Struggling to Find the Silver Lining in Severed Friendship

Friday, February 20, 2015 - 6:17am

Struggling to Find the Silver Lining in Severed Friendship

“They taught me that maturity was the ability to live with unresolved problems.”
—Anne Lammott, "Stitches: A Handbook on Meaning, Hope, and Repair"

I’m able to adjust to many of life’s cruelties with surprising speed. Like most humans, I’m surprised at how quickly something that seems intolerable at first — an injury, a terrible collaborator, an embarrassing rejection — eventually becomes something that I learn to live with, beside, amongst.

Also, like most humans, I usually manage to tell a redemptive story about my hardship. I’m continually amazed at how good we are at making meaning out of shit day: I didn’t get the job because, ultimately, it wasn’t really in line with my true calling. She broke up with me because she was limited and now I’m liberated to find a better match. Rain on a wedding day is good luck.

As resilient as I experience myself to be in so many situations, as good as I am at drawing a thick silver lining around an otherwise dark moment, there is one particular version of life’s pains that I feel weak and stupid about processing: severed friendships. Throughout my life I’ve had a few very dear friends that either drifted away on an ever more quickly moving river of miscommunication and disappointment, until I couldn’t see them anymore, or vanished in one fell swoop — as if abducted by alien invaders.

I used to think my struggle was with the nature of the first kind of loss. I’m someone who craves resolution. I like to know what’s expected of me and I like to show up and I like to have clarity. I want everyone to have the same story about something, especially if I’m involved.

When I’ve had good friends that drifted away into a fog of time and space and words left unspoken, I’ve been hurt, but I always reasoned that part of my hurt was really frustration with the lack of clarity. If only we had just had the courage to face one another like grown women and made a mutual decision that the relationship no longer served us.

(Roberta Tancredi / Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0).)

But I’ve also lost a friend in a very resolute way — not the sort of grownup woman version of my fantasies, unfortunately, but over email (ugh) — and the finality of it actually doesn’t turn out to feel better. It just feels different. Rather than wondering if she has a different story about our friendship, about me, than I do, I know she does. Instead of the slightly more comfortable state of confusion that I’ve had with dissolving friendships, I have to reckon with the harsh reality that two people who love one another deeply, who have known one another through years and addictions and cross-country moves and boyfriends and books, can hit an impasse where traveling side by side is no longer possible.

I’ve also had friends that drifted out into the fog, only to appear years later. They’ve got new haircuts and scars, new partners and careers, and yet here they are: their essence intact, their quirks as familiar to me as if we haven’t spent a day apart. So I understand that even in the seemingly finite there is no trustworthy resolution. It gives me some solace — this not really ever knowing, even as I also sort of hate the fact that all human relationships resist reliable conclusion. Even death proves to be an unreliable end; so many of us keep wrestling with our dead long after they’ve technically left.

I think I’m so bad at letting friendships go — either suddenly or gradually — because it feels injurious to me to stop loving someone once I have started, like I’m cutting off a limb, and yet blood will just keep flowing in that direction. I’ve never stopped loving any of the friends I’ve lost. At times, I’ve felt misunderstood and projected upon, and as a result, angry. But the anger can co-exist next to the love. I wonder what they’re eating for breakfast. I wonder what they’re reading. I wonder if there was anything redemptive about our parting: Have I become a better person? A better friend? Do I see myself accurately? Do I expect too much? Have I learned to say sorry in a way that someone can hear? Do I understand how to nurture a friendship through transition with more grace?

(Roberta Tancredi / Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0).)

And you see, there I go, desperately seeking the silver lining. If I’m going to lose friends, at least I want to gain insight. But I also know I can’t wear the insight like an armor, protecting me from future loss. Some friendships erode; it’s a painful but inevitable part of life. It makes room for new relationships, new emotional risks, new chemistry. It helps expunge old toxins, stubborn patterns, stale air.

Someone recently told me the theory that you shed and replace the majority of your friendships every seven years. I hate that idea. Yet, I understand why it’s an oft-repeated maxim. We make these big life transitions and sometimes it’s hard to hold one another’s hands while we’re traveling at different speeds in different directions. Sometimes we stop speaking the same language. Sometimes our way of seeing one other stays frozen in the past, even as we barrel roll into the future. And so we part. And we mourn. And there is no resolution. And this, my friends, I’m still trying to reckon with.

