Growing apart from friends can be painful. It is one of the harder truths a part of becoming an adult that no one likes to talk about. Best friends and confidants who have shaped critical moments of your life can become distant memories of the past.

These are the friends who saw life happen for you in all its glory in real-time: the miserable relationship dramas, the courageous acts that led to success and the hilarious case of non-stop laughter over the silliest inside joke. They bared witness to your loss and grief, birth and renewal. These friends are your people—your chosen family— and yet life has a way of making the closest of friends grow up and apart.

Life has a way of making the closest of friends grow up and apart.

Do you ever ask yourself: How can I deal with the fact that the relationships between me and my best friends have changed due to life circumstances? Is there a way to reframe all of this so it is a little less painful?

Moving through stages of different life is a normal part of human development. We begin as babies and progress toward older adults. Each stage of life is marked by its own unique psychological and interpersonal processes. Attachment through emotional bonding is a critical facet to human development, happening at most stages from birth to death.

Separating and individuating is a corresponding process that results from attachment. At some point, quality bonding will necessitate friends finding their way and establishing their unique voice in order to become their own respective people.

One way to look at stages of friendship is to think of seasons. As we transition from one season to the next, it is marked by its own special qualities such as the glistening of autumn leaves, the stillness before a storm, the aroma of earth after weeks of rain and the balmy breeze at the ocean on that perfect summer day.

With friends, we may spend a season of life sharing in the pressures of school, living the single life, frolicking the world or developing professionally. At some point, transitions begin to happen like waves in an ocean, one after the other. One friend moves to another state for a job, another friend marries and has a child or another friend passes away. Thus, begins the new season of life.  

Transitions begin to happen like waves in an ocean, one after the other.

As you transition into different relational seasons, keep these ideas in your back pocket:

1. These changes are not about you.  

Remember this golden rule: It is not about you. It is common for someone to blame themselves as the reason for any transition. “Was it something I did that led my friend to leave the city? Could I have done something to make them stay?”

The answer is no and no. Remember that friends have choices based on their own realities, and they must make decisions based on their needs. While you are significant to your friend, ultimately, any decision is made based on a bigger picture.

2. It is okay to grieve these changes. 

It can be difficult to grow apart from friends. The realities that bring people into new seasons of their lives are vast and can bring up a whole range of emotions such as loneliness, confusion and abandonment. By all means, feel free to cry about it, journal about it, make art inspired by it, ask for a hug and hold yourself tight. It is understandable that you are processing and acclimating to the transitions.

It is understandable that you are processing and acclimating to the transitions.

3. Go with it. 

When we go against the flow of the tide, we crash harder than we would if we were to embrace it. It is a natural process to want to fight back and to not accept what is. Embracing changes in your life and your friends’ lives means going with the flow. To deny life’s natural rhythms will only be more exhausting for you.

Understand that change is afoot. Name it. Take it in, and make it yours. Let’s not forget: you are in the process of growth too.  

Celebrating the memories is a way to relive them at any time. Although you cannot rewind back to all those good times, your imagination holds the key to images of them. Anytime you unlock the memory, the images of those moments with you and your best friends come alive again. Wherever you all go, they will be with you for a lifetime and it is important to trust that the bond of friendship is not easily forgotten.

How have you dealt with the natural ebbs and flows of friendships? What practices have you developed on holding friendship with open hands?

Image via Jillian Mann and Kyla Trethewey of Our Wild Abandon, Darling Issue No. 16

2 comments

  1. I think the most you can do is to just go with it and try your best to keep in touch! I went to an international school in high school and many of my friends moved away after high school. It’s tough not to have my best friends by my side, but hey, when I go on vacations overseas now (the UK, Japan, Korea etc) I get free boarding! Haha! 😉

    Charmaine Ng | Architecture & Lifestyle Blog
    http://charmainenyw.com

    1. I absolutely love your reframe! Yes, if times have changed, including location, take up an offer to get that free boarding! 😉

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