How to Cope When a Friend Cuts You Off
When a Friend Shuts You Out, It Really Hurts
I speak from personal experience when I say that when a friend suddenly cuts you out of her life, it can be devastating.
I've gone through this heartache myself, and I will share what I've learned about how to cope.
I happen to be a person of faith—and for me, prayer and forgiveness were key to helping me find a way to move on with my life.
It happens without warning and it hits you with devastating force…. The experience can be as painful as the death of a loved one, and just as confusing as an unexpected breakup with a significant other.— Liz Pryor, author of "What Did I Do Wrong?"
Friend Breakup: Journey to Acceptance
Stage 1: Shock and Denial
Your friend suddenly cuts you out of her life, and you have no idea why. You feel deeply confused and upset.
Stage 2: Loss
You feel a terrible sense of pain and loss. You may obsessively replay memories of the times you enjoyed together, and you may experience physical symptoms of heartache.
Stage 3: Self-Blame
You wonder what role you might have played in the ending of the friendship. Is it something you did? Could you have been a better friend?
Stage 4: Embarrassment and Shame
You begin to worry about what others might think. What does it say about you if you couldn't hold onto this person who was so dear to you? Will others think less of you?
Stage 5: Anger
You feel angry and indignant. You were always there when your friend needed you, and you worked hard to nurture the relationship. And now she tosses you aside?
Stage 6: Acceptance
You've been on an emotional roller coaster, but eventually you feel you can begin to let go. You realize it was better to have had the friend in your life, even if it was only for a season, than never to have had the friend at all. You may feel a sense of peace and forgiveness.
Stage 7: Relief
After coming to peace with the end of the friendship, you may be surprised to feel a sense of relief. You may realize that the friendship wasn't actually as perfect as you had once believed. You now have the opportunity to explore new friendships for a new season in your life.
Dumped? Jilted? Our Language Is at a Loss for Words
We have several different terms to describe the end of a romantic relationship: we might say that one partner got dumped or jilted, or at the very least we can say that the couple broke up. But when it comes to platonic friendships, our language seems to be at a loss for words. Until quite recently, we didn't really have any good terms to describe the abrupt ending of a friendship—even though the emotional trauma can be just as great as a romantic breakup.
One term that has emerged in recent years that begins to capture the pain of this trauma is "ghosting," which refers to the breaking off of a relationship by ceasing all communication or contact, typically without any explanation. This term often manifests in a sudden cessation of digital communication; e.g.,
- Not responding to your text messages
- Not liking or commenting on your social media posts (despite, perhaps, liking or commenting on other people's posts)
- Unfriending or blocking you on Facebook
When a close friend suddenly ghosts you, it's like they've disappeared from the face of the earth... and yet in some cases the pain may be amplified if you can see them being active on social media. In these instances, it's woefully clear: It's not that they've suddenly taken very ill or have become extremely busy at work. It's that they no longer want to communicate with you.
I learned, as I interviewed over eighty girls and women (ages 9 to 97) for a book about friendship, that cutoffs are a common calamity. And so is ghosting.— Deborah Tannen, author of You're the Only One I Can Tell: Inside the Language of Women's Friendships
Abandoned: Allow Yourself to Grieve
Losing a close friend is kind of like the breakup of a romantic relationship, or it might even be comparable to a death. You have lost someone who is extremely dear to you. This is a person who you used to be very close to—and now suddenly they are no longer there.
It hurts. Really bad.
Understand that grieving is an entirely natural and appropriate response to this painful situation. Allow yourself the time you need to grieve the loss of your friend. You have many good memories of this person that may go back for years, and it hurts to remember all the special times the two of you shared.
It’s natural to feel a sense of grief, loss, and pain when someone who was important in your life suddenly disappears. You are going to need time to heal, but be assured, you will, despite the challenges.— Irene S. Levine, Ph.D., author of "Best Friends Forever"
Grieve... But Do Not Despair
Don't lose hope. Your friend may not be speaking to you right now, but that doesn't mean the friendship will never, ever be rekindled in the future. It's important to keep these things in mind:
- Try to accept that, at least for now, your friendship with this person is on hold, for whatever reason.
- Someday, it is possible that your friendship could very well be restored.
- As painful as it may be, try to remember also that you gained some valuable lessons from this friendship. It was a blessing to have this person in your life, even if it was only for a season.
- Broken friendships happen to everyone. It's a normal part of life.