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Courtney E. Martin

is a columnist for On Being. Her column appears every Friday.

Her newest book, The New Better Off: Reinventing the American Dream, explores how people are redefining the American dream (think more fulfillment, community, and fun, less debt, status, and stuff). Courtney is the co-founder of the Solutions Journalism Network and a strategist for the TED Prize. She is also co-founder and partner at Valenti Martin Media and FRESH Speakers Bureau, and editor emeritus at

Courtney has authored/edited five books, including Do It Anyway: The New Generation of Activists, and Perfect Girls, Starving Daughters: How the Quest for Perfection is Harming Young Women. Her work appears frequently in The New York Times and The Washington Post. Courtney has appeared on the TODAY Show, Good Morning America, MSNBC, and The O’Reilly Factor, and speaks widely at conferences and colleges. She is the recipient of the Elie Wiesel Prize in Ethics and a residency from the Rockefeller Foundation’s Bellagio Centre. She lives with her partner in life and work, John Cary, in Oakland, and their daughters Maya and Stella. Read more about her work at

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Oh have written the words I have shared so often internally and with a few safe friends......resolution..............ahhhh..............I've moved 8 times.....I have realized I've lost friends..........still wondering what they eat for breakfast at times........but have also reconnected and created better friendships with some from my childhood years.....I am continuing to work on simply being in the moments and finding resolution in the seasons of life also include seasons of friendships.........words in print are easier to process than the words and feelings in my heart but it is becoming easier.....and I know I will always love deeply, care forever about those people I connect with and call friends :) Thank you for this wonderful reflection!

For optional class

"I think I’m so bad at letting friendships go... because it feels injurious to me to stop loving someone once I have started, like I’m cutting off a limb, and yet blood will just keep flowing in that direction."

Incredible image, and exactly the truth.

I enjoyed this as it is so relatable

I'm disappointed. the title is very promising, but the essay is shallow and unreflective. I guess i'm getting old, but this new type of writing is neither introspective or illuminating. "I also sort of...." this is what reflection is supposed to be now, among a certain age group? I feel so sad about this.

I'm genuinely sorry to have made you sad. Sounds like your biggest disappointment is with my language, which is admittedly informal. Is that what you mean by shallow? I stand by the attempt to reflect deeply.

Bravissima, Courtney. I like that you responded to the original comment. Just keep on going and read Montaigne perhaps, too, if you have not yet tried? He is a great master of reflective writing.

Perhaps you, Mars Mannix, could submit a reflection of your own - demonstrating the introspective, illuminating, deep writing about severed friendships that you seek? This may help us understand what you mean; why you're sad and disappointed about this essay?
As for me, I connected deeply and meaningfully with this helpful, insightful piece.
Thanks Courtney. I just reestablished friendship with a dear friend after 10 years of confusion, hurt, pain, anger and almost acceptance. It was exactly as you described - the familiar quirks, the essence still there. The 10 years evaporated in the first 10 minutes.

What a beautifully written piece that spoke directly to my heart. Thank you for being brave enough to share your work, remember what Brene Brown says to her critics ~

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.” Teddy Roosevelt 1910

I think this is a wonderful reflective piece of writing. i was deeply moved by this piece, and feel like it's helped me to begin the healing process in this area of lost friendships.

Mars - I'm not sure what generation you speak of, but I do believe I am from the same generation as Courtney (perhaps why it deeply resonates with me). What struck me from your comment is that it reminds me of the feedback that I continue to receive from my parents - which is feedback underlining disappointment in my choices and my generations choices, yet when I ask them for what they can suggest would be a better choice they can not provide an answer. This sort of feedback leaves me bewildered, frustrated, sometimes angry and certainly no better off in improving my choices.

I'm not sure what generation you speak of either. I am well past old enough to be Courtney's mother, and I found this resonated with me completely. Through each decade of my life friendships have emerged and faded away. I still mourn the lost ones despite making no attempt to rekindle them (i.e.I stubbornly refuse a FB account). And I miss them each and every day. Thank you Courtney - for being so inspiring!

