Mosaic of Learning | Friendship breakups

Mosaic of Learning is a biweekly blog that takes a look at research and education at the University.

By Khushi Rai, Staff Writer

College is a time when most people form lifelong friendships. After all, numerous budding friendships are inevitable when people are confined to the same spaces every day. However, an overlooked part of college is lost friendships.

Gerald Mollenhorst, a sociologist at Utrecht University, asked 604 adults about their current friendships and followed up with them seven years later. Results showed that most had replaced half of their friends and just 30% of the participants’ close friends remained close.

Although the loss of friendships were frequent, according to the statistics, I did not realize how devastating friendship break-ups were. Liz Pryor discussed how ill-equipped we are for them in her book “What Did I Do Wrong?: What To Do When You Don’t Know Why The Friendship Is Over.”

 “We expect to be dumped by lovers – society prepares us – but not your friends,” Pryor said.

The end of romantic relationships is often discussed and portrayed in music, film and television. The formula for moving on is almost explicit. However, when faced with the end of one of my own friendships, I did not know what to do. Many times I would instinctively begin to text her, only to realize that I couldn’t anymore. Overall, the only way to describe the feeling was lonely. I couldn’t find music that sang about my situation or movies that displayed a protagonist surviving her friendship break-up.

After sitting in sadness, I realized that losing a friendship was almost like losing my limb — I was so used to her being with me that I did not know what to do without her. Studies have shown that the brain can register the emotional pain that coincides with heartbreak like it does with physical pain. There was science behind my sadness.

The process of moving on, or rather accepting that the friendship was over, resembled the five stages of grief — denial, bargaining, depression, anger and acceptance. College is defined as the time when you find yourself. Inevitably, that includes realizing some friendships don’t mesh.

Overcoming the five stages doesn’t equate to forgetting that friendship existed. I still miss her on birthdays or other important events. I still look at our messages and the numerous pictures we sent to each other. Rather, overcoming and dealing with the end of the friendship equates to embracing the memories and learning to live without your friend. As Oscar Wilde said, “Friendship never forgets. That is the wonderful thing about it.”

 Khushi writes about research, education and events taking place at Pitt. Talk to her at [email protected].