- The more important this person was to you, the longer it will take you to heal.
Additional Faith-Based Advice:
Even though it hurts you very deeply, and even though you have to go through a grieving process, remember that all things are possible with God
Have hope and faith. Put it in the Lord's hands as to whether you become friends again in the future.
Remember, It Probably Isn't Your Fault
When my best friend of 10+ years suddenly shut me out, I was heartbroken. We had known each other since high school, and I had always looked up to her. Now, all of a sudden, she had cut me out of her life—without any explanation whatsoever.
Unfriended on Facebook. No response to my calls and texts. She was simply... gone.
It hurt. I cried and grieved. I wondered, "What did I do wrong? Did I somehow cause this?"
Through this experience, however, I've come to learn that even a best friend can have issues or struggles that you may not be aware of.
Chances are, if this person is cutting you off out of the blue, after years of being friends, then there is a deeper problem that you don't know about. So don't blame yourself.
As difficult as it is to stop wracking your brain, trying to figure out what you could have done differently to prevent the dissolution of the friendship, you must accept that this is the current reality. Most likely, there's nothing you did to cause it. There is probably something going on with your friend, and you have nothing to do with it at all. Don't punish yourself.
Overanalyzing the situation becomes an exercise in futility because you only know one side of the story: yours, not hers.— Irene S. Levine, Ph.D., author of "Best Friends Forever"
The Myth of "Best Friends Forever"
Some of our grief and despair may come from the myth we were sold when we were young: that we are supposed to have a BFF, or best friend forever. However, it is simply not true that we must hold onto our closest friends forever—and that if we don't, we've somehow failed. The reality is that people grow and change over time, and that friendships must evolve, too. Sometimes, that means that someone who was very dear to you during one stage of your life may drift away or not be as close during another stage of your life. This doesn't necessarily mean that either one of you has failed, or that either one of you is a bad person.
Reach Out One More Time, Then Let It Go
If you have tried to reach out to your friend multiple times without getting a response, it may be time to accept it and move on. But maybe you could reach out just one more time.
When my best friend announced that she could no longer speak to me after 10+ years of friendship, I tried calling her and texting her right away, with no response. I left her a voicemail, but she didn't respond. I saw that she had unfriended me on Facebook, which really hurt. I emailed her, but she never replied.
I let some time pass, for both of our sakes. After a few weeks without speaking, I decided to reach out to her one more time. I sent a hand-written card, explaining how much her friendship meant to me and how hurt I felt now. I told her I would always wish the best for her and her family.
I did not hear anything back.
Pray for Your Friend
If you are a person of faith, I strongly suggest praying for your friend. I know it sounds crazy. This person—close friend, confidante, and ally—has hurt you deeply and profoundly. So it does seem counterintuitive to pray for them. But try it. Pray God will bless this person and help them overcome whatever trial or hardship is going on in their life at this moment.
Pray for healing for your friend, and pray for the restoration of the friendship, if it is God's will. As long as you are burdened by the broken friendship, continue to pray about it, giving it over to the Lord. Pray that the person will make contact with you and restore the relationship, if possible. But most of all, pray for the person to be healed, comforted, encouraged, blessed, and be made right with the Lord.
Forgive Your Friend
Forgiveness is a concept that transcends religious orientation. If you are a person of faith, you can think about forgiveness in terms of God's commandments. On the other hand, if you are not religiously inclined, you can understand forgiveness as a powerful psychological and emotional release.
For me, forgiveness goes along with prayer, because as you pray for your friend, your heart will become softer and more open to forgiving. As difficult as it is to forgive this person who hurt you so much, it is necessary. Not only does God command us to forgive others as He has forgiven us, but it also releases the forgiver from the bondage of holding onto bitterness and unforgiveness, which can be debilitating if it isn't addressed.
So, forgive your friend—even if you don't believe they deserve it—because God calls us to do so. Forgive your friend because you will destroy yourself if you hold onto bitterness in your heart.
Nurture Other Friendships
It can be very difficult to accept that your friendship has ended. This friend held a very special place in your life, and now you are probably at a loss as to who to hang out with, who to call when you need a shoulder to cry on, and so on. Perhaps you do have other friends, but no one compares in your heart or mind to the person you've lost.
