How To Handle Friendship Conflict + Grief

As you likely know (and now you do if you didn’t), I’m a relationship coach that coaches around ALL types of relationships, not just romantic ones.

I personally believe that our society has severely undervalued friendships and community, and placed an unhealthy emphasis on romantic partnerships being our sole source of joy and fulfillment.

Friendships are a very important relationship to cultivate and show reverence for in our lives.

I have recently gone through the ending of two of my closest, multiple decades long friendships within the last few months. These were friends who were bridesmaids in my wedding and I considered them to be family.

I know firsthand how much grief conflict amidst our friendships and friendships ending can cause.

So today I want to explore two elements of friendship: first, how to handle conflict within your friendships, and secondly, how to be with your grief process over a friendship ending.

Conflict In Friendships

The unique twist I often find with friendships is that because they don’t tend to hold as much relational “weight” in our society, it makes it a breeding ground for lots of assumptions, resentment, and lack of communication, which can then lead to relational fractures.

How often do you hear of friends having an open, honest conversation about their expectations and needs in their relationship?

Likely not a lot. (And it it’s up to me-we need to change this and normalize having difficult conversations in our friendships!)

Intimacy of any kind requires skillful handling of communication and conflict, no matter what type of relationship it is.

Tangible Tips For Handling Conflict In Your Friendships:

Have A Conversation

  • Describe the situation (the facts, without any judgment thrown in)

Are You Forcing It?

  • 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?

Know When To Let It Go

  • 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.

Get Honest

  • Get honest about what you want and what you need, and if this person is able to provide that

Grief When a Friendship Ends

“Grief is the honour we pay to that which is dear to us. And it is only through the connection to what we cherish that we can know how to move forward. In this way, grief is motion.”-Toko-Pa Turner

The grief over a friendship ending is both real and deep. It can honestly feel similar to a death, and I honor that.

Allow Yourself To Grieve.

  • 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?)

Create Closure

  • What would allow *you* to create and feel closure for this chapter of your life? A ritual or ceremony may be helpful for you.

What if this wasn’t anyone’s “fault”?

  • What if there were just different desires, preferences, needs, life stages, and ways of relating at play?

What does this person exiting your life make space for now?

  • 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.

Know that not all friendships grow with you in the ways that you may have expected. Grow anyway.

  • “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.

How can you honor who the person was to you and the role they had in your life, while also holding the tension of who they are *now*?

I know this is a tender topic, my friends. I hope that this has helped you on your journey, and please know that you’re not alone on it. Please feel free to comment and share your experiences with friendship conflict or grief below.

So much love,




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Kim Kimball

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