“She gave me a huge hug at the end of the night, then grabbed me by the shoulders. With tears in her eyes, she told me, ‘This will probably be the last time we’ll ever see each other.’ I looked at her puzzled and said, ‘Don’t be so dramatic. I’ll see you tomorrow at the house.’ Little did I know, these words were going to be our last. And to think she said that to me at my wedding of all days.
Nine years ago, on my wedding day, I had three long-term friendships come to an abrupt and painful end. These were not just any friends, they were my soul sisters. I had known each of them for 20+ years. All three of these women were in my wedding, and they each held a very special place in my heart over the years.
They were my family, but that ‘family’ decided to dump me.
It shattered me for YEARS. I would never be the same person I was when I knew them and, honestly, they did me a huge favor. That experience taught me some very important life lessons, as well as eventually opening up my heart to new friendships. But it came at a cost, and that cost was losing a piece of my heart when we all parted ways.
I am an only child, from a small family. I had a dad who worked nonstop and a mom who was dying from a rare lung disease. I was a happy kid for the most part and had LOTS of friends to help keep me grounded. I valued them as much, if not more, than my actual family. I was safe with them. No one was sick or dying or working or leaving me alone. I felt important and I was loved by them and their families. They knew what was happening at home, and I know it was hard to not feel sorry for our circumstances. No young kid should ever have to watch a parent die.
I met Allison in 3rd grade. I don’t remember much about that time in my life, but I do remember her friendship and how much I loved her. At my mom’s funeral, I saw her standing in the pew crying with her family. She grabbed my arm and gave me a tight squeeze, as if to say, ‘I see you. You are not alone.’ I’ll never forget her loyalty to me that day. We were best friends until high school when I left for boarding school. Years later, we rekindled our friendship in San Diego when we were adults. Back then, she was like a sister to me… someone I loved. Someone whose family took me in like their own daughter. That was the most desirable thing in our friendship, her family. We had a lot of fun those years. Lots of shenanigans and laughter. But in all honesty, she wasn’t a great friend at all. She was a wolf in sheep clothing.
I met Catie when I was 18. She had a temper, but she was hilarious and obnoxious like me. We had the best time together. Over the years though, her bad attitude took its toll on me. She too was toxic. She was so self-centered and had little respect for not only me but for literally everyone in her life. She was jealous of everything, and mean as the devil when things didn’t go her way. There were so many red flags: always being angry, always having a bad attitude, never having a good time…the list went on. But my heart was so devoted to our years of friendship that I often overlooked it, making excuses for her. What was I thinking?!
I met Liza when I was 20. She was the closest thing to a sister. I loved her and was so thankful to have a woman like her in my life. We had been through hell and back. There were SO MANY good times, so many laughs, so many tears. This was a woman who could do no wrong. This particular friendship hurt the very depths of my soul when she ended it. My heart was broken and it literally ached when she cut me out of her life. However, she was also toxic. She sucked the life out of me over and over, and I was a different person when I was with her. I smoked and drank heavily, got into so many fights with her and with other people, and I had become an anxiety-ridden mess.
For years, I have mourned her. I have written Liza so many letters. I have forgiven her. I wanted her friendship back so badly over the years, but she never gave it a second thought. She never once responded to my letters or phone calls. Not one time. There has been no closure because she has refused to speak to me.
I realized on the day of my wedding that I didn’t need their validation for my life anymore. I didn’t need their approval of who I was marrying because he was my best friend too. It wasn’t that their opinion didn’t matter, more that I was moving on from them. And that was a scary realization.
As it turns out, they ended their relationship with me on my wedding day because of their jealousy and envy of our family. It was a 4-day wedding affair that was beautiful and thoughtful, and it was very overwhelming for them all. They couldn’t bear to see me happy, to see me live out my dreams.
Because my relationship with these women was already strained, their jealousy overtook them all and clouded their judgment. It was as if they didn’t want to see me happier than them. So, they decided to go out with a bang and turn the day I was supposed to remember as a joyous one into an utterly painful one. It was the most hurtful way you could ever end a relationship.
I realize now that those years of friendships with them were based on manipulation and control. I had allowed them to behave this way with me because I lacked self-esteem. I think about it today and how grateful I am that God spared my heart from any further pain. I’ve been told to guard my heart more…that I allow too many people to take advantage of me and my nature. Honestly, I’m just trying to navigate this life with some solid friendships.
And once the storm is over, you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure, in fact, whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain: when you come out of the storm, you won’t be the same person who walked in.
If you have experienced the pain of losing a long-term toxic friendship, you are not alone. There are so many ways to cope with loss by focusing on your healing, maintaining your current friendships and by practicing self-care. When you allow yourself to be vulnerable, you make it easier to process unresolved emotions. Do NOT feel bad for mourning, and always remember to keep moving forward. It takes time to grieve from the loss of a deep friendship, sometimes years. Don’t rush the process…remember to be gentle with yourself and allow yourself to heal. Ending those friendships was hard but it was NOT the end of the world. Because in the end, I have all I need: my family.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Vanessa Gallegos of San Diego, California. You can follow her journey on Instagram here. Submit your own story here and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories.
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