On the Loss of a Friend

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Who knew you could grieve the loss of a friend so acutely?

Apparently, everyone but me. You can grieve that loss. It’s unavoidable when you part ways with someone you love, and that very distinctly includes your friends.

“They” say we process grief in five stages: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. I really hate pop psychology. I don’t at all see myself following these stages, and honestly, I think that’s okay. I have kind of a massive, rapid-fire experience of many of the symptoms at once. It’s torturous. Still, we all grieve differently.

Am I fooling myself? I’d like to think my current experiences shouldn’t really fall under the classification of “grief,” instead representing the amorphous byproduct of severely stung feelings. I’d further like to pretend it’s somehow my own fault. Like many of you, I’m sure, I have a bad habit of gaslighting myself.

I’m sad, I’m angry, I’m hurting . . . maybe it’s grief? But surely, it’s some alien form of grief that no one has ever described and categorized before now. Actually, I think it’s just my original brand. For me, all of these feelings are coming at once. Except bargaining, perhaps because I have been doing it for months, begging for friendship on my terms, to no avail. I still have to grieve the good aspects of our relationship, and I’m uncertain whether I can escape these seemingly predestined stages.

Losing someone to separation rather than death results in a unique kind of anguish that really can’t be adequately described. I think I lost them before my conscious mind realized I had lost them. They had pulled away long before I did. I should have realized it, but I was in denial; I ignored my inner panic button and refused to see the signs. When the loss had become clear, I tried begging, bargaining, and compromising myself in a last-ditch effort to become what they needed. That is never a good idea, because you will lose them anyway. And if you’ve given yourself away in the process, you literally have nothing left to fight for.

The pain of great loss is compounded by cruelty. There’s (1) a bottom layer of devastation from losing someone you loved, and (2) a top layer of unadulterated rage both at them for victimizing you and at yourself for “allowing” yourself to be victimized. How could they be so mean? Do they treat everyone this way? Why did you not cut the cord after the first ten times? This adamantine rage will tear you apart from the inside out, starting with your heart. It is natural, but it is not worth it.

So, I let go. And I feel great for a few days because they are out of my life, and the pain dissipates, flooding me with intoxicating empowerment and almost manic joy.

But I am still grieving. I am human, and I can’t hold it in forever. When it erupts at last—be it days, weeks, or even months later—I will have to learn to cope with it. I don’t want to see them anymore. I don’t want them to call or text, or even to send me a message on social media. Leave me alone.

Depression lurks, according to myriad pop psychology expertise. But I can’t afford to grapple with depression. I have enough going on in my life that I don’t need to be trapped in its clutches. Seriously. I can handle sadness, sure. I realize I may not get the same pleasure out of doing the things we used to do together. Fine. But I cannot and will not allow myself to be depressed.

Still, I allow myself to feel the deep, soul-level sadness. This was someone I loved. My indulgence is perhaps superficial at first, though after my toes are wet, I wade in a bit further. I afford very few, specially chosen people the opportunity to know how I feel, how savagely the pain gnaws at my gut.

Meditation helps, but the activity that makes the biggest difference for me is running. As my shoes pound the pavement, I focus on my music and forget all about the pain, the betrayal that happened at my former friend’s calloused hands. I pound away grief. I sweat out all the anger. Somehow, the underlying grief does not dissipate.

No. Nothing I can do will command grief to go away. It has to run its course. That takes time. In the interim, I have to act like an ordinary human being. I have to go about my business like nothing was wrong. I prefer to think of myself as extraordinary.

Forgiveness? Maybe someday. Not today.

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I am a writer of Young Adult fiction and non-fiction. I'm also a public health scientist and educator.

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