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This Valentine’s Day, we’re celebrating a different kind of love: the love between friends. All week, we’ll be sharing that highlight the non-romantic relationships that make all our lives richer.

We have all heard the math about healing after a romantic breakup. Half the length of the relationship should mend you right up, they say. If you were together for four years, you need to be ready to hurt for about two. Only two years of togetherness? No worries, then: Twelve months will fly by. But what about the math for a broken friendship? Does the “total time together, divided by two” equation still hold true? Is there math for that kind of loss? Can you heal by acquiring a new friend, much in the way a new love can often heal you? 

My friendships have been my haven — where I can go when nothing feels right in the world. I can say things to friends I cannot say to anyone else. Because the very fabric of friendship feels unbreakable, I’ve never worried if I’m going to mess up and suddenly end up on the outskirts of their affection.

On the contrary, I have expected to lose romantic loves. Read a book, watch a movie — romantic love is not built to last. It makes sense, right? What kind of relationship can flourish under that kind of intense pressure? Romantic relationships tend to confine us. Fit here, do this, be this, make me feel this. Friendship accepts you as you are. Friendship — oh, glorious friendship — with its giant, flexible confines of acceptance.

When I lost a friend I’d had for 20 years, I was devastated. It was unlike the loss from any romantic breakup I have known. Our love wasn’t chemical, or nonsensical — our love was based on true connection and uncomplicated feelings. Losing her was one of the most intense griefs I have ever been through.

I met her when I went to college. She was one of the first relationships I had that was completely severed from my home. For the first time, I was allowed to create a family away from the family of my origin. Gone were the ideas that you had to tolerate those born around you. This was freedom. The freedom to create camaraderie — the freedom to essentially create a new family. This chosen family took on a role my family members had never filled — the chosen ones, I thought, could not leave me. How could they? No one made them choose me. They chose me, headfirst, knowing me. I thought friendship was the safest kind of relationship I had ever found, flat out. I was right. And I was wrong, too.

She looked like Lea Michele and was the funniest person I had ever encountered. We became roommates and spent every day and night together. We played games and ate snacks and attended parties and laughed. She often made me laugh so hard it hurt. She was fashionable and had the prettiest brown eyes on this planet. They sparkled like they were filled with tiny crystals. Our friendship wasn’t perfect, but that’s the thing about friendship — it doesn’t need to be.