To Befriend Again
By Lisa Savage | Apr 1, 2023
By Keisha Wells, LPC
Picture By Canva
It is the comfort of being deeply seen and understood. The ability to openly vent, cry, and laugh with acceptance. It is the silent moments shared, coupled with moments of volume and priceless memories. It is the peace in knowing you are cared for by receiving a thoughtful gesture—a best wishes for the day text, a FaceTime chat for a quick laugh, or an early morning prayer call. Connections and memories are built over lattes, gym sessions, or laughs at viral memes. It is the desire to share a bond with a person you value and who also calls you a friend.
The security of a fruitful friendship is a blessing—a precious life asset. Still, for some, their reality is not the Hallmark-like bond of life-long friends, but the remains following the demise of a once perceived unbreakable friendship or a phantom relationship imagined yet never fully realized.
Many individuals want genuine friendships and companionship but are often reluctant to pursue these connections—afraid to be hopeful yet met with rejection, disappointment, or disagreement. For many, their emotional walls are the result of friendship trauma and wounds from the breakdown of previous bonds once so fierce but, ultimately, divided, discarded, or devalued by misunderstandings, lack of commitment, or even life transitions such as growing careers, relocation, marriage, and parenthood.
As a defense, some may offer a warning about the dangers of friendship: No new friends. Why do many relate to the aching hurt and sting of the loss of friendships, particularly those that blindside and leave you seeking closure? Why do relationships diminish or conclude in this way? And when they do end, how do you heal and grow through loss to form new friendships? The following are gentle considerations in moving forward and cultivating adult friendships, even in the face of grieving the loss of a friend and being open to trying again.
Grieve and Accept
Acknowledge how you feel about the loss. Resist blocking, numbing, or diminishing your emotions. Often, the end of a relationship can be a sorrowful time and you may want to move as swiftly and far from it as possible. However, relationships take time to create, and in these connections are memories that may later lead to sadness, confusion, frustration, guilt, and disappointment at the relationship’s dissolution. Know your feelings about the loss are valid and deserve to be explored. Consider a safe space to identify, vent, and process your emotions such as counseling with a professional experienced in helping individuals work through grief and loss. You may also benefit from journaling or figuratively writing a goodbye letter to your former friend to express your emotions about the course of the relationship and its ending.
Accepting the end of a friendship doesn’t mean you like or prefer this outcome. Acknowledging the loss doesn’t diminish how you feel about it either. Still, accepting the relationship’s status is fundamental for healing as acceptance allows you to identify how to live with this loss now that it is a reality. As you acknowledge the end, you can work to create a solution to live anew without the friendship and build future relationships.
Believe to Befriend Again
Vital to fostering new friendships is the ability to identify the lessons you learned in loss and areas for self-improvement. With a balance of being open and wise, you can work to heal and foster connections that serve you well. Having a deeper understanding of your ways of receiving and giving love in relationships, you can move forward and consider what you need and desire most in friendship, as well as what you are willing to offer and accept. Ask yourself: What type of relationships do I need and want now? How do I need and want these relationships to feel and show up in my daily life? What are the benefits and risks of connecting now? Who am I willing to connect with (or not) and why? How will I prioritize these relationships? Remember, all friendships, current or former, are unique and not to be compared.
Discover New Connections
Seek experiences to engage with others. Social clubs, professional organizations, and even friendship networking apps provide opportunities to meet others who may share similar values, beliefs, and interests. In these settings, you may spark conversations leading to deeper opportunities to connect. Take a moment now to brainstorm spaces where those with similar interests may be found. Identify actions you will take to engage in meeting others. New actions may look like attending events of interest such as a poetry reading or trivia night; volunteering with a local cause; or taking a solo trip with a travel group.
Maintain Relationships as a Form of Self-Care
Cultivating healthy relationships is essential to your well-being. Time well spent with a friend can be nourishing to your mind, body, and spirit. Strive to nurture the friendships in your life by being intentional—not transactional. Catching up on texts or phone calls, and scheduling face-to-face time, can be challenging as to-do lists are ever-growing, but healthy relationships are founded on purposeful connection and communication. In setting your intentions for the week, schedule meaningful times where you can be present with others. In this instance, a planner, calendar reminder, or whiteboard may be helpful to outline dates and times when you will connect with loved ones. Resolve to also be flexible and open to changes needed in creating this time with friends. Just as your body needs nurturing and attention, a relationship requires time, patience, care, and commitment to flourish. Ultimately, understanding and prioritizing the level of care and focus needed for your friendships can help build enduring connections.
About the Author
Keisha is a licensed professional counselor and owner of Transformation Counseling Services in Georgia. Her practice focuses on grief counseling and perinatal mental health services. Keisha is also an avid reader and writer, contributing to articles in ESSENCE Magazine, The New York Times, Parents Magazine, and HuffPost. Keisha has combined her love for writing and advocacy with her book, From Three Heartbeats to One: A Gentle Companion Offering Hope in Grieving Pregnancy and Infant Loss. As an advocate for the bereaved, Keisha enjoys supporting others, helping them to develop their voices and identities in grieving, and to have hope and be empowered on their grief journeys. Connect with and follow Keisha on Instagram.