I agree with Mars Mannix - it is some nice writing but...doesn't go very deep and is disappointing. I'm realizing that it is time to give up reading blogs and postings as they usually don't go deep enough - it seems to be fluff. However, now and then I will read something that truly resonates and I learn from it - those are the gems that keep me clicking on titles.

I don't agree with your perfunctory criticism of the writing in this post. I found it quite profound and could relate to it very well. Contrary to your opinion, I think the piece is both introspective AND illuminating; and I speak as someone who is probably old enough to be the writer's parent.

I was disappointed, too, and felt the essay suffered from a misleading title. While the writer made a few strong points in the piece it was, overall, slight and unsatisfying. Also disappointing were the intensely angry responses to Mars Mannix's opinion. People seem terrifically threatened by an opinion they do not share. And for the record, a reader who expresses dissatisfaction with a piece is under no compulsion to write their own piece. If a writer cannot handle criticism, she ought not hold her material out for public viewing.

Thank you for writing such a beautiful heartfelt piece, love the content and that its meaningful and concise. To the critic who is "disappointed" it made me think of what Brene Brown said in an interview~

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.” Teddy Roosevelt 1910

I'm disappointed that you feel the need to be so judgmental of a stranger on the internet. Perhaps you should consider some reflection of your own, Mars Mannix.

I am going through this right now, for possibly the first time ever in my life - and I hope the only. Your words speak my heart. Thank you.

Thank you, Courtney, your column really hit me in the solar plexus today -- with a whoosh of recognition and some comfort: I am not alone. I have been grieving the end of a relationship for a long time. What did I do? When did it go wrong? Why? How can I make it better? I tried, and I thought for a moment we could get back what we had, but then silence. "I mourn. There is no resolution. And this, my friend, I'm still trying to reckon with."

I am going through this very thing with a long-time friend who I thought would be a friend-for-life. It hasn't even really hit me yet that this might be it for our friendship. I hate the very idea of "temporary people" so I can completely relate to this. Beautifully written. Thank you Courtney.

This is so true. I've been through the ones that unravelled before you know what's happened, the explosive surprise endings, the gradual painful death, the temporarily-on-hold and the intentional cut off when toxic was an understatement. It's never easy. You always try to justify or validate or wonder what would have happened. Whatever the ending, you never really forget. But eventually, you find that you have forgiven.

You are a thoughtful and talented writer. Para 6 & 8 are particularly important and pertinent to me at this time in my life. I had never lost a friend before and to lose one 'resolutely' was terrible as you describe. ..."But the anger can coexist with the love..." is so true, although I would have never believed it. Thank you for your insight.

Awesome reflection, beautifully written....such an articulate rationale. Thank you for explaining so masterfully the mystery of how and why friends truly come and go in our lives. Love your way with words.

I went through this recently. A friend I'd known over half my life; a brother in all but blood. He cut me out of his life over two years ago and I couldn't see it, accept it, or let it go. Two years of foolishly and painfully trying to salvage a broken friendship while mourning its loss at the same time. Then, finally, just for a moment, I set love aside, let that relentless sadness turn to anger, and that was all it took. That's how I got through the last stages of grief, including acceptance.

Between sadness and anger, I'm ashamed to say, anger feels a whole lot better. I don't know if the love and the anger can coexist; I think as long as the former is there you'll never get this person out of your head. Maybe it's different for men. But I'm also "bad at letting friendships go ... because it feels injurious to me to stop loving someone once I have started[.]" I don't love this person anymore. But I'm still having a hard time forgetting.

Thanks to the author, and the other commenters.

Grazepplin 27 I appreciate your personal reflections on this beautiful article.
My sense is that for us men, anger and sadness are one and the same.
Underneath the anger is often a deep sadness. Anger is more energetic and perhaps easier to justify than sadness. Don't be afraid of the sadness. It has much to teach if lived with for a bit. Peace to you!

I lived with the sadness for two years. I had to let it turn to anger in order to get past it.

Sounds like we have had similar experiences. I don't believe that either the sadness or the anger feel good. I'm almost past the anger but I think the sadness will always remain. In a strange way, this sadness has enhanced the gratefulness I feel for my other friends, some of whom are lifelong friends while others have recently entered my life.

Courtney, thank you for your insight into lost relationships. I would say that I experienced something similar when my husband of 32 years walked out without warning or explanation. Wha?

