Ready to embark on a journey of healing and growth after losing a friend? Jessica Van Roekel and I offer practical insights and encouragement to help you navigate the complexities of severed friendships.

I recently talked with Jessica on the Your Hope-Filled Perspective Podcast as part for the 2nd of a 3-part series on friendship breakups. We discussed the tough questions surrounding the end of friendships and offered insights on how to navigate the journey to healing. You won’t want to miss it. Listen or watch here: How to Heal After a Friendship Breakup – Episode 255.

Healing After a Severed Friendship
By Dr. Michelle Bengtson and Rev. Jessica Van Roekel

A broken heart can be one of the hardest experiences to heal from. The shattered pieces of a friendship remind us of good times, and we wonder how to separate the good memories from the pain of a lost friendship. We sweep the shards into a pile and store it away in a corner of our heart. But like glass working its way out of a wound, the pieces of a broken heart works its way into our everyday lives. Healing after a severed friendship is a vital step we need to take so we can move forward into other relationships the Lord has for us.

Friendships can range from acquaintances, colleagues, familial, casual, close, or intimate. The type of friendship prior to a dissolution impacts the depth of the wound. Sometimes a friendship ends because of a perceived offense and there is a refusal for us to discuss another perspective, or to seek reconciliation and forgiveness.

Reasons Behind Severed Friendships

There are several reasons why friendships end. Jealousy is the root of many friendship conflicts, including comparison, rejection, or betrayal. Changes in life’s ages and stages, including job transition, moving, or a death of a loved one often contribute to friendship dissolutions when one party feels the need to move on. Circumstances can change the nature of the relationship, which may cause one of the friends or both to abandon the friendship.

Many of the reasons severed friendships occur feel profoundly negative. If we’re not careful, friendships can become idols and take the place only God was meant to occupy. God removes branches that bear no fruit, so he may remove friends from our lives if they negatively impact his purposes for us. Our friend may fall into a pattern of bad choices, or may turn away from God, or our own mental and emotional health falters when connected to that friend.

Another reason for a severed friendship can be the result of our own fear, insecurity, or competition. These feelings may lead us to withhold something significant that happened from our friend, but we chose to share it with someone else. This move can create feelings of jealousy or insecurity in our friend (or vice versa—if our friend chooses to withhold news from us).

There will be friendships we’ve tried to repair, but our friend remains stereo silent. What do we do now? At what cost do we continue to love our friend through their grief, depression, or jealousy? It’s hard to be the punching bag for someone else’s difficult emotions. Or what do we do when we allow our grief, depression, or jealousy to spill into a friendship and we don’t want to face it?

When one of the friends in a friendship won’t come to the table to openly converse perspectives, hurts, or offenses, it’s tempting to run down the path to the endless merry-go-round of questions regarding what may have happened to prompt the slamming door on any possibility for understanding or reconciliation. Questions like:

  • “When did this start?”
  • “Why didn’t she come to me earlier or I go to her?”
  • “If she valued our friendship, why isn’t she willing to meet me halfway to restore our relationship?”
  • “Does this mean our friendship was never as important to her as it is to me?”
  • “If she won’t tell me what I did that hurt her to the point of cutting me out of her life forever, how will I know how to avoid repeating such an infraction in future relationships?”
  • “Who else now knows her one-sided perspective and has adopted it as their own without giving me the benefit of the doubt or a willingness to hear my perspective?”

Self-Reflection: Examining Our Contribution to the Severed Friendship

In every experience at least three perspectives exist: mine, the other person’s, and the complete truth, which is God’s truth. Both parties influence every relationship. To heal from the wound and move on without resentment or bitterness but with growth and maturity, we need to take an honest look at our contribution to the disconnect.

Too often the strong desire to belong creates people-pleasing tendencies and makes an “idol” of relationships, but God has other intentions for us. He values friendships and often addresses them in His Word. But if our relationship with Him isn’t our top priority, and instead, it is on an earthly friendship, that relationship can usurp His position in our hearts.

It is unnatural to place our friend in the position that only God is meant to fulfill. Our struggles with expectations, insecurity, manipulation, unappreciation, a mismatch of give-and-take, or unappreciation can only be satisfied in an intimate relationship with God. We judge others by their actions, and we judge ourselves by our intentions.

