I used to have this amazing sweater.
It was comfortable, looked fantastic with boot-cut jeans, and fit me like a glove. It was my favorite, and I wore it all the time.
Then, I had two babies. After I lost the baby weight, I pulled on my favorite sweater, but it didn’t fit the same. Pregnancy and childbirth had changed my body, and the sweater was no longer a good fit for me.
Even though I loved that sweater, it no longer had a purpose. I’d changed, and I didn’t like the way it felt on me anymore. I had to let it go. I was sad about it, but I knew there was no reason to keep it.
Sometimes, this very same thing happens to our friendships.
You meet someone, and they’re amazing. You like each other and become friends. You share your lives with each other, make memories together, and have fun. They become one of your favorite people, and you hang out together all the time. Then, you experience something life-changing, and you’re no longer the person you used to be. You make new discoveries about yourself, see life through a different lens, or find yourself having different values or needs.
And because you’ve changed, you might find that your favorite friend is no longer a good fit for you. Even though you love them, the relationship no longer serves you like it used to, and you don’t like the way it feels anymore.
It makes you sad to think about letting go of this friendship—letting go of someone you used to be so fond of. But you also feel that it’s too hard to hang on to it.
I find myself in this situation now. It feels like I’ve outgrown some of my friends just like I outgrew my favorite sweater.
But trying to decide what to do about these friendships is much more difficult than making the decision to donate my sweater to Goodwill.
The friendships feel exhausting to me. I feel suffocated by them. They don’t feel light, happy, or fun anymore. They no longer feel like a good fit for me.
But I don’t know if it’s just a phase that will pass, or if my gut feeling is pointing me toward my true North.
My mom died nine months ago. Then, my grandfather died six months after her. And because of these losses, I’m no longer the person I once was. Perhaps, it’s my deep grief that makes these friendships feel burdensome, or maybe grief is opening my eyes and helping me see those people’s true colors—attributes that don’t resonate with the person I’m growing into.
My needs have changed. My priorities have changed. The topics I want to talk about have changed. The way I choose to spend my time has changed. My friends have not changed. Just as my sweater didn’t shapeshift to accommodate my new, post-baby mom-bod, my friends aren’t shifting to accommodate my grief-transformed self.
I’ve grown, but the friendships are the same size as before. Now, they’re uncomfortable. Stifling. I want nothing more than to escape those confines and finally be free from them.
But I still love my friends. I love the happy times we shared. The treasured memories make it hard to end the friendships. They make me question whether it’s better to keep them or discard them.
I try Marie Kondo’s method and ask myself, “Does this friendship bring me joy?” Not anymore. Not right now.
When I think about letting go of friendships, I feel the weight of guilt and shame. Why would I want to lose yet another person in my life? How dare I hurt my friends by walking away from them?
Yet, my inner voice reasons that I must always love myself and honor what’s best for me. And it reminds me that practicing non-attachment doesn’t just apply to material things like sweaters. It also applies to people we love.
Every day, I practice letting go of my beautiful mother, who died much too young. Every day, I practice letting go of my fun-loving grandfather, who was like a father to me. Every day, I practice letting go of my old self and my old life—the life I knew before I encountered death and mourning.
I’ve learned that letting go is hard and painful. But, sometimes, letting go is necessary. Sometimes letting go is freeing. Sometimes letting go adds beauty, grace, and growth to our lives. Letting go of the sweater that no longer fit made space for a new sweater that fits me as I am now. Perhaps, if I let go of the friendships that feel too tight, this will make space for a new relationship that fits with who I am now.
Perhaps, these friendships were never meant to last long. Maybe their purpose was to teach me that letting go is sometimes the perfect choice.