Releasing Relationships With Love
A few months ago, I discovered three different sets of friends were hanging out without me, and I spent the weekend throwing myself a pity party. As much as I hate to admit it, I was jealous and having a serious case of FOMO. Many of those friends were people I didn't see that often, though at one point we were incredibly close. It made sense that I wasn't invited to hang out because friendship is a two-way street, and it wasn't like I was reaching out to them. Still, I couldn't shake the bitterness creeping in about not being included. My mind was playing a game of emotional ping-pong, trying to decide if these were groups I should work harder to be a part of or depart altogether. Instead of accepting friendships as ever-changing, my anxiety was convincing me I had to pick a side.
After a fair bit of journaling and reflection, I realized I was forcing a simple solution on a complex situation. I reminded myself that I'm an adult now, and I don't have to "fit in" to any one place. It is possible to have a friendship fade away without animosity; it is important to mourn those losses; and it is okay to accept that things may always be a bit complicated in relationships.
Here are three steps to release old friends with love:
1. Acknowledge Change
The first step in the letting go process is to reflect, and journaling is an excellent way to process your feelings. Your entry doesn't have to be profound, it just has to be true.
Open up a new document on your computer or grab a notebook and let your feelings spill onto the page. This is for you, so really be honest about how angry, sad, or conflicted you feel. Letting it out is an important part of moving on. This isn't a time to make decisions about your friendships, it's just a time for you to sit in the unknown. It is incredibly beneficial to look at the parts of our lives which we feel stuck or frustrated with. It's impossible to deal with our feelings if we don't give them attention, and writing them down is a safe and productive way to release them.
2. Redefine Your Friendship
There's a big difference between a friendship that’s turned toxic (and needs to be cut off) and one that’s naturally evolved. For example, one of the friends I mentioned earlier is someone I've known for a long time. Over the years, we've experienced varying levels of closeness in our friendship, although this time it feels different. As I'm a few years out of college and beginning to hone in on who I am, my immediate circle is getting smaller. While my friend and I once ran in the same spaces, our lives are moving in different directions because, well, we're different people.
Instead of letting bitterness or guilt take hold, I appreciate our relationship for what it is. I will always love her, even if we don't do life together. I don't expect anything from our friendship other than a hug when we inevitably run into each other. I can be happy for her blossoming life while not being a part of it. Cheering her on from afar doesn't mean I'm on the outside looking in; it means that sometimes, things change. Accepting an ending that isn't clear-cut or dramatic is key because real life doesn't always tie relationships up with a pretty bow.
3. Move Forward
Letting go is easier said than done, and the best way to move forward is to commemorate your friendship. Make a scrapbook, go through old photos, have another journaling session, and do whatever feels right for you. Use these activities to celebrate the wonderful times you had together. Write about what initially drew you to your friend, what circumstances brought the two of you together, and why you meshed well at the time. You can also reflect on where your friend is now and the wonderful things you hope life will bring them. Contentious memories may arise. If this happens, acknowledge them, embrace your feelings, breathe, and then let it all go. Holding a grudge only hurts you.
A practice that’s helped me get over my jealousy and insecurity about changing friendships is watching Instagram stories. I'll go through my friends' stories from time to time and comment affirmations or engage in some supportive way. Whether it's a selfie or a beautiful walk they went on, their joy brings me joy—as long as I let it. Doing this only works if you practice responding genuinely. Gratitude is the best medicine, and I'm so grateful for the crazy, beautiful, talented friends I've had along the way.
Audrey Stanton was born and raised in the Bay Area and is currently based in Los Angeles. She works as a freelance writer and content creator with a focus in sustainable fashion. Audrey is deeply passionate about conscious living and hopes to continue to spread awareness of ethical consumption.