On the other hand, sometimes the severed friendship says more about the other person than us. An ex-friend may have moved into a different place or stage of life, their priorities changed, or their spiritual or emotional health may have tiptoed into dangerous territory. As solid as we assumed the friendship was, what happens in the heart, mind, and soul of our friend may not be shared with us, or she may not even be aware of them herself. That can contribute to her projecting inaccurate motives based on prior relationships.

One of our biggest needs is to know we aren’t alone, that others experience it too. Almost equally important is a desire for an explanation—What happened? We wrestle with the fact that we may or may not ever know. The depth of intimacy in our friendship may have been misguided or one-sided. Time does not heal all wounds; God heals all wounds. Time offers perspective and trusting that God knows our heart and he knows our friend’s heart can bring steps toward healing.

Before healing can begin, we need to acknowledge our pain. It’s as true in severed friendships friendship as in any other grief of relationship collapse. We can experience a knife to the heart when we see other friends laugh together as they meet for coffee. Our pain may tempt us to spread the story of what happened or keep us suffering in silence and denial of our hurt. We must give ourselves space to grieve, to fully feel the shock, anger, sadness, frustration, betrayal, or disappointment.

There’s a place to recognize the fear of what other people thought about us based on the information they may or may not know. Earthly tools and wisdom will only take us so far and may misguide us. What we really need is God’s guidance in how to respond, the encouragement that He sees our pain, the hope that He would deal with her heart as well as our own, and His reminder not to let hurt and anger create bitter roots or resentment.

The Healing Power of Forgiveness

Because we no longer know who the safe people in a situation like this are, we need to share our pain with Jesus above all. He does not break confidences or judge us for our grief. At the beginning of our healing, we need to ask God to show us our part in the relationship breakup. We can find the forgiveness we need in God, even if we are unable to make amends with the other person. There’s rarely a situation where forgiveness isn’t part of the process of recovery. Forgiving means love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, as Jesus commanded.

We’ve heard it hundreds of times—hurt people hurt people. But forgiven people forgive. The wonder that God forgives us is what compels us to forgive. Forgiveness is a command but does not promise reconciliation or restoration. It neither necessitates that we trust that person with our heart or allow them back into our lives. Forgiveness begins as an act of obedience and becomes the first step we return to again and again as pain from the severed friendship resurges.

Grace: Extending to Ourselves and Others

Sometimes the root of the conflict doesn’t have to do with us, but with someone else’s pain which gets projected on us. Needs, desires, problems, and internal conflicts get projected on a friend, and then, when we don’t give them what they need, even though we have no idea what they want, unintentional pain occurs. And vice versa. We can offer grace, compassion, and empathy to ourselves and our friend rather than projecting our needs or interpretation of words said and actions taken on each other. When we experience a friendship gone awry, grace can be a valuable gift we extend.

Pain can cause us to hide. It doesn’t have to be current pain, but it could be something in our present which reminds us of an old hurt from long ago. So, we snap or withhold or hide. We even try to hide from God. Hebrews 4:13 tells us that “nothing is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.” God invites us to come to him with bold confidence–even in all our heartache and pain–to “receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

Seeking God’s Guidance in Healing after a Severed Friendship

Human nature often leads us to want to receive grace for ourselves, but struggle to extend it to others, especially when our wounds are still tender. But God is the best kind of friend and models to us how to show grace to others. He extends grace through the life, death, and resurrection of Christ and when we feel like it’s impossible for us, we can remember 2 Corinthians 12:9, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

Healing after a severed friendship involves bringing our pain to God, trusting him for working in our heart, praying for our former friend, and praying for ourselves. A broken friendship is a difficult hurt to work through, but when we choose to do the hard work of healing, we grow more tender and receptive to the work of God in our lives and in other people’s lives.

What have you found helpful to heal from a severed friendship? We’d love to hear in the comments below.

 

 

About Jessica Van Roekel

Jessica Van Roekel, authorJessica Van Roekel is a worship leader, speaker, and writer who believes that through Jesus, personal histories don’t need to define the present or determine the future. She inspires, encourages, and equips others to look at life through the lenses of hope, trust, and God’s transforming grace. Jessica lives in rural Iowa surrounded by wide open spaces which remind her of God’s expansive love. She loves fun earrings, good coffee, and connecting with others.

 

Connect with Jessica: Website / Instagram / Facebook / Reframing Rejection Book

 

 

Discover the Secrets to Healing After Losing a Friend
Description: Unlock the keys to healing a broken heart after a severed friendship. Learn how to move forward with grace and strength.

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