I remember times in elementary school when a fight between friends ended in the silent treatment. Whether it was for a few minutes, several hours or even days, the “silent one” would refuse to acknowledge the person they were arguing with until that person apologized, regardless of whether they were actually wrong or not. Sometimes I was the silent one, and sometimes I was the silencee. But it always felt pretty awful.
Even as an adult, you occasionally have arguments with your friends. You disagree, you fight and maybe you don’t talk for a little while. More than likely, though, you move on. You call them, you text them, you talk about it, you laugh about it and, eventually, you let it go.
Except when you don’t. Sometimes the silence becomes permanent and you lose a friend.
Sometimes you expect it, and other times you don’t. A text goes unanswered for weeks and you finally realize what’s happening: You’ve been ghosted.
I’ve had boyfriends break up with me, I’ve been stood up on dates, I’ve had texts go unanswered, I’ve been emotionally hurt by guys I dated. No hurt, however, could come close to the feeling of losing a friend. When my friend, Paige*, disappeared from my life, I experienced all of the five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.
First, Denial and Anger
The first two stages occurred almost simultaneously. I didn’t want to believe it at first. Paige wasn’t actually ghosting me, maybe her phone was dead all day. Maybe she lost her phone in the madness of New York City. Maybe she was outside her cell’s service range for the weekend. She definitely wasn’t ignoring me.
The last time we spoke was through a text, about a week after I last saw her. It was your standard catch-up text. She was doing well, keeping busy blogging. She said she missed me and asked when we’d get together again next. I told her I was also busy but missed her and suggested a weekend.
But she never responded. I was worried. What happened to her? What could have prompted this? I know I didn’t do anything! Was she OK? Did she need help? I pleaded with her: “Please just tell me you’re OK! Please, just tell me if you’re too busy to talk for a while. Just send me a few words. Please, just tell me you’re alive!”
All of my messages — texts, snaps, Facebook comments and phone calls — went unanswered.
I sent her sister a message to tell her that I was worried and to ask if Paige was OK. “She’s doing well! She’s been busy with grad school apps, so I don’t hear from her a lot either,” she replied. Grad school applications taking too much time to take two minutes to tell your friend you’re busy with grad school apps? Something wasn’t adding up. And that’s when the anger set in.
Looking Back on Better Days
Paige and I met while teaching English in Thailand and bonded over our sense of adventure and desire to try anything. We partied on beaches, traveled 12 hours on a bus and ate grilled scorpions. She was my partner in crime.
We’d never had a fight, an argument or even a real disagreement. How could she have let all of that go? What did I do to deserve this? If she was upset or if she just decided our friendship wasn’t worth anything to her anymore, shouldn’t I have at least been told that? I asked her all of this; I deserved an answer. But it never came.
Trying to Move On
So I began asking myself different questions and imagining different scenarios (bargaining). What if I saw her more often? What if I let it go a little longer? Would she have eventually spoken to me again? What if I just show up at her apartment? Maybe I should have never pointed out how different our backgrounds were. Maybe our differences actually did bother her.
I was upset and confused, but I took solace in the fact that I wasn’t her only friend feeling this way. Paige had also ghosted our mutual friend, Amanda*, who we knew from our time in Thailand. Amanda and I were both incredibly blindsided and confused, and we were asking ourselves the same questions. Even though asking each other never resulted in an answer, we could commiserate.
Paige is such a big part of my memories, recalling them without her is depressing. Going into the city and being in her neighborhood and not calling her makes me sad. I’ve tried to call, text, Snapchat — but no answer. I think of her almost every day, but I’ve finally realized that a friendship with each other was just not meant to be in our future.
She was my friend through a time when we had a lot in common, but she was gone as soon as those things faded away. Paige will always be a part of my story. I’ll think of her when I eat pad thai, choose a red wine or watch “Gilmore Girls.” I showed up for her consistently, and I’d still show up if she needed me. That’s just who I am.
3 Ways I Got Through Being Ghosted
1. Commiserating With a Friend
I was lucky to have someone going through this with me. We consistently checked in on each other, told each other when memories came up and got through the rough moments together.
2. Allowing Myself to Be Angry
Being ghosted feels awful. When I realized what happened, I was angry. I was seriously pissed off. I let it stew. I drank wine and ate ice cream all Saturday night. I punched pillows and I cried and I made it to the other side. Once all the anger was out in the open, I was free to move on.
3. Writing in a Journal
I express my feelings best through my writing. Scribbling my thoughts in my journal helped me process my feelings, which eventually led to writing this essay. It’s important to express your feelings in the best way you know how. Paint a picture, knit an incredibly long scarf, go on a long hike and tell your story your way.