I mean, it happens.  It’s hurtful, but it happens.  And now that I’ve been assured that there is no hope for rapprochement, there is literally nothing left to do but forgive and move on.

Have you ever seen the movie, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind?  It’s one of my favorite movies.  It deals with a company that provides a not-yet-in-existence service of erasing memories.  People sign up for this service after a painful breakup of some sort, and their brains are essentially mapped and scrubbed and all traces of this former relationship are gone.  How nice that would be!

Grieving a lost relationship is painful.  It’s messy.  To use a more official-sounding, technical word, it’s…. icky.  Especially with all the memories, and all the reminders.  And there are so. many. reminders!  There are photos.  Little gifts that have been exchanged over the years.  Notes and cards sent in the mail.  Piercings we got together.  A giant, six hour tattoo in which she sat by my side, and kept me distracted, and handed me lollipop after lollipop.  Oh and Facebook?  I’m pretty sure Facebook is just one big conspiracy to cause misery.  The sheer volume of “On This Day” memories it’s bombarded me with over the past several months has been overwhelming.  Happy, smiling faces.  Our boys, thrilled at being reunited after a long absence.  Statuses about hikes and smoothies and coffee shops.  Birthday celebrations. Margaritas raised in toast.  Friendship, and all its trappings.

The memories hurt.

The thing is though, just like they come to realize in the movie, we don’t really want the memories erased.  As painful as they are in the beginning, eventually they’re just … memories.  In time, those past moments can be appreciated for what they were:  happy memories, of a reality that for a million and one possible reasons, just doesn’t exist anymore.

I’m not there yet.  I so wish I was, but I’m not.

Right now, it’s as though it just happened.  Right now, it’s still raw.  So as it is with anything I hope to eventually accept, I’m trying to give myself time, and grace, and just let myself feel whatever it is I’m going to feel… with no judgement, and no trying to make sense of something that just doesn’t make sense.   Because it doesn’t make sense.  Broken relationships do so seldom make sense.  And writing these words in no way changes that fact.  Writing these words in no way heals the fracture … but they do serve as a step, which is why I so sorely needed to write them.

This is not the first time me or my child has been hurt, and it surely won’t be the last.  We’ll rally. We will.

Still, there’s a part of me… that broken, jaded part, that wants to yell,

“SEE?  THIS!  This is why I don’t trust people!!”  This was a big deal.  It wasn’t like losing a favorite pen.

Deep down though (deep, deep, deep down), I know that refusing to trust again is not the answer.  It’s just not.  Anyone who’s never been hurt (whether by friendship, or love, or anything really) has never taken a risk.  And it’s in the middle of that risk that all the good stuff happens.  Without taking a risk, there would have been no marriage – and by extension no kids – there would be no friendships, there would be no growth, there would be no… well, you get the idea.  I took a risk and I got hurt, but there really are so many good memories there that I know (I hope?) I’ll one day look back on in fondness.

Until then,

I’ll wait.



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4 Responses to The Death of a Friendship

  1. This exact same situation happened to me…sadly my boys and my daughter as well. You’d have thought that the years of close bond would’ve carried more weight than one mistake. I accept that and will move on knowing that all the energy i spent for years of my life loving someone was not enough when they realized i am not perfect.

  2. Cary Seston

    Oh boy do I ever know about this. Such a painful experience. And even though I moved on, I sometimes would think, “after all that, you can just casually throw it away? If we were so close like you said all those times, then why aren’t we sticking by each other? :(” Years and years and loads of common ground feels like the sand castle washed away by the tide. I felt so confused. It’s been almost 3 years now and I feel very peaceful and loving toward her now. I hope she’s got wonderful friends who are exactly right for her on this life path. I assume our time together was just right and it was just time to grow without each other. I felt like the livevwas fake for a while but now I know that it wasn’t. I loved her and I know I was deeply loved for a time. Im grateful for that. I miss her too. I’m sorry for your great loss. Peace and grace to you. Thank you for writing and sharing that. It helps me and I hope it helped you. ~Cary

    • jen

      Thank you so much for this, Cary. It gives me a lot of hope to know that you are feeling at peace and loving towards her now. I for sure hope to be there one day, when I have had some space and it is all less raw. I’m so sorry that happened to you, and glad for you that you were able to move on in a healthy way, even though you miss her. I feel like writing this post was a first step for doing that for myself as well.