Friendships can feel tenuous at the best of times. Someone gets a job and moves within a month. Someone starts a dating relationship and disappears into the ether. When things change and friendships shift, it can be challenging to talk about that kind of loss. But if we don’t do the work of feeling our feelings and moving through the grief, it can negatively affect how willing we are to invest in our friendships moving forward.
Now that things are particularly uncertain in every area of life, our feeling of tenuousness has only grown. Perhaps you’ve had friends who have moved back home, or are not seeing other humans, or found a quarantine bae. With so many things up in the air, it’s important to be honest with ourselves, our people, and God about how we’re feeling.
In order to help you with that, here are five practices for when your friends leave.
Write them a letter, but don’t send it
It can be helpful to express your unfiltered thoughts and feelings in order to move through them. However, not all of those feelings need to be expressed directly to the person in question. It can be helpful to get them all on paper and out of your head. Then you can sort through them, present them to God, and see them more clearly and objectively.
Ask, "What story am I believing in this experience?"
Writing through our thoughts and feelings can also give us insight into the deeper stories we might be projecting onto our friends. Sometimes, the stories match the situation. Other times, we are letting old thought patterns prevent us from seeing the situation clearly and generously. If, for example, a friend is leaving in order to follow where God is leading them, but you feel they are abandoning you, that’s probably got some roots that are worth exploring.
Write down what you will miss about having that person nearby.
Even if you and your friend commit to staying in touch, there’s something about proximity that no amount of FaceTime calls can replace. Your friendship will look different, and that’s ok. But name the specific things you’ll miss about being able to see each other in real life on a regular basis.
Think of a few friends you want to spend more time with
People move out, but people also tend to move in. Is there a new person at work or in your Bible Study group who you could grab coffee with? Is there a peripheral friend who you’ve always wanted to spend more time with, but haven’t yet gotten the chance? Make a list and send them each a text asking if they want to hang out.
Establish new rituals you’re excited about
If you and that friend used to meet for a walk every Friday, give yourself something else to look forward to. Maybe you and another friend can have a picnic in the park on Sunday afternoons. Maybe you can start having themed movie nights or a game night with a couple of friends every Saturday. Maybe you still go for a walk on Friday, but you listen to your favorite podcast instead.
Once you’ve processed through some of these hard feelings, consider reaching out to a trusted friend or counselor. Plan to spend some time praying and reflecting as well. The loss of a friendship is still a loss, even if we are not so good at honoring that fact. I hope that these five practices serve you well.
I am not a mental health professional, so this advice is not a substitute for what a trained, certified counselor can offer. If you are feeling anxious or depressed, please reach out and get some help.