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What Cleo Sol's "Old Friends" gets right about friendship breakups

Cleo Sol has been rising in mainstream popularity because of her healing, spiritual lyrics about love-- both platonic and romantic.

In her song "Old Friends", Cleo describes the complicated emotions that come with navigating the dissolution of a close friendship. And it carries three powerful truths.

Let's look at the lyrics before we discuss.

Lyrics to "Old Friends" by Cleo Sol

[Verse 1]

I lost a friend, I can't fight you anymore

I’m tired of choosing you over myself

It's sad, and it hurts that it is over

And I hate the fact that it's over

[Verse 2]

Sometimes, I think if I was more stronger

Sunshine, my smiles would last longer

You had my trust and we had choices

But you told my secrets to strangers

(And I hate the fact that we’re over)

[Verse 3]

Years have gone by, tears still stain my pillow

You played games with my emotions

Real friends don't leave their wounds open

But I'm okay to say that it's over

[Verse 4]

Distance and pain made my lifе feel smaller

I thought without you I'd be broken

I'vе changed and realized that I can be alone

It's bad and it burns that it is over

But I'm okay to say that it’s over

Truth #1. Friendship breakups involve multiple --often contradictory-- emotions.

One of the many reasons friendship breakups feel complicated is because rarely are things all good or all bad. Releasing a friendship feels so hurtful because you're not only saying goodbye to the hard parts, you're saying letting go of all the good stuff, too.

When you're the one letting go of a friendship, you might feel a mix of relief and regret; you'll have moments of both clarity and doubt.

Ending a friendship feels so much easier when the person is outright villainous, harming us over and over with cruel intentions and devious ways. But it's more difficult to let go when there's gray area. Perhaps your friend wasn't a villain, but the relationship overall was not healthy for you. Perhaps she had a good heart, but disappointed you in ways you now want to protect yourself from.

It takes courage to end a friendship because you're letting go of the good memories you shared and the hope for what could be. You're letting go of a person who likely loves you, but whose friendship is no longer compatible with your goals, boundaries, interests, or emotions. And that's really tough.

In Cleo Sol's "Old Friends", she outlines a myriad of feelings, capturing the pain and confusion around breakups with women we love.

Truth #2. Yes, it's normal to think about your ex-best friend for years after the breakup.

In verse three of this song, Cleo sings "Years have gone by/ tears still stain my pillow." This lyric speaks to the ways that grief lingers. And this grief feels especially difficult when you've lost someone who:

  • made you laugh

  • knows your secrets

  • witnessed your flaws and accepted you anyway

  • celebrated you on your birthday

  • knew the intimate details of your life

  • was a major part of your social life

Research finds that men embed their friends into their lives to the degree of cousins; women integrate friends into their lives on the level of siblings. So when a relationship we hold so closely dissolves, it's a sadness that doesn't evaporate once the decision to let go is made. It stays long after that moment, and images of what you had (or what could have been) often surprise you in the most random times.

But it is healthy to be sad about losing something that once meant so much to you.

Truth #3. You will eventually be okay.

The lyrics in the beginning of "Old Friends" describe feelings of exhaustion, regret and hatred. The singer says she's "tired" and she wonders how things might be different if she were stronger. There is a restlessness that she carries with her through the first three verse.

But then.

By the end of the song, she begins to repeat that she's finally "okay".

A few exercises to help you move through a friendship breakup include:

  • thinking about what you learned that you can apply to new friendships moving forward

  • find gratitude for the experience

  • accept things how they are instead of wondering how they could have been

  • practice self-compassion

Moving through these feelings doesn't mean you'll stop thinking of your best friend. But the hope is that one day you can think of her without bitterness, regret, or deep sadness.

One day you'll think of what you had and you'll be able to whisper, "Thank you for the memories."

If you are still struggling to move forward after a friendship breakup, we have been trained to help. You can contact us any time here or you can browse the Friend Forward podcast episode archive -- hosted by friendship expert Danielle Bayard Jackson-- for content to meet you where you are right now in your friendship journey.

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