Working Through Tough Emotions After Saying Goodbye To A Friend

Updated February 6, 2023by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Friendships are a unique form of relationships. We typically choose to enter and maintain these connections beyond any true obligation, and social connections have been found to be incredibly important for a person's well-being and emotional health.

For a wide variety of reasons, friendships can come and go, and they may end when you don’t want them to. Since they are voluntary connections, they can sometimes more easily fall to the wayside when times get hectic. You may feel the permanence of family and may make more concrete steps to prioritize a significant other, while friends have their own lives, as well. No matter the reason, saying goodbye to a friend can be hard. Here, we’ll offer a few tips for how to navigate these difficult emotions.

Saying Goodbye Can Be Difficult

When You Might Have To Say Goodbye To A Friend

Throughout our lives, friendships with others can have both mental and physical health benefits. With friendships often come with discoveries, joy, connection, and an opportunity to lean on others.

For a variety of reasons, we may lose some friends throughout our lives. A friend might move away, change schools, become too busy, or you might decide that the friendship is no longer a positive one that you want to maintain in your life. You may lose friends from relocation, disagreements, growing apart, or even death. 

In some cases, such as a move, you may not have to say goodbye totally, as you may still be able to talk over the phone or video or see one another from time to time. It could be that your friendship is just majorly changing. In these cases, it may help to try to make some space for the change that needs to happen and keep yourself open to new friendships in your life. 

Whatever the reason for the loss or change, we may miss that person and miss some of who we are with them around, too. When a friend is suddenly no longer around, we may experience this as a loss of a part of our own identity, because we lose the version of ourselves that we are with them. It can help to know that the memories and experiences you have do not go away just because the person is no longer around. 

Tips For Managing Tough Emotions

Saying goodbye to a friend can be difficult, regardless of the reason. Included below are a few ideas to consider to help you manage some of these tough emotions. 

  1. Examine Your Perspective

When losing a friend, for a variety of reasons, it can often be easy to take the loss very personally and read into it in some ways. For instance, if a friend moves away, the initial sting of the loss may prompt feelings of hurt like, “why don’t they care about this friendship?” Or, if a friendship ends because you’ve drifted apart, you might feel a sense of blame, like, “I’m a terrible friend.” Or, if a friendship ends because it is no longer a healthy connection, you might worry that this is indicative of a larger issue, like “I’ll never make a real friend again.” 

In all of these cases, it can be important to examine your perspective and challenge thoughts that may not be helpful. People move away, friends drift apart, people have conflicts and no longer get along—these are all common parts of life, and they don’t have to be something you take too personally or read into too much. For instance, a friend moving away often isn’t personal at all, they likely just have other things in life to pursue, and if you both care about the friendship, you can find ways to maintain it from a distance. Their life choices do not mean that you do not mean anything to them, they may just have to make choices based on their own separate goals, wants, needs, dreams, and hopes. Friends also can drift apart for many reasons, and not all friendships are positive and healthy connections that make sense to continue over the long-term. 

Saying Goodbye Can Be Difficult

  1. Try To Accept And Adjust To The Change

Change can be hard, but it is often inevitable. We can feel very comfortable with where we are and have a strong desire for everything just to stay the same, but the world just keeps on turning, and things are often in flux somehow. Sometimes we have to say goodbye to important people, but recognizing that reality that does not mean it will not be hard when it comes. You may find yourself experiencing some difficult emotions when you start to think of the friends you have lost or those that you may lose in the future.

Sometimes feeling the pain of loss may make people want to keep more to themselves to try to prevent the hurt of losing someone again. It makes sense to feel this momentarily, but in the long term, when you choose not to get close to people, that can be a much greater loss. Remember that feeling sadness in response to change or missing someone is common, but that the feeling cannot last forever. The change also means an opportunity—to try new things, and meet new people, some of whom might have entirely new things to teach or tell with you. 

  1. Seek Help Through Online Therapy

If you are having a difficult time adjusting to a major change in your life such as the loss of a friend, speaking with a mental health professional may be able to help you to work through challenging emotions and find ways to cope. 

As we discussed earlier, losing a friend for a variety of reasons may bring up a lot of difficult emotions, and sometimes it may even prompt feelings of low self-esteem if you find yourself taking the loss personally. Research has found that online therapy can be an effective option for a range of concerns, including low self-esteem. For instance, one research study found that an online intervention for reducing depressive symptoms brought “immediate improvements” in participants’ self-esteem and empowerment relative to control participants. 

When you’re 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 BetterHelp, you can reach out to your therapist in these exact moments using in-app messaging, and they will respond as soon as they can. 

Read below for reviews of BetterHelp counselors, from those who have experienced similar concerns.

Counselor Reviews

“Pamela Heyman is outstanding. She listens extremely well, has excellent follow-ups, recommends constructive feedback with a positive outlook, and challenges me to strive for my goal of better family/friend/workplace relationships. Thank you, Pamela, for working with me to understand myself and how my life experiences mold me. This is helping me prosper with interactions I have with personalities/people in my life.”

“Cynthia offers a kind, patient, nonjudgmental approach to helping. She is an incredible listener able to sort through the details and minutia of conflict to arrive at the ultimate issue all while validating my feelings and thoughts. Cynthia offered practical skills for me to use in my relationships and checked in on me frequently. Cynthia is a counselor who truly cares and it’s obvious it comes from the center of who she is as a person. I am grateful to have engaged with her.” 

Takeaway

Having to say goodbye to a friend for any reason can be difficult, especially if you’ve had a long friendship. If this is something you’re experiencing, you may consider trying some of the suggestions above for how to manage difficult emotions that may arise. For additional support, you can connect with a therapist for help through online therapy.

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