On mourning the loss of a friendship

Photo by Dani Sisson Student Publications

To preface, no one died. There was no dramatic falling out that stemmed from someone cheating with the other’s boyfriend, like some teen drama that was popular in the mid-2000s.

That makes it worse though, the anticlimactic ending of a friendship.

I feel an overwhelming sadness every time I go through any of my pictures from middle to high school.

In almost all of them, my ex-best friend is there. She is smiling at a swim meet, hair poking out of the swim cap. She is rocking one of my cats in her arms, having spent the night over.

She is taking stupid selfies on my phone, face half in the screen. My sadness almost feels misplaced.

It is not like it was a romantic relationship, the only relationship ending I have really seen people cry about on TV.

This depiction, though, undervalues the impact of a platonic relationship.

We had been friends since sixth grade. Her mom worked in the film industry, and she often stayed at my house after swim practice while her mom finished night scenes.

Like me, her dad was not involved in her life, and we both understood growing up with a single mom.

When my younger sister developed an eating disorder when we were in middle school, she had seen it happen too. She had been there when I cried about seeing my mom and sister fight around meal times and started staying at my house more when my sister left for in-patient treatment.

In turn, I knew about her dad, how he was never added to her birth certificate and had a new family somewhere in New York that did not know about her.

I knew about how she had found his Facebook on accident and had seen pictures of her half-siblings, two young boys. She did not have to tell me about her curiosity about what would have happened if he had stayed. I understood.

I am not a touchy person, to put it lightly. I duck to avoid people’s hugs. I don’t like shoulder touches or when my leg accidentally touches the person I am sitting beside. I need my immediate vicinity to be free of people. I have always been like this, wanting to keep others at a literal arm’s distance.

We were not like that though. My mom often found us laid over each other in the front room of my house doing homework. My emotional intimacy with her made me much more willing to be physically comforting and comforted. She understood my limits in how much and often I could touch other people, and that made me comfortable showing physical affection.

She also knew how much I struggled to make friends and generally open up to people. I easily became overwhelmed by new people. I did not know how I was supposed to change how I interacted with each new person. I did not have any intuition on how to join the conversation, and I felt out of place.

She was fine with being my emotional support person in these situations, making sure I was not left out.

Her mom thought that I was a good influence, too. I could help her with homework when she needed it, and I made sure that schoolwork got done at my house. Our relationship was symbiotic.

We were friends until the middle of swim season our senior year. I had noticed she had been spending less time with me. She was always busy or tired when I asked her to spend the night over and did not seem like she wanted to talk to me when she drove us to swim practice in the morning.

I cried to my mom, telling my mom how much it hurt that my best friend did not want to see me anymore, and I decided to call her. She seemed surprised when I asked if we could talk about something serious on the phone.

I told her that I missed talking with her, how I cared so much about her, but it did not feel the same anymore. I asked if I had done something wrong, had I hurt her feelings. I was crying again by this point. “I don’t know what you want me to say.” That was her only response. I asked if we were still friends. “I don’t know.”

My mom brought me to swim practice the next morning and every morning after until the end of the season. We did not utter a word to each other anymore, and I cried wondering if anything could have gone differently. There was a gaping hole that became more apparent each time my sister was struggling or a break rolled around, and she was not there to spend most of it at my house.

My mom asked me if I had a crush on her. She had never seen me be so upset about something before. I did not love her in a romantic way though.

I had thought of her as my other sister, having a unique understanding of each other that felt more than just friends.

I mourned the loss of that understanding for a reason she would not say. Everything was incomplete.

My mom told me she saw her at Mardi Gras this year, and she tried to ask my mom how I was, how my sister was. My mom told her we were good. I cried that night.

Over a year later, I struggle to tell my new friends how much I care about them. They express their love for me and each other freely, but it feels weird to do that.

I feel like I have subconsciously stopped myself from making the final leap to loving my new friends because I am scared of growing to love someone so fully, and then it all ends with no explanation, not that they have given me any reason to distrust them.

I have never seen fear like mine expressed in relation to platonic friendships and maybe that is why I don’t know how to move forward. Everything is still incomplete.