Friendship breakups can be just as painful as romantic ones. We invest time, love, and kindredness in our friendships. For people with autism, friendship can be the ultimate. We finally find someone who speaks to us on a similar wavelength. They share our special interests. They put forth the effort to ask us about our day, our struggles, our passions. To lose such a special person is truly grieving.
Yet lost friendships are not uncommon for people with autism. A disagreement may catalyze us to burn a bridge. Or the friend cuts us off, and due to our struggle to read between the lines, we cannot comprehend what transpired up to the point of the disjuncture. Either way, here are a few tips for how to handle the loss of a friend:
1) Uncover the underlying feelings. Being emotionally hurt is often painful and overwhelming. So much that we may struggle to pinpoint exactly how we feel. Using a feelings wheel may help us to locate our emotions and address them accordingly.
2) Balance blame. When friendship bridges are burned, we may veer toward completely faulting ourselves or completely faulting the other person. But relationships are complex and usually entail a host of traded insults, betrayals, and misunderstandings. Try making a column list of both parties’ offenses, we can gain a holistic perspective of what really happened, which brings us a step closer to finding peace.
3) Reinvest in old friendships. While our circles may be small, we hopefully have friends and family that we can pour some time and connection into. This won’t heal the loss of a friend, but it sets us up for recovering and moving forward.
4) Resist the urge to reconnect too soon. When we’re hurt, we want to fix the pain, and we may find ourselves saying, “I want things to go back to the way they were.” But if a conflict arose that was serious enough to dissolve a friendship, it may take more than a few days for things to cool off. Even more, we may need extended time to realistically assess if it’s beneficial to rekindle a lost friendship. By waiting a month or two, we can more adequately assess the situation and our desire to reconcile.