Woe Is Me! “My Friend Cut Me Off. How Do I Move On?”
Woe Is Me! is a series in which The Swaddle team indulges your pity party with advice you’ll probably ignore.
“Something I did in the past has deeply hurt my friend, causing her to end our friendship of many years. I have apologized many times over and tried to make amends, but she hasn’t forgiven me. She has cut off all contact, too. Although I know I can’t do anything else at this point to fix our friendship, I still feel extremely guilty about everything — what I did continues to haunt me. How do I stop regretting past mistakes?”
— Living in the past
DR: I know pop culture — and just society, in general — rarely (if ever) discusses this, but break-ups from friends can hurt just as much as the end of a romantic relationship, if not more. And, right now, it’s clear that you’re hurting. It’s no wonder, then, that your mistake is haunting you — I’m sure it plays on a loop in your mind, and you hate yourself, thinking things would be so much better if only you hadn’t done whatever it was that caused your friendship to end. But in a world where change is the only constant, I assure you that with time, your anguish will dwindle, and your self-hate will lessen.
Having said that, it’s always helpful to learn from one’s past mistakes, isn’t it? I don’t, however, know what it is you did, though — maybe, you kicked your friend while they were down, put them down to feel better about yourself, stabbed them in the back, literally assaulted them, smothered them but with good intentions, or, perhaps, you simply called them out on their abusive behavior. It could be anything under the sun. And, correspondingly, your takeaway from this can vary wildly — all I can hope is that you’re able to judge correctly.
In the meantime, I’d urge you not to pester your friend into moving on from what happened — no matter how angsty you feel, or how badly you want their forgiveness. Introspect, evaluate, and if you’re feeling too lonely, pick up a few hobbies in your spare time, maybe? The healing power of solitary pursuits that can keep us occupied is hugely underrated, I think. This is no doubt a difficult time, but hey, this too shall pass!
RN: You won’t be doing yourself, your friend, or your future friends any favors by pitying yourself and dwelling in the past. You’ve made a mistake, and these are the consequences: part of evolving as a person is to accept this with grace. Your friend isn’t coming back, but it doesn’t mean that she’s taken your entire personhood with her for you to define yourself by this mistake and let it haunt you forever. And while she may not forgive you, you can, perhaps, forgive yourself and grow out of this. As cliché as it sounds, maybe, this will teach you to be a better, kinder person — and, importantly, a better friend to someone else. You still have so much love to give, and many more friends in the future to give it to.
RR: Here’s what I’d say: If you feel like you’ve made enough attempts/shown enough gestures to amend the friendship, you should stop being so hard on yourself. Friendship is a two-way street, and if someone would rather hold onto your past actions than acknowledge your present actions, then you’ve not actually lost anything.
AS: I think the only way forward, at this point, is to accept what happened. Agreed, this is easier said than done. But every time the guilt and regret start gnawing away at you, remind yourself that you tried. It’s a slow process, which might even be dependent on you confronting what you did that hurt your friend in the first place. When friendships end, it can be incredibly painful. Still, one can learn a lot from such an experience. But holding on so dearly to your past mistakes will only keep them — and the resultant regret — alive and kicking for a long time. Accept your mistake, wish your friend well, and try to let go.
AS: It is normal to regret your past mistakes, especially when their aftermath has been so severe and life-altering. But, I think, it is also important to understand that, maybe, there are things and people in life that, no matter how hard we try, will not remain with us forever. I feel, however cruel and unemotional it may sound right now, that your takeaways from that friendship and its fallout should be cherishing the good times you had, and the things you learned from your mistake. If you think you have genuinely been able to fix whatever led to the earlier situation, then I feel it’s still a win for you, for the friendship, and all that it meant. With that knowledge, you have to begin to let go of your guilt.