Working Through Tough Emotions After Saying Goodbye To A Friend

Medically reviewed by Arianna Williams, LPC, CCTP
Updated May 14, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Friendships are a unique form of relationship. Social connections can benefit mental and physical health; friendship is no exception. Friends can be lifelong and offer emotional support, enjoyment, and happiness to your life. However, friendships can come and go and may end when you're not ready. 

Since friendships are voluntary connections, they can often change. For example, you might gain a family or a romantic relationship and forget to call or hang out. Regardless, saying goodbye to a friend can be painful, and coping with emotions afterward can be confusing. Understanding how to care for yourself during this time may be valuable as you learn to grieve this loss. 

Saying goodbye can be difficult

What causes friendships to end? 

Friendships with others can have mental and physical health benefits. These relationships can offer discoveries, joy, connection, and an opportunity to lean on others. However, for various reasons, friendships can be lost. A friend might move away, change schools, become too busy, or start to treat you unkindly. You may also lose friends from relocation, disagreements, growing apart, or losing them through death.

In some cases, like moving to a new state or country, you might not say goodbye forever, as you may still be able to talk over the phone or video chat or see one another occasionally. In other cases, your friendship may have changed in ways you feel are irreparable, even if they're no one's fault. In these cases, it may help to try to open your mind to the changes moving forward and make space for new connections. 

Whatever the reason for losing a friendship, missing a friend after saying goodbye can be normal and healthy. You might also miss who you were when that friend was around. You may experience this loss as a part of your identity, losing the part of you that was your friend. However, it can help to know that your memories and experiences do not go away when a friend is gone.  


How to cope with saying goodbye 

Saying goodbye to a friend can be difficult, regardless of the reason. Below are a few ways to start coping with the feelings that may arise for you after a loss. Note that you don't have to lose a friend to death to grieve their presence in your life.  

Examine your perspective

When losing a friend, you might take it personally. For instance, if a friend moves away, the initial sting of the loss may prompt feelings of hurt and maladaptive thought processes. If a friendship ends because you've drifted apart, you might blame yourself, for repeating unkind statements that may not be true. Finally, you might feel that having future positive friendships isn't an option for you.  

In these cases, examining your perspective and challenging thoughts that feel maladaptive or cause you more harm than positive feelings can be valuable. People move away, friends drift apart, and people have conflicts. These situations can be standard parts of life and don't necessarily indicate wrongdoing or the need to put yourself down for what occurred.

For instance, a friend moving away may not be personal. They might have a family, new pursuits, or a desire to discover what works for them. If you both want to and find it possible, you can find ways to maintain it from a distance. They may still love you but decide to make choices based on their own separate goals, wants, needs, dreams, and hopes. 

If someone stops being your friend because of your actions, examining your thought patterns can still be helpful. Instead of internalizing this loss and repeating harmful statements about yourself in your mind, find out what actions led to the end of the relationship. Consider how you might do better in the future, and allow yourself to feel sad about the loss. 

Try to adjust to the change

Change can be challenging, but it is often inevitable. You might feel comfortable with the current stage of your life and have a strong desire for everything to stay the same, but relationships can end, and sometimes people change. When saying goodbye to someone you love or care about, you might feel uncomfortable or experience profound sadness. You may also fear the friendships you might lose in the future. 

At times, feeling the pain of loss may make people want to keep to themselves to try to prevent the hurt of losing someone again. It can make sense to feel momentarily sadness and take time for yourself. However, when you choose not to get close to people, you might miss out on rewarding connections. Feeling sadness in response to change or missing someone is common, but the feeling may not last forever. The change can mean an opportunity to try new activities and meet new people, some of whom might have new ideas to teach you. 

Practice radical acceptance 

You're not alone if you've lost a friend to uncontrollable circumstances, such as death or substance use. In these cases, practicing coping mechanisms like radical acceptance can be beneficial. You can practice radical acceptance through the following steps: 

  1. Observe how you might be questioning or fighting your reality.
  2. Remind yourself that your reality cannot be changed in this situation. If it can be changed but shouldn't be changed, accept that trying to change reality would be unhealthy. 
  3. Try to note any causes for the reality without coming up with solutions. 
  4. Practice acceptance with your mind, body, and spirit. Use positive self-talk to tell yourself you are willing to accept this situation, even if it is difficult.
  5. List all the behaviors you'd partake in if you already accepted this situation. Then act this way until you find it aligns with your reality.
  6. Cope ahead by thinking of ways to accept the situation if it worsens.
  7. Attend to your body sensations using mindfulness or meditation to connect with yourself.
  8. Allow disappointment, sadness, grief, or anger to arise if they do. Note them and do not act on them. Give them the space to exist.
  9. Acknowledge that life can be worth living, even when there is pain.
  10. Create a pros and cons list if you are resisting acceptance further.

If you are struggling with substance use, contact the SAMHSA National Helpline at (800) 662-4357 to receive support and resources. Support is available 24/7.

Saying goodbye can be difficult

Seek professional support 

If you struggle to adjust to a significant change in your life, such as losing a friend, speaking with a mental health professional may help you work through challenging emotions and find ways to cope. 

Losing a friend may bring up difficult emotions and sometimes prompt feelings of low self-esteem. Research has found that online therapy can be effective for many concerns, including low self-esteem. For instance, one study found that an online intervention for reducing depressive symptoms brought "immediate improvements" in participants' self-esteem and empowerment relative to control participants. 

When navigating the loss of a friend, intense emotions may pop up at random times, such as when you're reminded of your friend after passing a favorite coffee shop. With online therapy through a platform like BetterHelp, you can reach out to your therapist using in-app messaging, often receiving a quick response. You can also choose between phone, video, or chat sessions.   


Saying goodbye to a friend for any reason can be difficult, regardless of the length of your friendship. If you're experiencing grief after losing a friend, consider the above suggestions. You can connect with a therapist online or in your area for additional support and guidance.
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