When Close Friends Drift Apart: Helping Your Daughter Navigate the Loss

She called my house in the middle of the night – and kept calling until someone listened. 

She knew I’d want to know, and she was spot-on about that.

I was in 10th grade, and earlier that night, I’d gone out with friends. After they dropped me off, there was tragic car accident. One of my best friends, Rod, did not survive, yet I had no idea.

The girl calling was once my best friend. In 8th grade, when I started a new school, she was the first friend I made. For months we spent every weekend together, but things changed that spring when she dated a guy in a different group. We slowly parted ways.

There were no hard feelings, just an unspoken agreement to do our own thing.

We never spoke after that, and that’s why her call surprised me. She tried several times because a relative staying with us kept hanging up, and she persisted until my sister answered. My sister took the message, then woke me up with the devastating news.

I was shocked and confused, and when I learned that the accident happened hours earlier, I felt hurt that my closest friends hadn’t told me.

To this day, that phone call is my #1 memory of my 8th grade best friend. I don’t dwell on how we drifted or barely spoke in high school, because that call trumped everything.

Friendships ebb and flow, and while some last for a lifetime, others last for a season. For teenage girls especially, partings can be intense.

To lose a friend you loved and trusted…to mourn someone who is still alive… to see your best friend change or share your deepest secrets…to be edged out or replaced and left wondering why – well, it can crush a girl’s heart and psyche. It can make it difficult to trust again.

If you have a daughter, then chances are, she’ll go through friend changes during her teenage years. Even changes for the best may hurt for a time. Unlike adults, teens have little experience. Their first heartache or betrayal can rock their world because friends and peers hold essential importance.

As Dr. Lisa Damour says, “I can’t overstate the significance of a teenager’s tribe membership. Teenagers aren’t just looking to make friends, they are replacing the family they’ve withdrawn from with a tribe that they can feel proud to call their own.”

Finding the right tribe takes time. Your daughter may face a lonely season to get the reset that she needs. This is hard to watch, but our best gift as moms is to offer hope and strength. By not panicking or getting overly emotional, we can help them navigate a loss.

Here are ways to do that.

1. Let your daughter grieve. Even if you’re glad the friendship is over, empathizing with your daughter can build your relationship. It makes you her safe place.

Remember yourself at her age, and think of a hurt in your life. Maybe you never had a friend breakup, but you probably had a romantic breakup. You know what it’s like to reminesce on all the good times, see your ex with someone new, invest great time and energy in something that didn’t last, struggle to find chemistry with someone new, and feel rejected or left behind. Old memories can help you relate to your daughter and any worries she’s not expressing.

2. Show your daughter extra love. After my friend’s daughter got kicked out of her friend group, the two of them got close. They spent more quality time together grabbing lunch, watching movies, and chilling at home. Surround your daughter with people who love her and make her feel enjoyable. Visit the grandparents, ask a youth leader to invite her to ice cream, or plan a surprise visit from a beloved camp friend.

In times of rejection or upheaval, we all need extra assurance that we are valued and loved.

3. Don’t force relationships. A teen counselor often sees drama with girls who were forced into friendships. Of their own volition, they probably wouldn’t pick each other by choice, yet they’re together because their moms are close or they’ve been friends since the cradle.

While engineered friendships may work when our kids are small (and compatible with nearly anyone) teens need the freedom to choose. To assume compatibility based solely on age doesn’t take personalities, interests, or values into account.

Your daughter will often know better than you whether a friend is good for her. She may pull away after an issue that you don’t know about or see. Rather than control her friendships, teach her about healthy friendships.  Equip her to be a good judge of character and develop the qualities in herself that she hopes to find.

4. Keep your friendships separate from your daughter’s friendships. When my daughter was young, her best friend’s mom was my dear friend. I assumed they’d always be BFFs and dreamed of them rooming together in college.

 But in middle school, the girls drifted apart. They wound up in different friend groups. At first I wasn’t sure what their new dynamic meant for me and the other mom.

Thankfully, we kept our friendship. We still asked about each other’s daughter and wished them the best. This taught me to keep my friendships separate from my daughter’s friendships. Just because girls change directions or their minds doesn’t mean their mothers must as well

The best part is, our girls reunited toward the end of high school. They became close friends again. This may not have happened had the other mom and I overreacted or let there be bad blood. Instead, we left the door open to engage and re-engage once again as families.

I believe this is the way (when possible). Having older kids, I’ve seen how true friends reconnect in due time. Things often come full circle as teenagers grow up and mature. Once they’ve explored and seen what’s out there, they may return to what was real.

5. Pray. God knows you and your situation better than anyone. He wants what is best for your daughter and will guide you as you guide her.

When my girls faced friend issues, I prayed for wisdom and strength for them. I asked God to give me the words to bring hope and comfort. I prayed for them to feel His peace and presence and find the right friends. I asked God to show me what I needed to learn as I walked through disappointment with them.

He answers prayers, but He can’t answer what we don’t pray. Pray boldly and specifically, asking God to use even the hurt your daughter feels to help her grow in Christlike character.

6. Remember heartache can strengthen your daughter’s faith. Perfect friends don’t exist because humans are sinners. As G.K. Chesteron said, “We’re all in the same boat, and we’re all seasick.” Still, girls often put their friends on pedestals. They turn a good thing into the ultimate thing – and fall to pieces when it lets them down.

This is why we’re called to keep God first: Because if He isn’t our #1, we’ll worship false idols. Only He is worthy of worship because His perfect love never fails.

Your daughter may need a friendship rift to understand her need for Jesus. She may not believe she can lose her friends overnight until it actually happens. If she roots her hope in Christ, she’ll still be standing at the end. She can handle any shakeup that suddenly comes her way.

7. Discuss healthy friendships (when your daughter is ready). Some girls settle for less than they deserve because they’re scared to be alone. Your daughter can change lonely, but what she can’t change is a toxic dynamic.

Help her understand how the death of a bad relationship can give birth to good relationships. Building a positive inner circle will help her thrive and reach her goals. More important than having a big tribe is having one or two genuine friends. Most people build their tribe over time, picking up a lifelong friend in each season.

Ask your daughter how she feels with some distance from a friend. Does she miss her – or feel better? The truth emerges during time apart and may offer valuable insights.

In short, it’s possible to be civil when a friendship ends. Girls can take the high road and wish each other the best. Help your daughter navigate her friendship changes wisely and not burn bridges. People have a way of coming back into your life, and should your daughter cross paths again with an old friend, she can think like my 8th grade bestie. She can act on her better instincts, be a friend when it really counts, and make a choice that trumps events of the past and sets the stage for moving forward.


Thanks for reading this message. Please share it on social media, or click over to the Girl Mom podcast to listen to it audibly.

My new book Love Her Well: 10 Ways to Find Joy and Connection with Your Teenage Daughter is now available, and it’s getting a fantastic response as moms read it and share it with friends. You can find it everywhere books are sold, including Amazon and Audible. What a privilege it’s been to narrate my first book for moms!   

My two books for teen girls, 10 Ultimate Truths Girls Should Know and Liked, have been used widely across the U.S. for group studies. For more posts, subscribe to this blog or join me on FacebookInstagram and the Girl Mom podcast.



Posted by Kari on June 19, 2021

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