How To Handle Friendship Conflict + Grief

  • Describe the situation (the facts, without any judgment thrown in)
  • Express how you feel about the situation, using “I feel” statements. Avoid judging + blaming. Be mindful of your tone and body language.
  • Ask for what you want
  • Describe the benefits of getting what you want (for example, I think this will help us both feel more fulfilled in our friendship and have better communication)
  • Be willing to be curious and open about their side and perspective. Assume good intentions. Be willing to compromise.
  • If you’ve already had a conversation (or maybe perhaps several), ask yourself if you’re trying to force someone to meet your needs who either can’t or doesn’t want to?
  • It’s so important to honor ourselves and be kind to ourselves by no longer expecting people to meet our needs who have demonstrated that they can’t or don’t want to. When we consistently try to force it, it puts ourselves in a position to be let down regularly and only experience more hurt and pain.
  • When we are trying to force something that the other person has demonstrated with their actions they aren’t available for, this is a form of not accepting reality as it presently is.
  • I think it’s important to feel that you’ve tried all that you can, and that “your side of the street is clean”, so to speak. Have a conversation (or a few), if you feel they’re needed. Make sure everyone involved is heard. Apologize and make repair, if necessary. And, at a certain point, if you feel you’ve done all you can and you have peace of that, it may be time to let it go, as hard as that is.
  • I think it can be a powerful question to ask yourself: If I was respecting myself, and acting in alignment with my values, what would I do in this relationship? For me personally, I want know that I’ve done all that I can and that my side of the street is clean. Simultaneously, once I’ve done that, there comes a time when I’m not respecting myself if I continue to put myself in a situation where things feel one-sided, or where my needs continue to go unmet.
  • It’s self-respecting for me to have clarifying conversations, to make repair, and be honest about my needs, and at a certain point, it’s also most self-respecting to let the friendship go. This requires so much nuance and is highly specific to both individuals as well as the circumstance.
  • Get honest about what you want and what you need, and if this person is able to provide that
  • What frequency of communication do you prefer?
  • Do you want things to be kept light? Go deep? Both?
  • How do you feel the most loved and appreciated in friendship?
  • How often would you like to be able to see each other?
  • What do you have to give to your relationship right now based on your life stage?
  • What do they have to give right now?
  • We have “sanitized” grief in the Western world to be just shedding a few silent tears and moving on with our lives. I invite you to involve your body with the grieving process. Scream. Cry (loudly if needed). Punch pillows if necessary. Move your body along with your feelings with music that mimics what you’re feeling. Return to your nature and don’t stuff it or try to make it more palatable. (Have you ever seen tribal people grieve?)
  • What would allow *you* to create and feel closure for this chapter of your life? A ritual or ceremony may be helpful for you.
  • You can write a letter to the person expressing your heart, and either not send it, or burn it afterwards as a releasing ceremony.
  • Visualize a cord between you and them being cut, while blessing them and wishing them well, and asking all parts of yourself to be returned back to you now.
  • Light a candle, say a prayer, and set your intention to release this relationship, and open up space for a more aligned relationship(s) in its place.
  • What if there were just different desires, preferences, needs, life stages, and ways of relating at play?
  • It’s so easy when something ends to need to assign blame. Blame is only necessary if there is fault. But what if there wasn’t any fault?
  • Along with this, be careful how you’re talking to yourself when a friendship ends. It can be so easy to slip into judgment, blame, guilt, condemnation, and speak very unkindly to ourselves (which only further amplifies our pain!) Feel the pure pain of the emotion from the friendship ending, but don’t slip into the “dirty pain” of the judgment you are heaping on yourself.
  • Allow yourself to dream a little. What would feel like the most deliciously aligned, fully able to be yourself as you are right now kind of friendship? I fully believe that it’s only once there’s space in our lives can these desires be fulfilled.
  • “We outgrow relationships when we outgrow a version of ourselves” (Lacy Phillips). Know this is a normal and natural, albeit painful, part of the process. Not every relationship that we thought would be in our lives forever will withstand the different and evolving versions of ourselves, our values, our desires, and our life stages, and that’s OK.
  • Allow yourself to feel and move through the grief process without judgment, shame, and guilt. You aren’t alone in your grief over the loss of a friendship, and it’s normal and natural to grieve it. You deserve friendship, connection, and community. This is a human need!

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Kim Kimball

Kim Kimball

Life coach helping ambitious women have thriving relationships with partners, friends, family, + coworkers by healing codependency. www.kimkimballcoaching.com