I met my first true friend when I was seven.  We were always together until her parents divorced when we were in high school.  But through the moves and college and marriage the time and space between us was only physical.  In her late 20's she was diagnosed with MS and by this time divorced from an abusive husband.  She moved, sick and single, to the town where I was living. At that time, I was not fully aware of how much she was suffering from MS.  I was busy with work, a husband, and life.  As her health decayed she moved back home with her mom.  Several months later, incapable of walking, she took her own life at age 30.  I never said I was sorry for not being able to understand her pain.  I never said I was sorry for not being a better friend.  I never thanked her for loving me and being my friend.  There is no chance to do it over.  Fifteen years have passed, and I still regret not being a better friend.  I regret not having the courage or strength to say what was in my heart.  I regret not affording the time to just listen.  I would like to say that I've learned from past experience how to be a friend, but I am ashamed to say that I'm still too crippled.

The sadness part of losing relationships for me, is knowing I lost them, because of my own weaknesses. Usually because I was so wounded inside and hurting, I could not show up and be fully present for them, in the way that I really longed to be. The failures in relationships pile up, and I don't find any healing or ability to let go. It has only gotten worse with time. Each wound cuts deeper and deeper, until I no longer no how to be in them at all. I wish we focused more on how to heal broken relationships instead of how to get over ones that are over, because the truth is that deep wounds that keeps of from being able to engage in healthy relationships, don't heal in isolation. They only heal in the safety and security of trusting relationships where we feel truly safe being real, and vulnerable, unconditionally accepted, validated and loved. Neuroscience is more and more proving that we need loving connection in or to function, and yet oddly there is so much focus now on getting rid of people we don't like, cutting people out of lives, labeling and minimizing and disengaging from those who don't meet up to expectations. Every time I turn around I seem memes and articles about getting rid of 'toxic' people. Compassion says toxic is another word for wounded, and in need of healing. But I don't know how this 'relationships are disposable' mentality that is so pervasive now can really help any of us in growing and healing and becoming whole, or bring love to hurting world. It has certainly not helped me at all. The loss I have experienced has left me truly irreparably damaged, cognitively, emotionally and physically. It is very sad thing. I can't believe this is how it is supposed to be, nor can I understand why so many are okay with it.

For what it's worth, I m definitely old enough to be your mom, and I thought this was a wonderful, reflective, insightful and thought-provoking piece. Don t believe the hype about outgrowing or needing to replace friends after 7years. Some will need replacing, it s true--but there is nothing so rich and nurturing as a long-term friendship, and I hope you get to experience many of these as you settle down and grow older, as I have. Meanwhile, something I found very helpful when what I thought was a close friendship suddenly turned unbearable (very rare for me) was to Google that well-known phrase. "some friends are for a season, some for a reason, and some for a lifetime.". There was a wealth of explanation about this phenomenon which really helped me to let go of the friendship and stop worrying what I might have done "wrong." Hope others find it helpful as well...

Thank you for writing something I've been thinking about for a long time.

This reflection resonates with me. Who hasn't lived through lost friendships and wondered what could have been different. It is very helpful to know that the feelings I have had about friendships that ended are experienced by others. Thank you for writing about this, it brings comfort.

Thank you Courtney. Your words really hit home for me and I hope my reflection on my lost of a long-time partner does not border on plagiarism. I so deeply connect with your writing. I wonder if you'd consider writing about your experience with ex's.

With gratitude,

So many smart reflections which I can hold on to! I have been waiting to exhale, aaaaaahhhhhhhh, Thank you,so very much.

This is true, and painful - I've experienced a lot of similar situations. So I stand with you saying "I hate that idea!" (re: 7 yrs, then shed & replace).
What do you do when this involves relatives? It is far more painful. And resolution is not elusive; it's sometimes nigh impossible to rebuild. Where are those answers?

