When Friendships Grow Apart

Losing a friend is one of the hardest endings to experience that no one prepares you for.

May 23, 2023

When Friendships Grow Apart

Growing up and growing apart is a natural part of the friendship cycle. One day a song or movie or some other moment—like an innocent reference from Diary of a Mad Black Woman thatreminds you of all the times your childhood best friend would fast forward to the “funny parts” and recite the punch lines from memory—hits you that person’s out of your life. Like any ending, the conclusion of a friendship ends each time you remember they’re gone. 

At some point, a line emerges solidifying the growing-apart from the grew-apart. A seemingly harmless change in tense that signifies the shift from in progress to in the past. There are few social texts (movies, books, songs…etc.) that talk about the dissolution and mourning of a lifelong friendship that doesn’t revolve around a guy, which makes the process of losing a friend even harder. Does it happen to everyone? Why and how did it happen to us? No matter how hard I’ve tried, I can’t seem to pinpoint where my and my childhood best friend’s friendship ended.

Living in a smallish town, it’s hard to avoid the occasional run-in or reminder. While getting my hair done at my friend’s salon a few weeks ago, I saw my childhood best friend’s sister. She, my best friend, and I spent so many hours together laughing, listening to music, making plans, driving nowhere, spending way too long in the Burger King dining room. After a decade of no longer being friends, I still miss the incredible ease of doing nothing or anything with someone that comes only from years of togetherness. 

My best friend and I met in our combined 2nd/3rd grade class. We always laughed about how we became best friends: My best friend was giving me a piggyback ride across the playground when she fell, smashing her nose against one of the portables. She had this adorable bump on the bridge of her nose that she would find any opportunity to blame me for. Our very own creation myth. A story that only her and I hold. 

We were in our late teens, early 20s when our friendship dissolved. Even though I can’t pinpoint the precise moment, I remember feeling abandoned when my dad died, but that was true for a lot of my friendships. We were young. No one knew how to handle the level of tragedy I experienced and the sadness that would follow me for years. It was easier for them to ignore it, and it was easier for me to fall into myself than try to be understood.

I remember talking on the phone with my best friend in the parking lot on the first day of my first job. I was scared, and she was annoyed, but she stayed on the phone with me as I worked up the courage to walk through the back door. Something in her voice didn’t feel right. She sounded distant. Later, I would label this as the first moment I realized our friendship would come to an end. It took a few more months, no more than a year, for the end to finally come. There was no denouement. There were only questions.

No one prepares you for these kinds of endings. The strangeness of people entering your life, making an impact, and leaving as if they were never there at all. I’m grateful for each of these friendships—even if the breakage hurt. I still feel a well of sadness thinking of the people who are no longer just a text or call away. The surrealness there was ever a time I couldn’t imagine my life without them. 

Losing a friend is its own type of death, and I learned to let myself mourn this ending like any other. The grief still lives in my body, occasionally finding its way to surface, but, like my friend told me just earlier today, “The people who are here are the ones who need to be here.” This was just the permission I needed to appreciate the impact of old friendships while turning my attention to those who are here now.