Lovingly Letting Her Be


A couple weeks back, I lost one of my oldest friends.

No, she didn't die, thankfully. She simply cut the cord on our 25-year relationship.

To be more precise, she de-friended me on Facebook—and I was uncomfortably left to inquire whether this was a computer glitch or an intentional move. In a brief (and not especially mean-spirited) paragraph-long response, I was informed that, yes, the de-friending was on purpose… that, in her assessment, we clearly have nothing in common, and that it's about time we acknowledge we aren't really friends anymore. Wow. Okay. That was news to me.

I spent the next several days grieving the loss of this formative bond, including a couple many-hour stints in depressive food-couch-and-TV mode. But sadness was certainly not the only emotional reaction I had to this startling development. I was angry. After all, this de-friending came as such a shock partly because we'd had no obvious instigating fallout that precipitated her move. No big screaming match. No dramatic act of betrayal. Sure, I owed her a phone call, but even now, in retrospect, that hardly seems a significant enough reason to sever two-and-a-half decades of friendship. At least not without a confronting conversation. An expression of displeasure (and an offering of the chance to apologize or make amends). Something.

I suppose this sense of confounding powerlessness stirred a large part of my anger in this situation. How dare she leave me out of the discussion about whether our relationship was worth working on, trying to save. How hurtful that she put her decision into effect so indirectly, with the simple click of a Facebook button, and left me to wonder. While admittedly I hadn't been the most attentive friend to her in recent years, I'd intended to know her for the rest of my life. I considered her family (which is a big deal to an only child like me). In her message, she explicitly let me know we are not family. I am pissed at being left to feel a fool.

But perhaps what infuriated me the most was the closing sentiment in my former-friend's farewell message: her suggestion that, once I thought it over, I'd feel relief over this door-closing. As I replied in my farewell message, relief was just about the furthest thing from the emotions I was experiencing. And her audacity to presume to know my emotional state, whether about this breakup (over which I had no say whatsoever) or about the entire span of our relationship, spun me into broader observations on how she'd again 'made it all about her'…

… which, from there, might've easily devolved into fuming indictments on all the personality flaws I perceived in her, all the decisions she's made that I would've made differently, all the ways in which she'd changed over these many years in directions that drew her further adrift from my wishes, all the efforts I've expended in holding out hope that, one day, she'd return to the person I knew best and loved most.

Yet, what would that have gotten me, had I opted to reply to her friendship-ending action from that place of angry woundedness… had I hurled my gripes and grievances at her like weapons, which, even if wielded in so-called self-defense, still bore the potential to wound her in unknown ways, just as she'd (unknowingly?) wounded me? Wasn't I so angry at her because I loved her so much, didn't understand her actions and worried for the hurt she must've harbored deeply enough to excise me from her life? If I really did love her—and I still do—I had to rise to the compassion this moment warranted and not lash out at my displeasure with the ending. I had to lovingly let her be.

It is from this compassionate place that I strove to respond when I sent her my final message, releasing her from our bond. Did I strip all anger from my message? Probably not. Still, during my in-depth processing of this situation, I kept coming back to the same realization that, just like she shouldn't have assumed I'd be relieved to have her out of my life, I too had to check my assumptions. Those efforts I'd expended to 'hold out hope' for her to become someone other the adult woman she'd chosen to be, which I always thought of as a beautiful gift of my longtime loyalty, might have instead felt like a burdensome expectation she couldn't, or didn't want to, live up to. The flaws I observed in her or those decisions of hers I didn't like? Merely projections of judgments I held toward her… and even if they were judgments based on my loving concern for her, and on my idealizing concepts that cast her as the hottest shit since sliced bread, they were my judgments. And she possesses free will to accept or reject them—and to accept or reject me as a result.

Without a doubt, I struggle with endings that are a result of somebody choosing to no longer associate with me (as opposed to, say, a pal moving to a far-off land or a loved one passing away)… and me having no say in the matter. The 'say' I can offer, however, is my best attempt to approach the absent party with some altered form of the same love I felt for them before they walked. My hurt needn't serve as a justifying excuse to hurt them back. My confusion over their motivating state needn't lead me to make assumptions that could be quite misguided, and which could come back to haunt me later.

Because I didn't choose to cut off this friendship, I have consciously tried to leave the door open by not doing or saying anything that might jeopardize a future reunion. I don't anticipate our friendship being rekindled anytime soon, but neither did I anticipate its ending, so who knows? Even if we never speak again (which is a thought that stirs great anxiety, rather than relief, in me), my present actions in this matter may determine whether I'll simply bear a dark corner of sadness for a friend I once had or, worse, punishing regret for how I worsened the situation by kicking a friend in selfish retribution.

I recently lost a longtime friend, by no decision of my own. Not one to beg for somebody's friendship, I went along with it, with a heavy heart but with my love for her intact. Maybe one day, we'll find ourselves back together again. Until then, I wish her well.