What Does It Feel Like To Lose a Best Friend?

A raw recollection of the immediate aftermath from watching one of your closest friendships in your life implode and finding yourself picking up the pieces on your own.

Illustration by Charlie Dodge.

What does it feel like to lose a best friend? 

One you thought you couldn’t possibly lose. The best friend who managed to stand the test of time, who was constant even as everyone else walked in and out of your life. The kind of best friend you were proud of having by your side for so long despite everything you’d gone through, because you went through it together. It didn’t matter how much you changed or outgrew your friends at home; they just seemed like they’d always be in your life no matter what. 

A best friend who didn’t even have the same interests as you. They were almost your opposite in a way, at least in every way noticeable to the people around you. But you didn’t need them to like the same things you liked. To listen to the same music you did or hate contact sports with the same burning passion. It wasn’t a deal breaker that they absolutely refused to watch “The Good Place,” despite the fact you had just binge-watched it for days. You didn’t need them to do those things because you had other friends for that. No, this friend — your best friend — just knew you in a way you couldn’t possibly know yourself. You had unspoken rules that no one understood. They knew how to give you tough love and advice without ever attacking you. And when you needed each other you were there, even if it just meant listening to them sob on the phone for hours. Their presence was comforting in a way you couldn’t explain even if you tried. Like you had spent the whole day thrashing against the waves and could finally backfloat to the shore.  

What does it feel like to lose a best friend?

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It feels like being ripped apart and not into perfect halves. Like you don’t know who you are without them. It feels like a void eating at you when you least expect it. When you break down in the middle of making plans to go skating, because they were the one who held your hand as you clung to the rink. You trusted them to not let you fall, even though you could already see them slipping on the ice. It’s the unfinished plans and promises; did they ever end up confronting their ex like they said they would?  It’s this sinking feeling in your chest every time you realize they’re not coming back. Every time you realize this was for the best, but just wish you could tell them you finally got that internship you had spent months dreaming about.  It’s the double take you do and the weird mix of apprehension and excitement you feel when you think that random person walking down the street is them. You still haven’t decided yet what you’d do if you ever bumped into them again. Because a hug would feel too fake and ignoring them would immediately fill you with regret. It’s the need to know if they’re okay, but realizing it’s not your place anymore to ask. It’s that strange warmth you feel every time you think about them, quickly replaced with a sense of loss, and then warmth again as you find yourself wishing them the best. 

What does it feel like to lose a best friend?

It’s the disbelief at how things could ever get that bad. The nights you play the blame game and kick yourself for letting it get so toxic. For not realizing sooner that the snowball had started running downhill, and once you did it had already gotten so big everything was crushed in its path. It’s the constant questions. Do they still think about you in those moments when everything’s still and there’s nothing left to distract yourself with? Do they miss hearing you laugh? Do they find themselves opening the chat, only to realize there’s nothing left to say? Maybe they watch your face pop up when you’re online and watch it go back to ‘last active.’ Maybe they’re reading that last conversation and wondering if they had just said this differently or sucked up their pride in this one moment, maybe everything wouldn’t have imploded. Maybe they’re constantly wishing for closure, but they’ve realized that nothing will ever be closure. They’re all ‘maybes’ for them, but they aren’t for me. 

Maybe losing your best friend feels like the tears running down your face as you type this. Maybe these tears contain the unspoken rules you had, the silent hugs and the now tainted, yet wistful memories you share. Maybe losing your best friend feels like knowing this is your way of letting go. 

A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, Sept. 8, 2020, e-print edition. Email Vaishnavi Naidu at [email protected]

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