By Amanda Idleman, Crosswalk.com
Friendships matter. Our friends are there to hold our hands when life gets messy. They bring us laughter. Your memories together are a treasure you can hold onto for your lifetime. When these special ones you call friends leave your life for one reason or another, it leaves a hole.
A friend I shared many years of motherhood with unexpectedly exited my life not long ago. We had spent endless mornings commiserating at the park, weekends away together trying to recuperate to love our families better, and even share a tattoo to make the friendship official. But life comes with many unexpected detours, which brought us to different places recently. The funny thing is that even though I have accepted the need for the change, my mind and body still grieve the loss. She visits me in my dreams. I often consider what could have been if the road between us had looked just a little different. My prayers often include her because even though we are distanced, I will forever love her.
Sometimes it's easy to think a friend can come and go without causing us to grieve, but that's not the truth. The place friends hold in our lives is a deeply important one. It's our source of joy, community, support, and love. We need friends! I'm learning to process my own sense of grief as I move forward without one I loved in my daily life. Here are a few ways to find healing when you are facing the end of a friendship:
1. Acknowledge Your Feelings
There can be so many complex feelings we face when a friendship ends. Often, this happens because there is some kind of falling out or change in lifestyle. It's tough to process all the reasons why a friendship is over. Give yourself the grace to acknowledge all the crazy feelings in your head. This doesn't mean you need to hold onto these emotions; acknowledging them is one way to process them so you can eventually let the negative feelings you may be struggling with go. Find a trusted person in your life to share how this loss is affecting you and share that burden with another.
Pray for healing if there has been a rift between you and your beloved friend. If you just can't be in the same space with the other person, but there are no hard feelings, continue to pray for that friend as a way to continue to hold them close to you and support them from a distance. Pray that God would help you to graciously process your hurts and loss associated with the situation so you can navigate any future interactions with grace, love, and mercy.
3. Live Above Reproach
Sometimes friendships end because you've hurt each other. These wounds can go deep, yet God calls us to live above reproach. This means we give up our right to get in the last word, justify our bad behavior, or get revenge. We have to allow God to be the one who makes things right for us. Trust that he is still working in both of your lives and will find ways to teach you through this ordeal. It's tough not to want to defend ourselves when we feel wronged, but it's not our job. It's up to God to care for our hearts and convict others that have hurt us.
4. Offer Forgiveness
Allow forgiveness to be a part of your story. Even if distance is a must in your friendship in order to maintain health, don't let bitterness well up in your heart. We can offer grace and forgiveness for ourselves and to others. It's our job to let our friends know we are not there to hold a grudge. We can move forward with peace and give no space for the enemy to plant seeds of bitterness and unforgiveness in our hearts.
5. Embrace Boundaries
While forgiveness is important, boundaries are still healthy. We can forgive but still understand that we are worth being treated with respect and love. If you are stepping away from a toxic friendship, it's okay to say I can't share the same spaces I once did with that person with love and grace. It can be really hard to establish boundaries with a person that once was close to you, but they can help you process and move forward without getting sucked back into an unhealthy situation.
6. Give it Time
I am the most impatient when something feels freshly out of whack in my life. I just want to get as far away from my discomfort as quickly as possible. I want to find the perfect words to make better what I feel has been broken. I'm learning as I grow older that sometimes the right words don't exist, especially in the immediate aftermath of a loss. When we are patient and sit in discomfort a bit before reacting, things somehow feel a little less raw and urgent.
Time gives your mind and body a chance to level out. Time gives you space to seek out wisdom if you aren't sure what the next right step should be. It also gives others in your life space to do that same kind of searching and healing. In time you will find more clarity about what life moving forward should look like, and it may inform you of what things from the past you need to apologize for. Time is a gift when things feel murky.
Ultimately we have to trust that the Lord will work in our lives, even in the situations we haven't handled perfectly. He is able to lovingly bring grace that can cover our failures. Continue to pray and ask that he continue working in your and your once-friend's lives. God is never finished with us! He is working and moving even when we don't see it, and we can be so grateful for his sovereign hand at work on our behalf.
Amanda Idleman is a writer whose passion is to encourage others to live joyfully. She writes devotions for My Daily Bible Verse Devotional and Podcast, Crosswalk Couples Devotional, the Daily Devotional App, she has work published with Her View from Home, on the MOPS Blog, and is a regular contributor for Crosswalk.com. She has most recently published a devotional, Comfort: A 30 Day Devotional Exploring God's Heart of Love for Mommas. You can find out more about Amanda on her Facebook Page or follow her on Instagram.