Thanks Courtney for writing so plainly and honestly about this topic. Reflecting on my own loses, a couple of things come to mind. First, we the inhabitants of the "Land of Lost Friends" are in good company. This isn't a unique experience it seems, therefore, maybe these especially hurtful and often cowardly endings say more about human nature or our culture than it does about the individuals involved. Also, from a cultural standpoint, while we know intellectually change is the only constant we all still seem to adopt a kind of faulty thinking about the permanance of friendships. Most people don't stick with us our whole lives and we don't stick with them for a million reasons, some better than others, but that's reality. We need a new way of looking at what we are owed by friends and the experience of friendship in general. We live our lives from the outside in, rather than the inside out. We are too dependant on approval, too worried about what others think, and too insecure with ourselves. We all too often don't live in the moment with the friends we do have, racing from one thing to the next, reliving the past or plotting for the future that isn't even here yet. We are trying to control everything and one another instead of just enjoying the moment and showing up for it, being grateful for when it works and not fretting about what's next. Then when the moment with a particular person is over, perhaps the fact that we had a real friend for a certain time and place, just the experience of a good friend, even if only for a while, in an age so desperate for genuine connection is silver lining enough.

It's so good to be affirmed in the thoughts you thought no one else was thinking. Very thoughtful essay!

Thank you so much for this beautiful reflection on friendship. Friends have always been central in my life and I've cherished a small group of close friends wherever I am. But moving, separation/divorce, differences (small and large) have meant that few of those friendships survive over time. Though I miss those friends and the special connection we shared, I have, by and large, been able to accept their loss over time.
Two weeks ago, it was a different type of loss - the third one you mention. An email, out of the blue (for me at least), informing me that a dear and close friend could no longer "be in a relationship with me." Stating that she hoped I would understand (though she gave no reason whatsoever) and accept her decision, she made it clear that there was no hope for reconciliation. I felt shocked and hurt and deeply wounded. Over the past couple of weeks, I've cried, meditated, occasionally raged, and sent compassion and forgiveness her way. And slowly the pain has become less acute, more like the dull ache of loss. I still wish it hadn't happened, still wish I could change the outcome, but I know that for now, at least, it's done.
At 65 I've known my share of losses and then some - many through death. I still hold onto the feeling that loss through misunderstanding or miscommunication or projection or stubbornness (whichever one caused my friend to leave me) is not a necessary loss - but I suppose I need to work on letting go a little more.
Thank you for opening up this important discussion.

I can so relate to this Karen. Same thing happened to me a few weeks back. It was a friendship of 38 years and the friend has just been diagnosed with cancer. I could not believe it happened over email. I found it a shock. When processing it I realized that there was really nothing I had done wrong. I was just myself and the friend is at a crossroads. She is fighting the fight of her life and for whatever reason chose not to have me join her on the journey. As I processed the pain I realized that there had been a fracture in the friendship some time back. There was a sense of misunderstanding and being jostled for using a certain phrase or opinion. It was beginning to seem as if I could not be who I had always been. So in an endeavour to find what I did wrong I learned I did nothing to cause this. She has found that who I am is not who she wants to be around at this point in her life. It is not a rejection it is just a choice. We may be very different as we have aged but that does not mean that the friendship could not endure. But her focus is on something else now and I am not part of the process. It has taken a lot of reflection and esteem building to get back to a place of honesty to know I did nothing to cause this. Sometimes the journey people are on causes them to toss us to the side along the way as they are clinging to life literally. We can only let them go and be glad we had them as long as we did. Also we must be clear in the understanding that nothing we could have done or changed would have prevented this from occurring. Thus we must move on and make way for new adventures and people. I can honestly say a part of me feels relief in this.

truth ~ and then we mourn. It doesn't matter if that relationship was only months' old, or if it was years. I also think it is especially worse when you aren't even sure 'why' the relationship is dead. Certainly, life changes, and I'm good with that. What I'm not good with is the feeling about being completely cut off simply 'because'. That being said, one must remember, that not all relationships are forever - and some are simply for the short term.

Most of us struggle with loss, perhaps the most convoluted is when it is of our own making. We understand the life cycle well, birth and death, yet how is it that we can't understand every relationship has a cycle. Some cycles may outlive our time here, hence they are truly lifelong, while others have a definite ending that we catastrophize and oppose their end. Our threads feel like they are hanging loosely, and we long for tidy. Our hearts want to be understood and loved.

Courtney, you have captured exactly so many of the painful feelings of broken friendships. I've been carrying these sad feelings inside me for so much of my life, and this is the first time I've seen anyone capture my emotions in writing so well. Thank you for writing this piece. I'm going to save it and reread it periodically.

