If you go off to college, you may find yourself growing apart from some of the folks that stayed home. The good girlfriends you made at your first office job may not be around by the time you’re midcareer. The first person in the crew to have a baby may become increasingly absent from your single-girl gatherings and find that she is starting to relate more to her friends who also have children. By the time you’re facing thirty, it’s likely that you will have seen many changes to your inner circle, but that doesn’t mean that a sudden or dramatic loss of a “BFF” will be any less jarring.

When you break up with your honey, there’s a number of tried-and-true coping rituals for you to turn to: overindulgence in frozen dairy products, crying to your homegirls, hitting the streets immediately to find a replacement (albeit a potentially premature and/or temporary one), etc, etc. People around you tend to be sympathetic and you are fully expected to have a mourning period. These things happen, and though you may be caught off guard, devastated, and even scared, chances are that you knew that in some point in your life you would be in a romantic relationship that comes to an end.

Breaking up with one of your best friends, however, is a very different story.

Few of us expect to fall out with the woman we call our “bestie” to the point of no return; the concept may sound as absurd as breaking up with one’s blood sister. This is the person who has been the keeper of your secrets, the constant companion. The one who understood you when you didn’t understand yourself. And for this sort of relationship to be fractured, that usually means some real foul sh*t went down. Perhaps she betrayed your trust, embarrassed you, stabbed you in the back somehow…and now the main person you typically turn to when your heart is broken is the very one tied to your pain.

As you would after losing a lover, you must take the time to process the grief and frustration caused by the end of your friendship. Let the people in your life know what you are going through; even those who may not quite understand your feelings should at least be prepared to deal with a change in your emotional state. Don’t run from your tears or feel like it’s not “normal” to mourn the end of a friendship; romances are not hardly the only relationships of significance in your life and you shouldn’t feel that they are the only ones that can cause grief.

Don’t let your friendship end without a discussion of what sort of trouble has befallen the two of you. If you are the one who has been betrayed or abused somehow, she should know how you feel. If your actions caused her to end your relationship, then you should try to gain some clarity from her on why she feels this is the only recourse. Even if the love can’t be saved, you all owe it to one another to at least share your feelings one last time. This may not work in the case of some spectacular misdeed–theft, for example, or perhaps a hookup with someone’s boyfriend–but more often than not, you should be able to have a closure discussion.

If you truly feel that you two have reached the point of no return, don’t attempt to salvage the relationship out of fear of being without your best friend. Years and past experience are not always reason enough to hold on to something that is broken, and you very well may find that trying to make things work can cause more trouble in the long run. Also, don’t rush out and anoint a new official best best friend; it simply doesn’t work that way. The loss of the O.G. homegirl will undoubtedly find you spending more time with other friends, one of whom may end up growing to fill her shoes. But you can’t force it. A true BFF relationship takes time and magic to create. You aren’t doomed to be without a partner-in-crime forever, but it may take a while before you have that sort of bond with someone else.

While you may not have seen your bestie breakup coming, it’s important to remember that like boyfriends, girlfriends (and even enemies), your former-BFF is a human being, as are you. And as much as you may have believed that the two of you would agonize over gray hairs together, not all of our relationships have that sort of staying power. If you caused the split, be mindful not to repeat these actions in your other friendships; if you were victimized somehow, take time to be observant of the behavior of others in a way that may protect you from future pains. But whatever you do, don’t become cynical about humanity to the point that you can’t let another friend in. The fact that she did you dirty doesn’t mean that “real” best friends don’t exist; it’s simply time for you to find a new one.

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