Trix and I have been ruminating and chatting about loss of friendship a lot because it's been happening a lot recently.
I don't mean the slow, gradual burnout that happens to some friendships -- because those are, in my experience, totally reparable. You lose contact with someone, you reconnect with them a year, two years, five years down the line and it's like no time at all has passed. My childhood best friend Adam Lee and I do that all the time. We lose contact with each other for, like, a year or two or ten at a time, but when we finally do reconnect, we're still those dorky kids on the playground with our Star Wars toys. Really, our friendship never died, it just gets put into suspended animation occasionally due to circumstance, but it's still totally real and fierce, y'know? I'd still take a bullet for that mothafucka even thirty years later.
No, I'm talking about the abrupt, sudden stabbing death caused by actually having to shove a friend out of your life for whatever reason, or alternately, being shoved out of someone's life. Sometimes, it's really just a case of "who's the first person to call it quits" -- the friendship was probably over already, otherwise no shoving would have to be done, right? Other times, one person still wants the friendship to continue but for whatever reason the other one doesn't. Either way -- it hurts. People tell you "oh, it's for the better" or "oh, really, you're better off without those people in your life," or come up with all kinds of excuses WHY it happened or HOW it happened, but it still hurts. It's no less real than actually losing those people entirely, like if they actually died. That's what it feels like. That's the only thing I can compare it to.
And it isn't just an "ouch, it hurts," either, like a jab from a needle at the doctor's office; it's more a multiphased pain that lasts a long damn time.
You go through the questioning phase, like -- did I ever matter to that person in the first place? What the fuck did I do so wrong that's causing this? Am I a bad person, or am I a callous person, or was I not enough of a friend in the first place? Was our friendship ever even real to begin with? This phase probably hurts the worst, because you feel like you're to blame for the friendship ending. You start going over and over and over in your head what you could have done differently and keep coming up with no answers, or answers that don't fit the bill, or answers that only solve PART of the problem. I mean, nobody's a saint, right? It's always two-sided, but sometimes you don't come up with enough that accounts for something as harsh as the end of a friendship, and that just leads you to question yourself more. You're sure it had to be your fault.
And then you go through the demonizing phase. And that's like -- fuck that person. I mean, how could they not see that I'm good enough for them? How could they be such a horrible person that they could do this to me? I suppose your typical "five stages" model would see this as the "anger" phase, but it's more than that. It's a kind of ritual hardening-of-the-heart, a protection against further pain, an assurance that your feelings for that person become less than they were before because if they were as strong as they were before, you just know they're gonna hurt you again, right?
I suppose the final phase is something like "acceptance," but you never really accept it. Not really. It's like -- it's over. Sure. That person isn't my friend anymore. But it still hurts. There's still that last lingering shred of pain that might fade to a dull throb but never really leaves your heart. There are triggers -- they're everywhere, right? And everytime you run across one, you get that reminder again. Oh yeah. There was this person in my life, and they're not there anymore, and they will never be again. And even if the pain is just a dull throb, it still hurts.
Losing a friend is no less painful than losing a relationship, frankly. I mean, who do you have in your life except your friends and your family? And for lots of us -- especially someone like me who didn't have siblings growing up -- your friends are just as important as your family, and your loyalty is fierce and unswerveable except in the face of what I'd call X-Treme Circumstance. But I think people don't realize how painful it is, because some people haven't gone through it. It's like how some people don't understand how much divorces hurt, right? 'Cause they've never had one? "Get over it," they tell you. "Divorces happen."
That's something I don't ever wanna hear again. I guess all things "just happen," right? That's kinda self-explanatory. But it doesn't make the pain any less real, or palpable.
Anyway, losing friends sucks.