On the Heartbreak of Failed Friendships

by Bee Quammie

"What was your biggest heartbreak?"

When asked this question, my mind immediately defaults to romantic escapades. There was the first love who thought the grass might be greener on the other side. Then, there was the guy who was too fine, charismatic, and duplicitous for his own good. Heartbreak eventually mended through never-ending spins of Teedra Moses' Complex Simplicity album and the never-ending plan to be exponentially finer the next time I ran into them, which didn’t happen as often as I hoped it would.

Each time my heart was bruised, cracked, or broken straight through, I always had my recovery practices and good girlfriends to help me heal. 

Funnily enough, the question of heartbreak coupled with my personal memories jolted me to the realization that some of those good girlfriends are no longer around. So, what was my true biggest heartbreak? The loss of key friendships with the women in my life.

For me, some of the most powerful and relatable scenes in BET’s hit series Being Mary Jane revolve around her friendships. We see the variety of ways women interact and support (or neglect to support) each other, and we see a fictional account of the real complexities between sister-friends. In a recent episode of Being Mary Jane, viewers watched as Mary Jane and her BFF Lisa weathered yet another tumultuous storm in their decades-long friendship. Ugly words were exchanged, hard truths were revealed, and one party walked away from the friendship in order to save their sanity. I watched, feeling like a scene from my own life was playing out in front of me. After the episode, I watched BET and CoverGirl’s Color Commentary exclusive segment with Tai Beauchamp and Being Mary Jane creator Mara Brock Akil, and pondered a few questions:
  • How do you handle jealousy between friends?
  • What do you do when you know you've outgrown someone, but nostalgia keeps you holding on?
  • How do you forgive a friend who lashes out and hurts you irreparably?
  • How do you trust again after the friendship has ended?
I’ve been through the fiery, hurtful blow-out, the gradual distancing of kindred spirits who’ve outgrown each other, and a mixture of the two. I couldn’t tell you which I prefer, because they’re all painful. The problem is, unlike romantic heartbreak, I was never prepared with a good game plan to help get over the hurt. Friendships between women form a sisterhood; they're who we speak of when we call on the family we created, not the ones we were born into. They're a place for our hearts to call home. Losing that for any reason is devastating, and can wreak more havoc than the loss of a romantic partner.

You never really consider the fact that your friends may leave you. You don’t anticipate a friendship being “too good to be true.” There aren’t playlists of songs dedicated to helping you get over the end of a kinship. The act of rebounding doesn’t work the same when you’re trying to forget an old friend instead of an old flame. Many of us will speak more freely on the loss of a romantic partner than the loss of a close friend.

So, what is a woman to do? Looking back at my experiences, getting over the end of a friendship requires honesty, forgiveness, and space.

Honesty is necessary. Can you set your feelings aside and see clearly how things ended up the way they did? Were you ignoring red flags? Was nostalgia holding you together more than common interests and genuine care were? Were you giving your all in the friendship? Are you to blame for its demise, or can you truthfully say you were the innocent party in it all? Be honest.

Exercise forgiveness. I’ve struggled in this area since I’m the queen of holding a grudge, and incorrectly aligned forgiveness with assuming a position of weakness. It’s taken me a while, but I’ve been able to internalize the fact that forgiving someone doesn’t mean you condone what they did, and it doesn’t mean they have a chance back in your life—unless you want that. Forgiving a former friend who has done the unforgivable is an act that freed me, allowing me to let go and move on.

Space is essential. However you can, give yourself the space to process, the space to be honest, and the space to forgive. It might take weeks, months, or even years. But as they say, “Time heals all wounds,” and this is no different. The only similarity I’ve found between the loss of a romance and loss of a friendship is that eventually, it doesn’t hurt anymore. You may reminisce over what you once had, or you may decide after some time to pick up where you left off. But eventually, one day, you realize that you’re finally able to leave the past in the past.

There are a million different reasons that friendships come to an end—actually, make that two million, because each party usually presents a different side of the truth. Whether time, distance, life changes, or some egregious act are to blame, the realization that a friendship is over can rock you to your core. Friends are here for a reason, season, or lifetime. But always remember: hearts can break, but they can heal, too.

Photo: Being Mary Jane / BET

Bee Quammie is a Toronto-based healthcare professional, writer, and founder of 83 To Infinity and The Brown Suga Mama. Recognized by Black Enterprise & the Black Canadians Awards for her digital work, Bee aims to live '83 To Infinity's motto: "It's never too late to learn something new, do something new, or be someone new." Follow her on Twitter at @BeeSince83.

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