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The Heartbreak No One Warns You About

It's lonely and hurts far more than a lover walking away.

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Welcome to our new section, Thrive on Campus, devoted to covering the urgent issue of mental health among college and university students from all angles. If you are a college student, we invite you to apply to be an Editor-at-Large, or to simply contribute (please tag your pieces ThriveOnCampus.) We welcome faculty, clinicians and graduates to contribute as well. Read more here.

My head hung heavy as I left her room in our sorority house. Tears poured down my face and into my nose, my lungs desperately gasped for air, my lips quivered. “That was our final fight,” I thought, while simultaneously I felt my heart break.

This is the heartbreak no song prepares you for. There’s no sad movie to watch or book to read that will provide any sort of solace. This heartbreak is lonely and hurts far more than a lover walking away — this is the heartbreak that follows a best friend breakup.

I lost a best friend two years ago. Everyone expects heartache when someone dies or your boy friend dumps you, but nobody warns you about this breakup — the hurt that follows losing a friend. And, so I hope this essay provides comfort and support for anyone who is going though or has gone through a best friend breakup.

From age 3 to 19, she was my entire world. I knew her favorite color, song, what made her laugh, the foods she liked, the movies she watched, and the boys she loved.

She was gregarious and commanded attention — I was timid and passive. She was tall and giggly — I was short and quiet.

If we were liquids, she was water, and I was oil — we were never supposed to mix, but somehow, we did.

The summer going into fifth grade I followed her to sleepaway camp. That’s when I first saw our abyssal differences. I would casually stray, making new friends, but always found my way back to her, just as a compass always finds north.

As we slid into middle school she and I became a clique. We added a third to our girl-gang and made a pact — we would always be friends.

Though I was uncomfortable with excluding other people, I never voiced it. I remember thinking she’d turn her back on me if I befriend someone she didn’t like. This fear was consuming, so I stayed quiet. She ruled, and I loyally followed.

Then we hit puberty. She and I went to different high schools. I never worried our friendship would waver; I mean, we had a pact.

Throughout high school we constantly talked on the phone and were always texting. When we had our first kisses, and when our boyfriends would make us cry, the other would know within minutes — she transcended best friend and became my sister.

February 14, 2015, we were accepted to the same Uni. And overwhelmed with joy, we went together. 

Our freshman year of college we were Siamese twins. “I was safe again,” I thought. I fell into her, unpacked my bags and settled down. I suppressed all my ideas of a clean slate in college, so we could pick up where we left off. We had our same friends, our same jokes, everything was the same, which was perfect. 

But really, it wasn’t. By the end of freshman year I was confused, lost, anxious, depressed, and had no idea who I was.

She and I would fight constantly. We would throw passive comments yet pretend our friendship was loyal. But the reality was we both had changed, our friendship had changed, we just didn’t know how to let it go.

Instead of communicating our need for space; our friendship ended in fiery peril also known as boy drama. 

The details of the final fight are insignificant. It was filled with hateful words screamed across a sorority bedroom and tearful bouts of self-loathing. 

Something inside me shut down. My entire life — thoughts, feelings, reactions — was grey. As I walked away from her, I left behind an army of memories and years of laughs, hugs, late night calls and love. I felt utterly alone.

It took a long time for me to realize my heart was broken. No one tells you it’s okay to have a broken heart after walking away from your best friend. No one tells you it’s going to hurt the way it hurts and no one tells you that just like any heartbreak, it will take an outrageously long time to mend. 

So I sat in my pain for months.

Photo Credit: to Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

But just like all breakups you muster the courage to put yourself together. And I did. I found all my pieces, picked up a few new ones and built myself into the fiercest lady I could picture. 

And though I was stronger, I still felt a twinge of pain in my heart each time I thought of her. Some nights I would cry and cry thinking about how much I had lost, and I hated myself for losing her. But as time healed my heart, it healed our friendship. 

I see her often and always send her love. And though she wasn’t a forever friend soul mate, she was my first best friend, non-blood related sister, confidante and soul shattering heartbreak, and I’m eternally grateful for it all. 

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More on Mental Health on Campus:

What Campus Mental Health Centers Are Doing to Keep Up With Student Need

If You’re a Student Who’s Struggling With Mental Health, These 7 Tips Will Help

The Hidden Stress of RAs in the Student Mental Health Crisis

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People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.


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