So many smart, thoughtful reflections;me, I've been waiting to exhale......aaaaaahhhhhh....thank you so very much!

the homepage is my daughter's digital diary Am touched by your feelings about friendship that really don't change from high school to colonoscopy time. I hope she learns the lessons of the value of a lost friend early in life so she isn't hurt by the failure, but inspired by the door which has been opened.

Thank you for this. I was suddenly cut out of a friend's life in October without explanation. Since last January he had become a new and immediately best friend and then we became more than friends. I asked why but he never told me. I want to ask if we can make-up, but can't beg someone to be my friend. I also wish we could have a grown up conversation in an effort to reconcile. I've gone from sadness to anger and back, and the hurt has been deep and ongoing. I also try to find a silver lining and even judge him harshly for his imperfections, and make myself feel better by saying "it was too intense, it had to end, it's better this way." Unfortunately I must see him through our social circle which is very painful when he acts like we are strangers.

Thank you so much Courtney for your honest and beautiful words.
I am going through a dissolution at the moment and was starting to feel like there was something wrong with me... How I was dealing with it... Until I read your piece. We are not alone. Thank you.

Thank you Courtney for giving space and words to this experience. I lost a dear friend to the unknown- a slow pulling away that remains unnamed and I acknowledged by her. My heart was broken and attempted to mend in for many months by going to her and trying to reconnect. It was until I let you and gave attention to my own broken heart that I began to heal. And I still wonder what she's doing, I still miss her smile and her is all there inter-mingled the pain and the joy of knowing her.

How true. I lost a friend yesterday through no fault of my own. Just someone who was being very inconsiderate of me. I hope one day to be friends again. As you say...always hope for a silver lining.

I too have lost friends and pondered these losses. Some I have understood in the context of the lovely essay "Reason, Season, Lifetime", and have consoled my self that the loss was a "reason" friend, or a "season" friend. Others I have grieved, felt angry about, and still struggle with. And, on occasion, a friend from the past has reappeared, and our friendship has resumed with the ease of a stitc, dropped and retrieved. While one friend never replaces the loss of another, these friendships that have resumed serve as reminder that often life is like a wave at sea; it moves away,and returns on a distant and welcomed tide.

This has happened to me twice. The first time, it took me years to "get over" the loss. I cried. I had nightmares. It was as if my friend had died rather than merely ended the deepest friendship of my life.
The second time was not so devastating as I realized the friend was emotionally needy and lived in so much chaos that her ending our friendship was relieving in some sense.
Still, it is hard to let go of people you care for, love, and in whom you have invested so much of yourself.

As someone who has been on both sides of this issue, who has both lost friends and who has given up on friendship, I applaud Courtney for her wisdom in this article. My experiences have proven that some situations in life simply do not have silver linings; they just are as they are. I've been perplexed when a friendship has inexplicably (in my mind) faded away, and I've been just as perplexed when I've moved away from a friendship, without a reasonable explanation even in my own mind. Sometimes things just happen...and then it's imperative to move on, with hope for other friendships that are life-giving and sustaining .

That phantom cut off "limb" hurts as much today as every day before. And I think I mourn the loss alone and she does not think of it at all...

I am always so startled when something arrives at my "door," apparently out-of-the-blue, that is totally relevant to what I am experiencing. I feel sure others can identify with this as well. It has happened repeatedly to me over my many years... to the extent that I think, "So here it is again...and why am I so surprised?" Well, your topic, Courtney, on severing friendships is just such an instance. What I needed, when I needed it. Thank you for your insight and sensitivity. It helps me with my own processing. And it provides, yet again, the sense that we are indeed all being held up by unknown sources.

As a retired military member, who moved at least every 2-6 years and whose friends came and went as their assignments began or ended, this piece deeply resonates with me. While in the Air Force, I would often slip into a mixed emotional state of excitement for the new and profound sadness of losing the familiar. This roller coaster would at times even affect the way I performed at work, but sadly, there wasn't much understanding expressed. It was perceived as a kind of weakness and a taboo subject in a male-dominated environment.
Another thing I wanted to say was, that with the internet, old friends can be found and friendships resparked, but more often than not, at least for me, I have been disappointed as those friends are too busy with current lives full of new friends to have much left for me. Then there is the geographic distance that prevents deep connection from re-forming. Without long conversations and feeling a loved one's presence, it is difficult to recreate old and deep bonds. How I wish it were not true, but it is.