I know the feeling. When my friend cut me out of her life, it wasn't as though I didn't have other friends. I actually had a nice group of friends from college that I was really close to, and I wasn't even living in the same area anymore as my old high school friend (the one who had shut me out). I would visit her every few months when I came home to see my brothers and my parents, and we would always have great talks and good times together. I'd call her on the phone (or she would call me) at least once a week to catch up. I considered her one of my best, oldest, and dearest friends, so it came as quite a shock to suddenly be cut out of her life.
Understanding the Seasonality of Friendship
Something I came to learn through this experience, however, is that friendships often exist in our lives for a certain season of time. Sure, there may be some friends you can meet after not seeing for several years, and it will feel like barely a day has passed since the last time you met. But I believe that some friends are in our lives only for a season, and that's also okay. Through this, I learned to nurture my other friendships, and I became much closer with the friends who live close by. I've realized that at this stage of my life, I have more in common with this newer group of friends, anyway.
Easy Ways to Nurture New Friendships (Or Deepen Old Ones)
You might feel like you're out of practice developing new friendships, or perhaps you're worried about appearing too needy. Keep in mind, however, that everyone needs friends in their lives. More often than not, the people you begin to reach out to will feel flattered and happy that you want to get to know them better.
Here are some easy ways to get started:
- Text: Send a quick text just to say hi and ask how they are doing.
- Make plans: Suggest going out to lunch, the movies, the gym to work out together, or the park for a walk. The possibilities are endless. Think about activities that you and this person might enjoy doing together.
- Phone: Call someone on the phone just to chat.
- Gifts: Buy a small gift to let them know you care.
- Snail mail: Go old school! Write a note or postcard to let them know you are thinking of them.
- Be a good listener: When it comes to friendships (or any kind of relationship), being a good listener always goes a long way. People have a fundamental need to be heard and understood, and they will always seek friends who really listen.
Find solace in knowing that you’re not alone and that millions have experienced this pain. As painful and disappointing as these breakups are, they make us wiser and make our friendships much stronger and more resilient.— Irene S. Levine, Ph.D., author of "Best Friends Forever"
An Unexpected Reconciliation: My Story
After about six months of not hearing from the friend who had cut me out of her life, I had pretty much given up on ever hearing from her again. I prayed a lot during this period of time, continually surrendering the situation to the Lord.
However, one day, completely out of the blue, she contacted me. She emailed to say that she had received my card in the mail, the one I'd sent all those months earlier. She said she had been busy—and that the real reason she had not contacted me in so long was because of some issues in her life that she had never told me about in all the years we had been friends. These issues were deep-seated and genuinely had nothing to do with me.
I was totally shocked that in all our years of friendship, she had never shared any of this with me. She said that due to these issues (which I won't divulge here for sake of privacy), we could be in contact going forward but that our friendship would most likely never be the same. She told me that she planned to seek professional help for her problems.
Since then, we have emailed back and forth a few times, but things are not like they used to be. I've learned not to put people onto pedestals, as we are all human beings and we all have certain struggles and trials in our lives that we must deal with. I have moved on, and I continue to nurture the friendships that are most dear and treasured in my life right now. While I forgive my friend and wish her well, I no longer look to that friendship to provide the fulfillment in my life that it once did.
Ultimately, we must look to God above anyone else in our lives, and we must realize that God will be a closer friend to us than any person on this earth. Someday, perhaps my friendship with this individual will be restored to what it once was, but I leave that in God's hands, to do what He pleases, according to His will.
I hope that sharing my story and advice helps anyone who is hurting over a broken friendship. Blessings to you!
Cosslett, Rhiannon Lucy. (2018, April 21). "It Feels Like Having a Limb Cut Off": The Pain of Friendship Breakups. The Guardian. Retrieved December 22, 2018.
Holloway, Sadie. (2016, December 5). Coping With Disappointment When a Friendship Ends. PairedLife. Retrieved December 22, 2018.
Levine, Irene S., Ph.D. (2009). Best Friends Forever: Surviving a Breakup With Your Best Friend. New York: Overlook Press.
Pryor, Liz. (2006). What Did I Do Wrong? When Women Don't Tell Each Other the Friendship Is Over. New York: Free Press.
Safer, Jeanne. (2016, March 8). What Happens When a Friend Cuts You Out of Their Life? Psychology Today. Retrieved December 22, 2018.
Tannen, Deborah. (2017, May 16). Why Friends Ghost On Even Their Closest Pals. Time. Retrieved December 22, 2018.