On friendship breakups and what happens when our friends cross over to the other side

By Caroline Radulski

A couple months ago, I wrote “Spiritual Connections,” an entry regarding the energetic principles underlying relationships, particularly contractual (karmic) relationships. I mentioned friendship breakups, and decided that I had so much to say that it deserved an entry of its own. Here is the long-awaited “Friendship Breakup” post.


The ending of a significant, long-term friendship is devastating. The song “i hate u, i love u,” has the oh-so-true lyric: “Friends can break your heart too.” The pain is like a dull ache that never goes away; it only gets easier over time.

What is especially painful is the sudden severing of a cord that took years to build. What’s a cord? Here is a quote from my previous entry:

“Sometimes, two people are connected by a cord that transmits energy from one person to the other… Cords [allow you to] pick up on the feelings of your friends, even without words… If you’ve ever loved anyone in any capacity (whether that be friendship love, romantic love, family love, etc.), even years later when you’ve both parted ways, the part of you that loved them is still inside of you. It leaves an imprint that never ceases to exist.”

Cords can happen instantly, or they can develop in relationships after years of compassion, support, and loving understanding. I like to imagine these cords as potential futures that might exist between two people. They’re not so much predictions of the future, but rather “educated guesses” of what could be in store if they continue on their paths. When the friendship is cut off, the cord between them is ripped from their hearts, preventing the potential futures from ever occurring. To have a meaningful relationship emerge so slowly and end so quickly is spiritually and emotionally traumatizing. It can feel like the heart is bleeding where the cord once was. This is something I feel as an intuitive person. I don’t know if it is the same for others. It is always sad no matter what.

I have my own history of friendship breakups. Here is another quote from my previous entry, where I wrote about the parting of ways between me and my childhood friend:

“I had a childhood friend from when I was eight-to-thirteen years old. We played with each other several days a week. When I started middle school, my family moved across town and I lost touch with my friend. I was very sad… Twelve years later, I learned that she developed cancer and passed away… [At her funeral], all of the memories of our childhood came flooding back as if no time had passed. The eight-to-thirteen year old version of me still existed… and was grieving the loss of my very good friend.”

What happened next changed me forever. I never spoke at her funeral because of my social anxiety due to the fact that we were absent from each other’s lives for over a decade. I wanted to find some other way to honour her life. I was in school at the time, and for one of my classes, we were instructed to write about a painful experience and how it transformed us. As I sat in my room and prepared to write the paper, I meditated for a couple minutes, and decided I would write about my late friend. As I was writing, I felt her soul come to visit me. It was a very palpable, undeniable energy, as though she was standing right next to me in the flesh. She thanked me for being her friend, explained that even though we didn’t stay friends, I played an integral role in her childhood, and it wouldn’t have been the same without me. Hearing that was the catalyst to my healing.

I learned a valuable lesson through that experience. No energy that ever occurred will cease to exist. It will always be stored in some cosmic record house. When someone passes to the other side, they will become their holistic self, meaning that every part of them that ever was, still is, not just the version of themselves that they were when they passed. If they ever cared about you once, they will continue to care about you, even on the other side, regardless of how the relationship ended. My late friend still visits me from time to time.

Obviously, not all friendship breakups follow the model above; in fact, most don’t. In my example, it was more of a case of logistics that kept us apart (I moved across town). When it comes to adult-friendship breakups, it’s a slightly different reality. That doesn’t stop them from being absolutely devastating. I would argue that friendship breakups are equally or more difficult to cope with than romantic breakups. Here are my theories as to why:

  • When it comes to a romantic relationship, there is the well-known possibility that it might end in heartbreak (Taylor Swift’s iconic song, “Blank Space,” details the formula of her typical, short-lived relationships). Friendship breakups are shattering for both parties because there is not a well-defined societal narrative on how to support someone undergoing such a painful break.
  • Many nascent, romantic relationships haven’t had the time to develop the intimacy and closeness of a friendship, whereas many friendships run the course of several years. Friends typically allow themselves to be emotionally vulnerable to one another, making the loss all-the-more heartbreaking. [1]
  • The decision to end a friendship is an ambiguous one, not so cut and dry. Most mainstream romantic relationships in our society are between two, monogamous parties. It is a norm that each person has one and only one partner whom they privilege over others. [2] When it’s not working out, one can’t keep the other in their life in the same capacity as before. With friendships, there isn’t a limit of how many friends you can have. You can’t exactly say, “It’s not you. It’s me,” and really mean it. Ending a friendship is often purely from choice rather than necessity, which makes that choice very difficult.
  • The narrative of romantic breakups is present in the media, books, songs, and movies. With the exception of a few popular movies such as Bridesmaids and I Love You, Man, the topic of friendship breakups is not highly represented in our culture, which can be alienating for those going through it.
  • In a relationship breakup, many friends will side with one person or the other. If not, they will typically be sensitive when it comes to broaching the topic of their friend’s ex. In a friendship breakup, there is the messy fact that many friendship pairs have mutual friends. They may not even know about the breakup and will invite both parties to the same event, resulting in an awkward situation. Thus, these mutual friends might unknowingly lack the sensitivity required for such a delicate situation.

Sometimes, when two friends choose to part ways (or one of them chooses to remove the other from their lives), their anger overtakes all other emotions. It can take weeks, months, even years, for the anger to pass, if it ever does. This would fall under “denial” in Kübler-Ross‘ “Stages of Grief,” model (by denial, I mean the refusal to process the loss and choosing to feel anger instead). On the other hand, two friends can have a very strong relationship, and then choose to be roommates with one another. They learn that while they were compatible as friends, they weren’t compatible as roommates. Unfortunately, many of these situations aren’t resolved and the friendship dies a slow death. After the anger passes, the sadness emerges like  waves, falling under the category of “acceptance.” [3] That sudden feeling of sadness can sneak up and knock them off their feet when they least expect it.

When it’s over, the reality sets in that someone they’ve once truly cared for is gone from their lives, potentially forever. Once they finally accept the loss, there will be an ache in their heart where their cord once was. This ache doesn’t have an end-point. I know folks who revisit memories of their ex-friends years and years after the fact, especially childhood friends, who played an integral role in their coming-of-age story.

When thinking of the end of a friendship as the death of something very meaningful, it normalizes the sadness that ensues. I know the feeling well. However, it’s never really the end. All that loving, caring energy never disappears; it just transforms. What once existed will always exist, and this is true of all relationships. So if you have a friendship that simply cannot go on in its current state, at least you can take solace in knowing it will still live on in some capacity on the other side.

Thank you for reading!


[1] I credit my friend who originated this thought. Back

[2] This statement is not necessarily a reflection of my own values, but rather the values of dominant western society. Back

[3] This statement is true for most people, but there are those with certain personality traits/disorders who do not readily feel empathy or remorse. Back

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