How to deal with the grief of cutting out a friend
5th January 2023

Written by Ellen Scott

The decision to remove a friend from your life is a difficult one. But once you get through it, there can be grief on the other side. 

It doesn’t matter how awful a friend someone was, when they’re out of your life, grief can still hit hard. This can make you question whether you made the right decision in cutting them out. If you miss them this much, maybe they should still be in your circle? Maybe they weren’t as bad as you remember? 

That’s why it’s vital to understand that grieving the loss of a friend – even when you made a smart choice in letting them go – is normal. The good news is that there are ways to cope. 

“Unfortunately not all relationships are loving or healthy or even good for us,” Lianna Champ, a grief specialist, tells Stylist. “It can be particularly harsh if we’ve had a toxic relationship with someone who should have been loving but instead may have be abusive, cold or unloving and, to preserve our sanity, we have no choice but to sever all ties. 

“It is so hard but we cannot wonder why people do what they do or don’t behave how we think they should, and we can even experience the heavy weight of guilt and responsibility for their negative behaviour. We can be shocked by the intensity of our feelings, and this can colour our whole life as we grieve for how differently we wish things could have been.” 

Ahead, Champ shares her steps to recovering from the grief of a friendship you’ve lost. 

Remind yourself why you let go of this friend

There’s a reason you decided to end this relationship. When the loss feels overwhelming and you start to question this, remind yourself of exactly why this person doesn’t deserve to be in your life. 

“We have our values and our values define our limits,” says Champ. “We put them in place to protect us and ensure we are happy. We choose or develop our values to reflect our beliefs and if something threatens the security of our values it’s time to make changes. 

“Our values teach us to trust ourselves enough to leave relationships that are not healthy for us.”

Don’t waste time on things you can’t change

“You cannot change what was, but you can change how you feel about it,” notes Champ. 

It’s easy to slip into wishing someone was different or that things had gone in a better way. When you find yourself ruminating along these lines, repeat the above as a mantra. Don’t waste time fussing over stuff that’s out of your control. 

Have an ‘honesty hour’ 

Champ recommends: “Have an honesty hour on your own, with a box of tissues, a pen and some paper. Think about the relationship and the effect it had on you physically and emotionally. Write down the things that you remember having the biggest effect on you. What was it you needed but didn’t get at the time or what was incomplete in that event for you? 

“This can help to pinpoint where some of the difficulties lay in the relationship. You will learn about yourself and your triggers. You may also experience feelings that make you uncomfortable or that you begin to understand. You will also learn about how you relate and respond to others and may even start to see patterns emerge.”

Find forgiveness for your ex-friend

Forgiveness doesn’t mean you let someone back into your life. Instead, it can give you freedom from the burden of resentment and rage. 

“You need to take steps to find forgiveness for the other person as you let them go,” says Champ. “It’s important to know that forgiving someone who has hurt you does not mean that you condone or accept their behaviour. It means that you acknowledge that what happened, happened and now you are ready to let the pain go.” 

Can you try to understand where your friend was coming from? What could have caused their behaviour? Part of moving forward is realising that your ex-friend is a complex person with their own complicated needs and issues. They were (probably) trying their best, but they weren’t able to be the friend you wanted and deserved. Let them go without any hate. 

Accept that it’s OK to be sad

Losing a friend is hard. Don’t beat yourself up for feeling rubbish in the aftermath of a friendship break-up. Give yourself permission to grieve and invest time and energy in your self-care during this tricky period. 

Focus on yourself

Take this grieving period as a chance to focus on yourself and look inwards. 

“Concentrate on your own character and don’t let your someone else’s toxic behaviour define you,” Champ suggests. “Use their behaviour as a way to improve your own interactions in all your relationships. If your life is a car, you are in the driving seat. Don’t let anyone else steal your steering wheel.”

Lianna Champ has over 40 years’ experience as a grief and funeral care specialist and is author of the practical guide How To Grieve Like A Champ.

Main image: Getty, Stylist.co.uk

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