The old saying is true, the older you are, the smaller your circle becomes. I’m in my late twenties now. I look around me and it seems like my inner circle of authentic friendships is shrinking in size. I’m learning that growing up means moving on and letting go of toxic friendships.  If you're going through the same thing, don't worry; you're not alone.

In order to grow as a person, you often have to grow up and let go. I recently had to let go of a friend who betrayed me. For years, I grew up in a community of me. I was the only other disabled person of color that I knew. Until I met her.  I went off to college and met a young black disabled woman. We bonded over our shared experiences and our desire to advocate for social equity for disabled people of color.

We stayed friends for several years until she did the unthinkable.  I recently learned that she was messing around with an old flame of mine for months. This takes violating girl code to another level as I told her about my feelings for him and he told her about his feelings for me…and that we just hadn't entirely "moved to the next level yet."

All women know that this is a line you just don't cross with friends.
When I gave her the choice of our preserving decade-long friendship or continuing to romantically pursue him guess who she chose? Him. At times, this friendship break-up has felt more challenging than the massive obstacles I’ve overcome in life as a result of being disabled. Medicine can repair a heart broken by disease, but it takes an otherworldly amount of strength to heal emotional heartbreak.

Some people are in your life for a reason and others for a season. That season is up. These situations happen for all women from every background. Here are some pieces of advice to help your healing as you nurse the wounds of a friendship break up.
1. Heal on your own timetable.
There is a level of intimacy friends share that is so unique that an unexpected end of that bond can be devastating. It may take more than a few days, weeks, or even months to heal from. But heal on your own timetable and don't let anyone convince you that you should "get over it" by now.
2. Don’t plot revenge because karma has got your back.
Hurt people hurt people. When you've been betrayed or hurt by a close friend it's one's natural instinct to want to seek revenge. Remember, you are not karma. Leave it to karma to bring the retribution you can't gain by taking vengeance into your own hands.
3. To forgive or to not forgive?
As hard as it is to accept, you have to forgive your that person. You're going to have to accept the apology they may never give you. Ultimately, forgiveness is less about the person and more about you gaining the ability to move on and no longer harbor feelings of resentment or anger. Forgiveness doesn’t mean that you forget or continue to remain friends with said person. You don’t have to allow them back into your life, but forgiveness will give you the freedom to let go of the pain.
Try to forgive but never under any circumstances forget because….
4.  “When someone shows you who they are, believe them.”- Dr. Maya Angelou.

Even when people show us who they truly are we choose to be in denial when the evidence is standing right in front of us. We blind ourselves because it’s easier than opening our eyes to see who people really are and not who we want them to be. We do not want to believe that people can hurt us in ways we wouldn’t do to them.

5. Be prepared for collateral damage.
We live in a small world. Everybody knows everyone. We all have mutual friends and professional networks. Naturally, when a friendship breakup happens collateral damage ensues as people begin to take sides. You may lose friends as a result in addition to damage other relationships.

We weren't just friends, we did a great deal of activism together for people of color with disabilities. The end of this friendship means this work comes to an end and professional reputations and connections are affected. The collateral damage can be far and widespread but not irreparable.
6. Ask yourself: why are you even really mad?

It's crucial to unpack your feelings and understand what's fueling these emotions post friend breakup. I chose to cope by writing in my journal and letting how I felt spill out on the pages. In one of the entries, I wrote about how this young woman was going to be in my wedding, and now I could never trust this person around my husband.
7. What do you do when the ex-friend begins to lie, deny, and lash out? Don’t take the bait but take the high road!
Friendship breakups can get ugly. Insults get thrown, passive-aggressive texts are sent, and people in the wrong tend to lash out. The ultimate goal is to get a negative reaction out of you and use it to paint you in a negative light. Self-control is hard to have, but you will respect yourself more by holding back and holding yourself to a higher standard. Guilty parties often refuse to apologize, and without remorse then reconciliation cannot happen.

8. Put yourself (and self-care) first.

To heal you have to practice self-care during this tough time.  Overall, it’s important to put you first and other’s second. When you’re feeling broken practice self-care by making a love list—a list of all the things you love about yourself as a means of boosting your self-worth.
Happy healing!