The hug goodbye

One of the hardest things about dealing with a friendship when it ends, is letting go of all the hopes and dreams you had for that friendship, because you shared such a closeness that can never be compared to any other relationship.    Each person is unique and as such, that connection between another person and yourself can never be replicated.   But the perspective and needs of the different individuals in that relationship are also unique, so while one person can reach the conclusion that they would be better off stepping back from the friendship, it may come as a shock to their “friend” when they announce that they would like to “step back” and be “more of an acquaintance”.

There’s a certain aspect of that relationship that is forever affected and the grief can be quite intense that follows.  While the world goes on as before, something changes and will be always be different and the shade of grey that it casts on the world for a while, covers one’s life like a cloud.  All the stages of grief are experiences – not in a neatly definable way, but in a jumbled, illogical manner which makes no sense to anyone – especially the person going through the process!! All the platitudes in the world, however well intended, don’t help and there’s a part of it that can’t be explained or rationalised to another person.


On the outside one can appear unchanged, but inside there is an emotional and physical grieving that persists and is awakened at the sight of that person in the flesh.  The person who was once accessible and could be phoned or spoken to with the assumption that they cared and would be there for you, no matter what happened, despite the differences and misunderstanding experienced in the past.  Memories keeping coming to the surface and I’ve found myself questioning how such times could be shared together and then nullified in the future, by the decision a former friend makes to become unavailable in the way they were before.  A certain trust is gone and the other person may feel like they weren’t worthy of the other person’s love and respect.

There’s no clearly-defined, neatly-bound conclusion that can be made about such an occurrence, as none of it is makes complete sense.  I wish I had something profound to say, but apart from platitudes that would presumably fit the situation, nothing comes to mind but questions that can’t be easily answered.  I go from being angry to sad to resolved and so forth and I wish that the stages of grief could be completed, like the exam that is long overdue and involves factual answers which are taken from text books and evidence-based articles, written by professionals in the field.  But no such thing exists except loose ends and unresolved feelings that keep surfacing and leave me feeling raw and vulnerable once again.

Broken heart

I guess time will help and I wish I could speed up the process as it’s so inconvenient trying to live life and function adequately, while there are unresolved emotions that persist, even when the sun is shining. The only saying that allows me to experience some grace for my past over-zealousness, in a friendship which has recently evaporated, is this Bible verse: “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” 1 Peter 4:8, New International Version (NIV).  What I take out of this (which is very loosely translated), is that the worst “sin” I’ve committed is to have loved too deeply, in a way that allowed myself to be left open to deep hurt. I’m not sure this is healthy, as perhaps it’s an indication that I’m somewhat of a “people-pleaser” and I question whether I sometimes “loved” at the expense of my own responsibilities in life or that I may have over-stepped certain boundaries.


Did I try to change “who” I am to win over a friend when I could see that the balance was uneven; when I could see that it was mainly me pursuing the friendship, at the expense of time better spent elsewhere; when I ignored other more important responsibilities in life? Was I always being “true” to myself in a way that allowed me to remain completely authentic? Just some questions I am still working through, but perhaps there is a glimmer of self-respect that I have lost through this experience, when I could have stepped back more often, instead of being so over-zealous at times.  How much “deep acting” was done (as mentioned in the interview below, “Just Between Us: female friendships, for better or worse” – which was originally defined by Arlie Russell Hochschild) to maintain the friendship, beyond what was really necessary?

All I can conclude is that the friendship began during a time when I felt quite vulnerable and the warmth and compassion shown provided some much needed comfort and security.  However, I also began to put this person on a pedestal, and unconsciously began to wish I could be more like them, since they seemed so efficient and capable in so many respects of life, both personally and professionally.  I unintentionally began to rely on regular contact with her, to maintain my self confidence and my sense of self-worth, since she held so many qualities I admired, instead of merely seeing her as a mentor!  Soon I became rather obsessed with the friendship and in retrospect I can now see why my friend needed to step back in order to regain some space, as much as I tried to give her the space she wanted during the friendship.


I over-focused on the friendship, single-mindedly pursuing her as a much sought after role model and eventually suffocating the life out of our friendship and there really was no alternative, but for it to end!!  My friend needed to step back and become an “acquaintance”, much to my devastation at the time and for many months that have followed.  I hope I can learn in the future, to view friendship in a less “intense” way, as the ‘friend’ I saw in my mind was ‘perfect’ and this did not allow my friend to simply be herself, so that there was room to grow and develop as we got to know each other in a less pressured manner.  Admittedly my friend has her own insecurities and shortcomings, but there was really no where for us to go but downhill.  Sadly (in some respects) this came at a time when my husband and I decided we would accept a ‘call’ he received and move interstate, closer to my extended family.

