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Do you feel hurt and bereaved when good friendship ends?

By Bunmi Sofola

Good friends have now been dubbed ‘ the new family’ . Yet not many of us can boast of friendship that’s spanned decades without one or two misunderstandings shaking its foundation. And when things fall apart amongst friends, the bereavement is almost as bad as if you’ve lost a loved one. Beatrice  a 42 year-old Energy Consultant remembers her first fall out with a supposed friend as early as when she was ten years old.

“When I was ten,” she recalled” , a girl at school stopped speaking to me. ‘ Looks as if you’re being sent to Coventry” , one of the senior girls hissed in the queue for assembly. I was in my first year at secondary school. I had no idea what she meant, I’d never heard that phrase before. I didn’t know how I’d offended my so-called friend, but I was sure of two things, the first was that I was about to burst into years; the second was that I must not be seen to cry. So, I stood in the corridor feeling a mixture of emotions bewilderment, embarrassment, isolation, the sharp, sudden slap of unpopularity.

“ Twenty years later, I experienced the same response when another friendship came to an end. But as an adult, it was a lot worse.” We’re often told that our mates are more important than our relatives. Modern marriages may come and go, but friends are to have and to hold, for better for worse. Unfortunately, the idea that friendships last forever is a fantasy. Some do endure, but some should never have begun.

Speaking on her second let down by another friend, Beatrice said: “I still think about Tonia 10 years after we last spoke. We met at university and after graduation we rented a flat in Lagos. She was clever, sharp, stylish and funny. I was a little in awe of her. We shared everything from cigarettes to break ups. Even when we could afford our own places, we stayed close. Then one day, she called and said she’d met a new man. Within a couple of months, they were engaged and soon after, they had a secret marriage.

“I should have been happy for her, but I felt left out. I was also jealous and I grumbled to a couple of mutual friends. “ Tonia heard about my whingeing and the next thing I knew, I was on the way to Coventry again. I left telephone messages, she never responded.

Some months later, I discovered she was pregnant and sent a card but she simply ignored me. Admitted I was guilty for not supporting her sudden relationship with her then husband, but did I deserve to be dropped without any explanation?

“For a long time I felt the same emotions I’d had when I was ten – humiliated at being dumped, embarrassed when mutual friends realised that I was no longer in the gang; hurt that she didn’t want to know me any more. There was a tangible sense of loss. I’d wake up crying, having dreamt that we were friends again. When I spotted her once at a party, I crept away, overwhelmed by shame and the fear of confrontation.”

According to a US psychologist and friendship coach, Dr. Jan Yager; “This intensity of feeling around friendship is a female preserve. Ask a man what he talks about in the pub and it’s likely to be either work or sport. This does not mean that they don’t feel deeply, they just don’t talk to their mates about it. Men enjoy their friends but they are more cautions. Women are driven. They invest far more. It’s little wonder that we’re devastated when these friendships break up. One  40 year-old woman  I know still hasn’t recovered from a childhood friendship which began when she was 13 and ended when she was 27, following a now about money. `I dream about putting my arms around her, telling her I’ll never forget her. She shaped my whole life. I wouldn’t be who I am today without her and yet the friendship is over.”

“Women use words like ‘traumatic’, ‘ heartbreaking; “ unforgettable’ – the same words to describe their feelings at the demise of both sexual relationship and friendships. Women tend to blame themselves when friendship ends. The excuses go like: “ It\s been me who has created the distance by moving, or they’ve started having families and I haven’t…’  Six years ago, I lost several friends when a long relationship ended and I needed to move on, make a new life. Unlike our grandmothers, who would have married at the same time as their girlfriends, stayed with the same men, had babies at the same age and settled in the same town, a friendship today can buckle under the stresses and impermanence of modern living. They are being tested more because life is not stable. Perhaps we’re more disposable, may be we give up easily.”

“ Last year”, Beatrice continued,  “almost a decade after my friendship with Tonia ended, I received a card. When I realised it was from her, I initially felt nauseous from nerves. Tonia explained that she’d had another child, this time a daughter. Having a girl has prompted her to think back to our friendship, I was touched to what she had written, and for weeks I picked up the card, wondering what to do. I knew it must have been a big decision for her to send it. The strange thing is that though I wish her well, I still haven’t replied. What has stopped me? Hurt feelings? Fear? Suspicion? Revenge? Or just the passing of time?

Any friendship breakdown is painful on both sides, but it’s usually the person who’s dropped who feels more anguish. According to relationship psychologist, Susan Quilliana, “if you’re the one who has broken the bond, you might feel guilty or unhappy, but at least you know what is happening. The other person doesn’t have control and that will feel worse.” Whichever side you’re on, all experts agree that you need to grieve.  “Treat is as a bereavement process”, says Quilliana.  “Acknowledge that you will go through denial, anger and fear. You might feel invalidated – will anyone ever like me again? There is something to be said for learning lessons too – if you don’t, the pain can last for decades and may be repeated.”

Boob Job? (Humour)

A doctor is examining a girl of admirable proportions. Holding his stethoscope up to her chest, he says, “Okay, big breaths? “ Teth”, said the girl, ‘and I’m only thirteen..”

What’s In A Name? (Humour)

A teenager comes home from school and asks his dad: “What’s the difference between potential and reality?” His dad says, “I’ll show you. Ask your mum if she’d sleep with Robert Redford for a million dollars. Then ask your sister if she’d sleep with Brad Pitt for a million dollars.”

So the kid goes to ask his mum, “ Would you sleep with Robert Redford for a million dollars?” His mum says, “ Don’t tell your father, but yes, I would”. Then he asks his sister, “ For a million dollars, would you sleep with Brad Pitt? She says,  “Yes!”. The kid goes back to his dad and says, “I’ve got it. Potentially we’re sitting on two million bucks – but in reality we’re living with a couple of tramps.



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