Losing A Friendship Feels Like Death

I don’t know how I want to start this post, but I know what I want to talk about. I don’t have an outline this time because I feel that the best way to say what I want to say is from the heart. Most importantly, it’s from a place of lived experience. It’s also from a place of bottled up emotion. Emotion which I’ve had to contain because I felt like talking about how I felt required me to tell a story, which required a pointedness in my words that felt combative. Like most things though, keeping things inside has always been a bad idea. Conversely, sharing can be powerful and I believe my lived experience of losing friendship will resonate with others.

My hurt began in March 2020 when, like many of you, my world was turned upside down. The World Health Organization had just declared the situation with COVID to be pandemic. Also like many of you, I had never lived through a pandemic, so I was scared shitless. The thought of a highly contagious and deadly respiratory virus shook me. I’m asthmatic and rely on an inhaler. That’s how it’s been since I was a child. There are days when my breathing gets tighter and I have to rely on a puff of my inhaler to get me through. While I have a more mild version of the condition, there was absolutely no way I was going to take a chance becoming infected with a respiratory virus like COVID because the playing field was not level for me. Just like the rest of the world, I setup shop at home and exercised extreme caution. As time went on, things felt more clear concerning our understanding the virus and what was acceptable behavior, but fear set in deep down within my belly – making me sick at times.

For much of the beginning of the pandemic, my level of fear and my choice to exercise caution undoubtedly forced me to close my circle. I had to become choosy about who I saw in person and who I kept in contact with virtually. That was hard for me. Before being forced inside of the house, I was what most people considered social. I often met up with my friends at the bars to hangout and enjoy good times. My social life was very carefree and thrived in crowded spaces with loud music. Without any of that as a possibility, friends who I often would meet out started to keep in contact less. I would often make it a point to reach out, but I admittedly did not always do a good job. However, I was always comfortable with the fact that my friendships were strong and constant communication was an status indicator for a healthy friendship.

As time went on, all of these elements started to intersect and I noticed friends who I loved dearly not reach out anymore or returning my text messages anymore. At first I was angry, but I accepted that I have a part in these friendships and I made it a point to come clean about how I handled the pandemic. I explained to most people, even by way of broadcasting on social media, that I had closed my circle to keep myself safe and that I still loved and cared deeply about each of the people in my life. Again, my attempts were met with silence and when I did receive a reply, I was stonewalled with vague information. short replies, or passive assertions over our friendship (“I’m going through things, it’s not you, I still love you.”)

Eventually, I came to accept the fact that these friendships were lost. Once I became vaccinated and tried to rekindle friendships over drinks like the good old days, I could never secure a commitment. Simply put, that hurt. Anyone who knows me knows that I wear my hear on my sleeve. I make connections for the long term; not for popularity or vanity. I love my friends like I love my family, so losing a friendship felt like the death of a loved one. Even now, I carry some hurt with me. I also carry guilt because I was raised to always show up for the people in my life that I care about. So, when I was met with a situation where I could not safely do so, I felt hopeless. Even through communicating all of this privately and publicly, some friends simply choose to vanish.

To be honest, this was the first time in my life a friendship fell apart. Undoubtedly, I learned a lot – about myself, but also about love and what it means to let go. Letting go of a friendship, for me, was as painful as death. I grieved, I cried, and I hurt. Most importantly, I learned more about how friendships work and, much like death forces us to reflect, I was able to understand exactly what it is that distinguishes pure connection and love.

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