‘I am losing my best friend and I don’t know how to deal with it’

Tell Me About It: She became less and less available but I don’t know why. I am grieving our friendship

PROBLEM: I am losing an important friendship and I don’t know how to deal with it. I never had a bestie growing up, but in my 20s and the early stage of my first marriage I made an amazing friend in my workplace. We were like soulmates and always reminded each other about how lucky we were to meet. And my husband and her partner, later to be her husband, were totally on board with it.

Even though we were busy with our kids, careers and life, she is busier than me with a bigger family, we were always inseparable in whatever we did. I started to notice as our kids became independent, she became less, rather than more, available.

She was initially reluctant to talk about it when I raised it, and then somehow it started to drift into us sharing less and less. This has kind of become the new norm, and I am grieving our friendship. I am finding it really difficult as I have always worked through these kind of issues with her, and now it’s as if she has all but disappeared.

And I’m beginning to feel that our families, who I probably regarded as one, have been pulled apart.

Anything I try to do about it only makes things get worse.

ADVICE: You sound as though you had a really good friendship so it is no surprise that the loss is hard to bear, especially as it is playing out over years without any obvious breach or reason for it.

It is very hard to accept that the long and enduring friendship is over when there is no explanation forthcoming or no conversation to help ease the path. You say that your partners are friends, and your children and your friend’s children are close, so I wonder if this is a path to some clarity for you. Could you ask your husband to see if he can find out why this situation has arisen – he may be reluctant to do this, but any answers might help you to come to terms with the demise of such an important part of your life.

Friendships do die and many of those in wedding pictures are no longer part of the couple’s life decades later. It is hard to accept that our lives do deviate and that intimacies no longer carry the same significance for both people. Indeed, we often expect friendships to outlast romantic relationships or even marriages and popular culture often leads us to expect this, so a sense of failure is inevitable when deep friendship breaks down. An added difficulty is that there is very little sympathy or support for the grief following such an ending and you are left to struggle alone without a blueprint for recovery.

We have pathways for helping end romantic relationships (mediation, counselling, support groups etc), but these are not available for the ending of friendships although it might be time for society to acknowledge the enormous grief and loss such endings bring. As people move countries for work, or new partnerships take up a person’s time, old friendships die sadly and quietly, and are not laid to rest in any meaningful way.

In fact, we are not even allowed to throw a tantrum (tearing up old photos or ritualistically getting rid of objects) that might offer some relief. This belies the importance of a companion who has witnessed your life journey and shared joy and loss in all its manifestations along the way. Take time in the lives of those around you to express the grief and loss you feel, to talk about the good times with your friend and to mourn in company. Create some rituals that allow closure for you – for example, creating a photo album and closing it or other such meaningful activity. Acknowledge the importance of this friendship and maybe write a eulogy that gives proper expression to its value and its end.

Then work on letting it go, pick up your life and reach out to new friendships and do not compare them to the old one. Value each new friend for who they are and try not to remould any of them in the shape of the old one.

Accept that there will probably never be a friendship as all-encompassing as the lost one and be grateful that you experienced the pinnacle of friendship while acknowledging that it is past.