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Sometimes friendships fade away gradually – you move, or she moves, or one of you has kids or gets married or changes jobs – and so you just naturally drift apart. You’ll still go to her wedding, and maybe even the occasional dinner, and when you see her, you’ll talk and catch up. It will probably never be the same, but it won’t be bad.

Sometimes, though, friendships die in an instant. Something – an occurrence or specific event – makes you realize, “I just can’t do this anymore. It’s not worth the effort. It’s never going to be what I had hoped.” This death of a friendship is just that… a death. You break up – you don’t call each other anymore, you feel a stab when you see pictures of happier times, you even cry yourself to sleep.

The second scenario is what happened with my former friend and me. I’ve written about our break-up several times because it’s still in my head, rolling about. We broke up when my mother died, but made it official in Feb-08. The friendship had become something that drained me. It made me feel tireder, sadder, more anxious, more worried. And that’s not what a friendship is supposed to do. Especially not a “best” friendship.

A couple of years ago, I bought “Toxic In-Laws” by Susan Forward in an attempt to better deal with the dynamics between Bobby’s mom and myself. At the time, I didn’t realize that the word “toxic” can apply to all relationships in our lives – inlaws, coworkers, friends, siblings, even spouses.

A toxic relationship – one that is consistently unsupportive, draining, unrewarding, stifling, unsatisfying, and often unequal.

I’ve been picking and picking at the scab of this break-up – trying to understand whether my guilt was justified, whether I should call or contact her, whether I should try to explain myself. I came across some pictures just this evening – she and her husband were at so many of my family events that few albums don’t include them – and once again, I wonder what happened. I forget that it didn’t just “happen,” but rather, it was MY CHOICE. I decided to draw that line and say “enough is enough.” I can’t willingly rekindle a toxic relationship.

I still check her blog, although Bobby and my sisters tell me to stop. I look at the pictures of her little girl – the little girl who was actually my and Bobby’s goddaughter, although I’m sure that’s been rectified by now – and I ache. I’m sad that we’re not friends anymore. I’m sad that I’m not “Aunt Sarah” to EC, whose name and crib bedding I helped select. I’m sad that so many years of friendship ended, just like that. I dream about them. Not as often as I dream of Mama, but they’re featured regularly. They’re so angry in my dreams, and I feel a nagging sense of unrest when I wake up. I don’t know how to let it go. I’m fairly certain that of all those involved, I’m the only one who still cares, and ponders, and fixates.