Letting go of a friendship can be just as painful as saying goodbye to a partner. We share five tips to help you move onwards and upwards

There’s nothing more heartbreaking than a bad break-up. When we think of the b-word, ex-lovers are often the first thing to come to mind. Yet, if we’re honest, moving on from a close friendship can hurt just as much – if not more.

When a romantic relationship comes to an end, we have loved ones on hand to offer comfort. But when a friendship is on the rocks, who do we turn to? Breaking up with your bestie can leave you feeling hollow and isolated. Our friendships can feel bigger, more dramatic, more... permanent, than romance. There may be plenty more fish in the sea, but finding a true BFF? That’s a lot trickier.

Whether your friendship is drawing to a slow close after drifting apart, an epic argument has left everyone with hurt feelings, or you’ve entered different phases in your personal lives or careers, recognising and acknowledging that rift can be tough. Keep these five things in mind to help you approach the end of a friendship with an open, more positive mindset.

1. Take the high road

two people sitting together looking out at the sun

When emotions are running high, it can be easy to say something you may regret – or to say nothing at all. Ghosting can be upsetting for both sides. Taking away the opportunity for closure, by disappearing rather than responding when a friendship begins to break down, can leave you with unspoken regrets.

If possible, try to exhibit the changes you would have liked to have seen in your friendship. Keep the lines of communication open, honest, and kind. If the other person isn’t able to meet you in the middle, at least you’ll have a clear conscience, with fewer ‘what-ifs’.

2. Accept that closure isn’t always possible

Closure may be the more healthy, emotionally mature way to go – however, it’s important to allow this to happen naturally, when you both feel calm and ready. When a friendship starts to break down, it can be tough to express how you are feeling without things escalating.

Accepting that your friendship has come to a natural end can be tricky, yet try to remind yourself: you may not be able to achieve closure right now, but you never know what the future might hold.

3. Acknowledge the opportunity for growth

Letting go of old friendships can open up time and emotional bandwidth for new, exciting possibilities. For those working the typical nine to five, we only get 52 precious weekends a year. When you take out bank holidays, family obligations, birthdays, holidays, overtime, needing some space for self-care… you may be left with fewer free days than you’d expect. Having fewer friendships doesn’t have to mean your social life is more limited – it can mean that you are choosing quality time with those who matter to you the most.

Challenge yourself to use this extra time to try something new. Sign up for a new class, try your hand at a different hobby, or get more active. You’ll be amazed at how many opportunities this can open up to get to know new people. Chances are you may have more things in common than your old friends, thanks to your new shared activity.

4. Take time for reflection

Good friends will understand that you need to put yourself first for a while

Did your friendship break up for a reason? Were there things you could have done differently? We aren’t saying you should obsess over the whys and hows, but allowing yourself the time and space for reflection can give you the chance to identify any potentially toxic behaviours you may not have noticed previously. No matter what you discover, remind yourself: there isn’t always something we can do to fix our relationships – and that’s OK.

5. Give yourself a break

Before you rush off searching to fill that BFF-sized hole in your life, try to give yourself some space. That could mean logging off social media for a couple of weeks, letting joint friends know you’d rather hang out in smaller groups, or one-to-one, until things settle down, or even muting that shared WhatsApp chat.

Things may feel awkward for a bit, but good friends will understand that you need to put yourself first for a while. Your wellbeing should never take second place.