Thankfully, my friend-now-acquaintance has continued to be friendly in a way that allows us to say ‘goodbye’ amicably, despite the initial awkwardness of many months, and after I made it known that I didn’t want to end on this note.  I’m pleased that she has the maturity to still accept me and her continued warmth has meant a lot to me just lately, and although I may not fully understand exactly where we went wrong to the degree which I would like (I have ruminated for many months, hoping to resolve my confusion over what went wrong, amongst a few apparent contradictions, along with some conflicting thoughts and feelings!).  She also had an indirect hand in the ending of our friendship, through her casualness, which made up for my over-zealousness!  Ironically, it was her calmness and predictability which drew me to her in the first place and in some ways it’s a mystery that the friendship continued for as long as it did.  However, I feel more at peace with our connection and am trying to leave the future in God’s hands…

Further resources:

Radio interviews:

An ABC radio interview:—female-friendships/4716802

Just Between Us: female friendships, for better or worse

Just between us

Wednesday 29 May 2013 9:35AM

Female friendships can be a place to share joys, sorrows, secrets, pastimes and passions. But how many of you have felt the pain of a friendship lost? Have you been dumped by a girlfriend and not known why? Have you outgrown some friendships as you move through the phases of your life?

Just Between Us is a collection of short stories both fiction and non-fiction from Australian writers exploring the dynamics of female friendship and what happens when you are dumped by someone you thought to be a good friend

Monday to Friday 9am Repeated: Tuesday to Saturday 4am

Presented by Natasha Mitchell

Friday: what can make or break a friendship?

Friday 7 June 2013 9:05AM

What’s a friend to you?

What are those key ingredients that make the strong friendships in your life? Do you share a sense of humour? Are your friends there for you whenever you need them, no questions asked?

Friendships can sometimes span decades, but we can also make close, personal friendships in a short period of time. Do you think the longer the friendship is, the stronger it is?

What about deal breakers – have you ever had to break it off with a friend? What happened?

Monday to Friday 9am Repeated: Tuesday to Saturday 4am

Presented by Natasha Mitchell

Another ABC radio interview:

Isolation and Loneliness: tackling men’s health in rural Australia

Tuesday 11 June 2013 9:05AM

Statistically men don’t fare well in the health stakes. In Australia they are more likely than women to die from suicide, transport accidents and lung cancer. But how do you get men to talk about their health? And how much harder is it to tackle these challenges in remote and regional Australia?

Monday to Friday 9am Repeated: Tuesday to Saturday 4am

Presented by Natasha Mitchell

Another ABC radio interview:

Older Men and Friendship

Tuesday, November 1, 2011
by Molly Perrett

AudioRelated Audio:

Older Men and Friendship

Download as MP3

Is friendship the key to alleviating loneliness, depression and poor health and wellbeing in older men? This is the concept behind research been done into older men and the importance of friendship. Tony Arthur discussed this with psychologist Rebecca Shaw. Rebecca is an Associate Member of the Australian Psychological Society.


Asperger’s and Girls [Paperback]

Tony Attwood (Author), Temple Grandin (Author), Teresa Bolick (Author), Catherine Faherty (Author), Lisa Iland (Author), Jennifer McIlwee Myers (Author), Ruth Snyder (Author), Sheila Wagner (Author), Mary Wrobel (Author)




Posted on March 15, 2013




Australian Journal of Adult Learning
Volume 48, Number 2, July 2008

‘They’re funny bloody cattle’: encouraging rural men to learn
Soapy Vallance and Barry Golding
Donald Neighbourhood House & Men’s Shed & School of Education,
University of Ballarat

Our paper examines and analyses the contexts and organisations in rural and regional communities that informally and effectively encourage men to learn. It is based on a combination of local, rural  adult education practice and a suite of studies in Australia and  elsewhere of learning in community contexts, most recently into community-based men’s sheds. It is underpinned by both experience and research evidence that many rural men tend to  have an aversion to formal learning. The intention of our paper and its specific, practical conclusions and recommendations is to focus on and share positive and practical ways, demonstrated through  practice and validated through research, of encouraging rural men to learn.

About the authors
Soapy Vallance is Coordinator of the Donald Neighbourhood House & Men’s Shed in Donald, Victoria, and a practitioner in adult and community learning.

Dr Barry Golding is Associate Professor in the School of Education, University of Ballarat, a regional Victorian university, and a researcher in adult and community education.

Contact Details
Dr Barry Golding, School of Education, University of Ballarat,
PO Box 663, Ballarat, Victoria 3353
Tel: +61 3 53279733  Fax: +61 3 53279717

Title: “They’re Funny Bloody Cattle”: Encouraging Rural Men to Learn
Full-Text Availability Options:PDF ERIC Full Text (180K) |  Find in a Library

Dr Barry Golding ACE Research

Men’s Learning and Wellbeing Research to 2011

Professor Barry Golding,

Researching Adult and Community Education (RAVE)

School of Education, University of Ballarat, Australia

Parton Australian Men’s Shed Association & Adult learning Australia Research Fellow +61 3 53279733

Completed and ongoing research related to men’s learning & wellbeing is summarized on


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