My birthday celebrations have always been of epic proportion.

I was known to have the grandest parties a small town could offer. I’d have balloons, decorations, a photographer (yes a photographer), a DJ, and all of my friends; which made each birthday unique and special. I’ve had friends travel over two hours just to partake in my soirees – they were just that amazing.

This birthday was slightly different, as it was my 40th year. My plan was to go all out. Somewhere deep inside, I could feel this year would be different, almost life defining, and indeed it was.

I painfully stepped into my forties with the reality that I was losing friends.

This truth, as shocking as it was, did not happen overnight. The tapestry of my world had been changing for a long time. In the past, with many of my lifelong friends, we could not go a day without talking. As time passed and personalities evolved, we barely spoke.

Weekend parties or even simple lunch dates no longer happened. I initially attributed the distance to my moving thirty miles away. As time stretched from months to years, I realized that our lives and interests were merely drifting apart.

Many of the women I had been friends with since third, fourth, and eighth grade no longer RSVP’d for my epic events.

I sadly turned forty realizing that “best friends forever” was more of a cliché than true.

Friendships end for a multitude of reasons. In my case, many of my friendships started feeling more like obligations than fun. The main culprits behind their demise were gossip, no longer having shared interests, and harsh words standing at the forefront.

Being friends with a small set of women who are all intertwined can often lead to betrayal, hurt feelings, and conversations that are never had.

Instead of discussing the problems, conversations never happened and friendships eventually fizzled and died.

Samantha Ettus, a contributor for Forbes Women says, “People in their forties have a greater sense of self, for better or worse”, and I would agree. Turning forty has shown me that best friends are not always forever. I am left with the realization that the person you used to talk to every day can suddenly turn into the person you haven’t spoken to in months.

My 40th birthday celebration left me with a grand party to plan, but with the realization that the attendees would not be my usual crew.

My spirit, no matter how bruised, had to remind me that it was okay. Just like clothes, sometimes we outgrow those in our inner circle.

Although the friendships may have ended, one thing is certain: if genuine love was there it can be devastating. The pain of losing someone that you were very close to can hurt but there are ways to alleviate the pain and move forward.

Don’t force it. If the friendship has run its course, part ways and move forward. Engross yourself in new activities and possibly align with new friends.

Find closure. Take time to deal with your emotions before trying to make sense of the situation. Sort through how you’re really feeling so the healing can begin.

Become a better friend to others. If I haven’t learned anything from this experience it’s to encourage and not criticize…something I neglected in past friendships. It has forced me to learn new ways to improve as a friend, to ensure that new or current friendships don’t suffer the same fate.

Recognize that change can be good. The ending of a relationship, however painful, may be just the change you need to move forward. I once read a quote that said: “The reason some people have turned against you and walked away from you without reason has nothing to do with you”. It is because God has removed them from your life. They cannot go where He is taking you next.

Self-care. Begin a regime of healthy self-care. Meditate, journal, exercise, or just be creative. Positive alone time will allow you to reevaluate your life, current and future friendships, and decide what you need to develop healthy friendships in the future.

Seek professional help. If you can’t seem to move past the hurt, you may benefit from talking with a therapist or counselor. Losing a friend can be mentally devastating. Utilizing the services of a professional can help you navigate through the hurt.

Losing a friend at forty or any age can be hard. The person has become like family to you, and you envisioned them being a major part of your life forever. Sifting through the hurt and forging a new future can be tough, but can be done.

The friendships I lost during my forties have taught me how unpredictable life really is. A lesson I’m sure to keep learning.

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