Navigating the Emotions of Adult Friendship Loss

By Stephanie Barbee | Sep 15, 2022

What do your adult friend relationships look like? Who do you feel is “in your corner?” Has this changed for you since the pandemic? For me and MANY others I know, it absolutely has. Some people who have been close since the sandbox don’t talk and people who thought they could never like each other are best friends. 

I know the pandemic shook us to the core and none of us were exempt. Even for those of us who may have been able to successfully have businesses, show up to work, or maintain healthy relationships, the real fear of death and having our fragile existence front and center for AT LEAST a year changed people. I’m still discovering all the ways it has changed me. Whenever I think I know, I realize I have no idea. For me, that’s part of the unseen benefit in this. I am more in touch with and willing to share my uncomfortable emotions than ever before. I believe this willingness to share will help somebody feel less alone. This is my story.

During the pandemic, I went from being out of the house 16 hours a day to no time outside the house on many days over the last two years. Fast forward to booster shots and restlessness and I start to (selectively) go back into the world. Recently I hung out in person with a group of women I became close to virtually. It was an amazing time. Then I went to another event, and it was also an amazing time. So, what’s the problem, you ask? For the next three days, I slept an extra 1-4 hours, didn’t do my usual routines, and I was short with my family. The emotions bubbled over the third day when a memory popped up that showed one of the most fun days of my life three years ago and the hurtful recognition that I wasn’t even close with those people anymore. I pride myself on having a pure heart and being to others who I’ve needed at various times in my life. The hard part of this is that sometimes that same energy isn’t reciprocated. Even though I know all the “right” things to think, my emotions had another message that it was important for me to honor. 

My emotions wanted me to honor that loss hurts. As adults, we get conditioned to think it’s cool to be “solo dolo” and it is at times (I’m an introvert and an empath so I GREATLY value my alone time). It was also important for me to admit to myself that I needed others. I missed that reflection of love and imperfection in real relationships. I thought about how I never had friendships like on Sisters or Sex and the City, where we talk about EVERYTHING. And for those that came close (like the ones in the memory that popped up), they didn’t seem to last. 

So how did I “bounce back”? In no particular order, 

1)      I journaled

2)      I listened to some empowering music

3)      I did something active (washed the dishes)

4)      I read (about ego)

5)      I communicated (with my partner, setting the boundary I needed to vent and not have them “fix it”)

6)      I rode the waves of the emotions

7)      I showered

And if I’m honest, at the time I’m writing this, I’m still in the process of recovering from that huge tsunami of emotions and all the things that came up with it. I’ll be working for a few weeks on the different themes that came up. And for that I’m grateful. As a healer, it’s important for me to remind myself and be reminded that I am always growing. It doesn’t make me “less than.” It makes me human. 

The truth is, we’re always going to be growing (or at least I’m trying to always be growing) because every day I’m unlearning what doesn’t serve me and relearning what does for the time. It’s rarely an “easy” process because I’m not entirely used to being in touch with my feelings. When it came to this topic of friendship, I would have never guessed I’d struggle the way I did. Yet here I am, learning and evolving along the way with everyone else. What a gift!


About The Author

Stephanie Barbee is a Clinical social worker in Missouri. She serves Black Queer people who seek to understand their identities, overcome traumatic experiences, or explore how to move through a world that sees them as invisible.She also develops courses, trainings, and does speaking engagements. To connect with Stephanie feel free to check out her profile on Clinicians Of Color’s Website. 


Stephanie Barbee

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