Redefining the Friendship Loss

Erin Smalley

In the middle of a very intense season of my life, my two best friends connected over a shared project and from my perspective, for whatever reason, I wasn’t asked to join in. I was left out. I felt like I was in junior high all over again. I tried to work it out and address the “issue” behind it, but in all honestly, I couldn’t seem to get to the bottom of it. No one seemed to know what really happened — but for whatever reason, I had been replaced — and left feeling rejected during a time I needed the support of a close friend.

We’ve all been there, the loss of a friendship. One day you were great friends, and it was either a slow fade or a sudden shift in the relationship. When you hear her name, your heart aches — you feel a pit in your stomach — you miss her being in your life. You’re left wondering, “What’s wrong with me?” or even “What’s wrong with her?”

You may have even approached her and had the hard conversation, trying to mend the hurts or address the distance. But nothing changed. Or maybe your friend moved, went back to work full-time, or had a baby and things just simply changed. The relationship feels different, and it leaves you reeling — questioning what you could have done differently. At some point embracing and accepting the loss of a friendship is the healthiest thing to do.

I want to encourage you to look at it a little differently — instead of seeing it as a total loss, maybe there are lessons to be learned. Instead of seeing it as a “friendship death”— see it as a shift in the level of intimacy.

What I’ve come to understand is that every female friendship will have different seasons of connectedness and closeness. Some friendships will stay deep and intimate for a lifetime, but very few do. (If you have one that stays close — you are blessed!) What has helped me to accept the changes in relationships is recognizing there will be different levels of intimacy or seasons of friendship. When a relationship “shifts” – either through circumstances, intentional boundary setting or the impact of someone’s choices, recognize the relationship isn’t ending. It’s just in a different “basket” for a season or maybe forever. Don’t get me wrong — it still hurts when things change. It’s a loss—one that you must grieve in order to move forward.

The pain and rejection have an impact on our hearts — especially when it comes to having a BFF reject you. We have choices when it comes to how we handle it. As you embrace the new level of intimacy of any friendship, you can choose to see it simply as a “different season” in the relationship. In order to avoid becoming bitter over the shift, allow yourself to grieve because as we all know — it hurts! Maybe, we will even be able to look back and recognize the impact that person had in our life. Let’s keep our hearts available and open for when a new friend comes along.

Erin Smalley is the mom to three girls, ages 6, 16, and 19, and one son, age 12. Erin was a labor and delivery nurse and then returned to school to earn a Master’s in Clinical Psychology. Although Erin thought she had sent her last child off to kindergarten, she and her husband, Greg, were blessed with their youngest child through the gift of adoption. She works very part-time at Focus on the Family in the Marriage and Family Division, while attempting to balance life at home with four kids. She has co-authored three books, her favorite being, Grown-Up Girlfriends—Real Friends in the Real World. You can reach Erin at or

How have you moved on from a friend break-up?