Oh, I hear myself in this. I'm always analyzing the relationships and the endings, wondering if they were doomed from the start- if I picked the relationship for the same reasons that it ended, if I am responsible for the ending and if I can change it, or at least improve; what have I learned?
For me, the worst is the miscommunication. The e-mails, the texts, if we could just speak face to face, many of the relationships wouldn't sour the way they do... but it's easy to be black and white, or cut off relations when you're not interacting with a human, but rather a screen.

This is so relevant. I have in a strange way found solace in your words. It made me realize maybe I'm not at fault at all, because for me I've never found I was but somehow couldn't find any other plausible way to reason it. I am 25 and I too have lost supposedly life-long friends that just drifted away, changed the way they were and secluded themselves in egoistical actions. I know I have not (specially in the beginning of my teen days) played always right and I too am at fault at some of the beginnings of this situations, but even after trying so hard to catch my breath (and theirs) back, we were separated, if not by miles just by an unbearable case of broken links. It is so hard to find peace in the fact that this is just the way life is, the way hearts work. The way they feel and how we act upon that. But I loved reading this and somehow knowing I oddly have someone else, a complete stranger, giving me indirect clues that as long as I keep real to who I am, the same I always was, I will be alright. And in the end, it always felt like the valse we danced before will never be exactly gone. It will just numb away and stay alive in memories. And that is all we could ask for. Thank you for embracing such hard feelings with beautiful words and for profoundly opening your heart to write about it.


Very touching read. I think the negative commenters were expecting a “cure-all” in your writing instead of an accepting silver lining.

I do think the 7 year cycle illustrates a short coming with the words “friends” and “love” Like the 13 Eskimo words for snow, we need more precise words to describe varying levels of relationships and emotional passions. A" 7year shedding of acquaintances" fine, friends- much tougher.

My experience with this unfortunately is with a family member, a younger sister that has chosen to suddenly cut-off without explanation. As the years have gone on, I have been somewhat successful accepting this by drawing from many different sources of support and occasionally reaching out to her. But now I am afraid it seems she is trying to turn other family members against me as well.

Any resources or advice would be greatly welcomed. Thanks.

Hi clu,

I'm dealing with a similar situation, andI know the pain. Siblings are the closest bond you can share all your life, the only person who grew up in that same nuclear family....
But what can you do when they choose to turn around and hurt you? I'd be happy to talk. Maybe we could choose to be siblings.
Or mutually supportive in some way.

I recommend Life's Greatest Gift by Joan Chittister....The years and phases of life call for different levels of relationship. we talk, for instance about, buddies, gangs, acquaintances, colleagues,soul mates, and then, at the end, friends again. Each of these various types of relationships represents a stage in our own maturity and development. They teach us, a level of the sou at a time, what it means to discover that we are not alone in life, not the center of life, not the standard of value for anyone else's journey through life." There's a lot more of course, but she kind of describes the rights and responsibilities of the various types of friendships. For me, confusing a companion for a friend, caused the only lost friendship I'd ever had. If I would have understood the difference, I would have saved myself a lot of pain.

Hi Susan G.

I looked for a bit but this author does not seem to have written anything by this title. Could it be a different title you wanted to recommend? Thanks

I didn't expect Miss Martin's essay to resolve or explain my personal disappointments. I found it just one more way of how to look at things and that brings me peace. I used to think that when I forgot about someone, I had forgiven them. But I realize that is not the case and subconsciously I still deal with those scars. It's ok not to forgive, what is really important to me is to move on!

Your essay was beautifully written. I have struggled with this issue myself over the last several years. I lost a wonderful friendship several years ago and I still think of her and miss her. Although I have tried several times to extend an olive branch, its met with hostility. And so, sadly, as you say, we have stopped speaking the same language. Thank you, Ms. Martin.

I'm experiencing this as well, friends of 20-30 years drifting away. The funny part is astrologically it has been predicted this month in many of my horoscopes, as silly as it sounds. Thoughtful piece- if it goes over the heads of some then it may be the style of writing, but certainly not the content or intent. Rock on Ms. Martin. They say there are no accidents...I ran across your piece randomly and the synchronicity is what drew me in. Namaste.

