Mending Broken Friendships

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She was as beautiful as I remembered, and just as funny. She had the same empathy in her eyes for my latest loss that she had when my father died and my brother went to prison decades earlier. It was as if no time had passed and nothing had gone awry between us. But can broken friendships really be mended?

When my mother died a year ago, people showed me an abundance of love and support. The night of her memorial service, my home was filled with my tribe. Every mourner takes death differently. My complicated relationship with my mother made me realize that my friends are real family. With these people by my side, I never feel alone.

There were packages of food, condolence letters and calls. There were cards from acquaintances and even flowers from my daughters’ friends. A few months later, I received a note from someone who had left me long ago, a person who had once been a brick in the foundation of my life. I read that card many times; in it her heartfelt sorrow was palpable. I promised myself I would respond but got caught up in the unraveling story of my family.  And in my recovery. And in the celebration of the life I have yet to live.

I have played out the scenario of seeing a lost friend many times. I confront the person who dumped me and ask them why. After all the years and investment we both made in the relationship, why was it that easy to throw it all away? I would let this person know I am OK without their love and can stand on my own two feet. But it is just fantasy. The last time I saw someone who did that horrible dumping thing I just froze, letting the anger boil up inside me. I had to be held back by two of my girlfriends from unleashing all of my pain on her in a public space.

Eight months after my once friend sent me that note, I sent an email. It was around the time of year we celebrated holidays together and I was feeling nostalgic. I had no end game, just wanted to say thank you. It’s weird when you have loss in the form of death; it makes you want to find people. People who made an impact in your life.

There is a good argument for it being too late for some things and some people. There are some relationships for a reason or a season. Others too toxic to rekindle. There is no need to mend and amend because these friendships don’t contribute to our happiness. Square peg/round hole type of scenario.

I looked down at my phone thirty minutes after sending my old friend the email and there was a reply which gave an opening.  We met a week later. I didn’t realize how much I missed her until she walked in. Until I hugged her tightly. Until our conversation began where it left off nearly a decade earlier. Neither of us is perfect, but we both could feel the weight of life shifting into a new stage – where the mistakes of the past don’t make sense anymore. (Honestly, it was hard to remember what caused it all in the first place. Isn’t that always the case?)

Friendships, as I have written in the past, are compelling and complicated. It’s as if two people sign a contract to be supportive 24/7, love each other unconditionally, and have each other’s backs no matter what. (Train’s song Drops of Jupiter reiterates this notion — “can you imagine….your best friend always sticking up for you, event when I know you’re wrong.”) That’s a lot of pressure. And much to ask of another person who may not always be in the right frame of mind to be all of these things all of the time.  Life goes up and then it crashes down. The less expectations we have for the our friends, the better our relationships will be.

Two and a half hours later, I walked away with a little less weight on my shoulders. I don’t know where our relationship will go, and I’m fine with that ambiguity. Simply taking steps toward repairing something that was broken feels like enough. I hope it’s never too late to try.

Please let me know if you have ever mended (or want to mend) a broken friendship in the comments section below.

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5 Comments

  1. Interesting to read, and I guess that sometimes one needs time. We develop as persons and become wiser and perhaps a relation could not have been mended one or ten years earlier. But I agree, some are just not possible to mend. Too sad, but true.

    • I like your idea of needing time and I didn’t really think about it that way before. Yes older and wiser for sure. I feel the same way you do about some of the ones that can’t be mended. Isn’t it fascinating how female friendships can be so wonderful and heartbreaking at the same time, no matter what age? Thank you for reading my piece!

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