Originally published online here at The Odyssey on May 28th, 2016.
When we were younger, we cycled through our interactions quickly: best friends, friend groups, relationships even. As we mature, unimportant relationships and friendships have fallen away and the few close ones have withstood the test of time. Along the way, you've probably let go of someone you never thought you'd say goodbye to. You've probably let go of someone you never wanted to say goodbye to.
It's easy feel possessive of the people you love. The two of you have spent so much time together, bonded over silly and not so silly things, made a deep connection in a world full of so many people. So when it ends -- whether it's mutual, for good reasons, or just a slow fade -- it just doesn't feel right. But it happened and you'll come to terms with it eventually. I never like the term letting them go or moving on. Especially since I loved them so deeply, it just didn't make sense to me. Over the years I've realized that it's not cutting someone off, it's just loving them quieter.
Loving someone is usually loud. It's tight hugs, late night calls, laughing candid photos, "I miss you" texts in caps. Learning to love quieter is actually not doing these things that once showed them that you care. It's actively not doing these things, because you care. You care about their well-being, and allowing them to walk away if all has been said and there is nothing more to salvage. So you begin loving them from a distance.
You start with texting them less. You get the urge to when you pass by their favorite coffeeshop, see someone with the same dress as them, mundane things that used to be normal. You stop liking their social media posts or even looking at their feed because it just hurts. You want to be angry. You want to scream and yell and make them understand how much it all just sucks, but you know deep down it's only because you care so much. So swallow that anger, it'll pass.
After some time has passed, you reach out. You reach out in small ways, even though you know they don't want things to go back to the way they were. So you send random Facebook messages during important events, check in with their other friends, maybe even try to be friends again. You want them to be happy. And if they aren't, you want them to know that you are always there for them -- even now.
The hardest part, you let other people love them. Even though at one point you could never imagine anyone having what you two had, you realize that due to circumstance, choice, outside events, whatever the reasons...that there are better people to love them. Maybe there aren't, but they chose these people and they're happy. And you accept that now. A part of you will always love them and know how much they've impacted your life, but they'll have new friends and significant others and stories you won't be a part of.
You wish the best for them. You smile when you see a photo of them. You start liking their social media posts again. Maybe, one day you'll meet up for coffee just to catch up. Maybe you won't.