I'm experiencing this as well, friends of 20-30 years drifting away. The funny part is astrologically it has been predicted this month in many of my horoscopes, as silly as it sounds. Thoughtful piece- if it goes over the heads of some then it may be the style of writing, but certainly not the content or intent. Rock on Ms. Martin. They say there are no accidents...I ran across your piece randomly and the synchronicity is what drew me in. Namaste.

I have been one to walk away from a friendship because of repeated betrayals. By the time I was done, I was also done doing all the work to make it work. I learned alot by doing so. I have a new criteria for friendships: they must be mutually beneficial. I have to watch myself, because I tend to give more than the other person.

A friend once told me and I think of this so often: "being or having a friend takes a lot of work" and I would add mutual respect.

I am so grateful to you for sharing this. For the past year I have been going through the loss of the biggest friendship of my life and it has been torturous. Until this article, I have not seen anyone writing about similar situations, and I felt alone on this journey.

I was left wondering what attempts you may have made to re-kindle friendships perceived to be lost. I grew up traveling in a military family and learned early to deal with leaving loved ones behind and starting over building new relationships, but still think fondly of all the friends I've had, and with the advent of the internet actually re-connected with people I hadn't seen in over 30 years, but had exchanged yearly Christmas cards with them. Many of my friends are on Facebook, but I am not and we still email, text and sometimes call each other. There are many friends I feel spiritually connected to, but rarely see and I wouldn't hesitate to call or email after many years of separation. Perhaps it would help to think of the quality of the friendship that you had and assume the feelings are still mutual - this will come across in any way you communicate with these dear friends - no matter how long it's been since you talked. When you finally do get together in person, it's as if there has been no time or space!

You've managed to eloquently capture my feelings on this subject. My need for resolution is always at odds with the lost friend's need to avoid confrontation. Maybe that's why the friendship couldn't endure? I've been exceptionally fortunate to come back to some old friends recently, both recapturing some of the lost magic and recognising that certain things will never be quite the same.

I loved your article! after the first paragraph i was not sure if it was really about what i expected it to be about, but i have to saythe more i read the more powerful i thought your words became. Inthe past i had these really strongfeelings of fear and desperateness cause i was afraid of losing friends and not being able to keep in touch with all of them. I posted an article about severe friendships on my blog too, i would be honored if you would drop by and leave me some feedback!

I relate to the difficult emotions described here. Yes, sadly, some relationships do end, in the sense that ongoing communication is either diminished, completely non existent or suffers the finality of death. I have experienced all of the above flavors, and there are no patent, uniform ways of adjusting to this kind of newness in what had become part of ones shared lifeline, and so, into the dark we travel, with our memories, which we are free to carry past the every day discourse friends share. Certainly, we are permitted to move past the difficult part of what seems to have been torn from us, and tuck away, in a private and personal place that which we still hold dear. No one, including the departed friend can take that from us.And, so we move on, perhaps with a small degree of wonder if we will rediscover some of these lost friends and once again journey together into our future.

I read your blog in an attempt to find closure and resolution to the ending of a friendship that spans over 20 years. Perhaps only time will ease the pain and justifying a decision to stand up for myself and turn down a favor to a friend that I feel I owe so much to. We have definite differences politically, and have engaged in heated discussions only to conclude that our friendship was worth more...or was it?

The final straw was her asking me to dog sit for her terminally ill dog...a dog who I have stayed with many times before. I sought out the opinion of 3 valued friends, including a vet, who agreed with my decision to turn down her request, yet I somehow feel guilty for taking this stand. I work full time, my friend is retired. Her dog has lost control of his bowel and his bladder and has to be lifted and carried to the dog door in an attempt to get him to do his business outside. He literally lays in his waste most times. When I approached the conversation with my friend, she became angry and asked me to leave, unfriended me on Facebook and will probably never speak to me again. She did end up taking her trip, and not sure what her solution was.

To her credit, she gave me a place to live for 16 months until I got back on my feet, (I did pay the utility bills and my own food) and she let me use her car until I could get my own. I have tried to repay her back for her kindness and feel a debt of gratitude to her that I could never repay. I feel like she believes I should not turn her down for anything. What to do? What to do?