I stopped talking to Zimbali because our friendship felt one-sided. I wanted to see what would happen if I stopped texting first or going over to her house to check on her, or calling to find out how she was. It is sad to say that’s that how it ended. I did not call, so she had no calls to answer.

Days turned to weeks, weeks to months, and here we are almost a year later. It is not the greatest thing I have done as someone who values friendship, but I have enough friends to know how I like to be treated by the people I love. I don’t like to compromise on that. But the impact is lasting. And friendship breakups are often overlooked.

Imagine sharing experiences and deep connections, and conversations so intimate with someone you find yourself thinking about them mindlessly when you’re alone. I felt that way when I decided to befriend Zimbali, taking into consideration how relationships like this form a big part of who we are as people and how we grow into ourselves. You give yourself to it to build trust and create bonds that become a big part of our lives. Even though I was the one to end my friendship with Zimbali, seeing it all come to a close still sucked because it meant that I was losing access to so much shared history and memories — from the inside jokes no one else would get to the late-night conversations I wouldn’t have anymore, and how much walking down a place that we called “our place” would now become something different. It also meant that, seeing how we simply stopped talking, there was a lot of closure that I never got. I even wonder if she still considers me her friend because we never really discussed a breakup.

Our friends offer their comfort, advice, and the understanding that they will be there with a shoulder to cry on should we go through something and need to be held with kindness. By not being there anymore, we go through a kind of betrayal and uncertainty, being expected to deal with the emotional scars of living with this void. Who do you go to when the person who was your safe space is no longer there?

Getting used to a void that was once filled by someone you held dear can leave you feeling uprooted, confused, and questioning the strength of your connections. It is a very isolating experience that has a major impact on how you live your life, and how you make friends again, and affects your emotional and mental health—you could go through severe depression from this loss and linger in your loneliness and anxiety of trying to make sense of what is happening. Personally, the experience left me feeling less and less sure of how I could manage deep and personal relationships.

So it baffles me that when we discuss the pains of heartbreak, we act like losing a close friend is something that doesn’t hurt as much as a romantic breakup. Everyone recognises the heartbreak of a person who has lost a lover; however, we tend to turn a blind eye to the pain of friendship breakups.

Relationships are all different and should be treated as such. It is important to understand and validate the feelings and experiences of people dealing with these the same way you would any loss by offering support. By believing that one hurts more than the other, we ourselves are the ones failing at giving each experience the weight it deserves by going through it on its own terms.

So instead of asking which hurts more, we should just feel the feelings and ride the pain to healing. That way, we get to appreciate the significance of friendships in our lives and treat these separations with the empathy and respect they deserve.

Tell us: have you ever gone through a friendship breakup? What was that experience like?