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I have a ghost.
No, not the spirit or soul of a deceased person that can appear to the living. My ghost, who was a friend, is very much alive. However, some years ago, they decided to end a personal relationship with me by suddenly – and without explanation – withdrawing from all communication.
Ironically, the last words my now-ghost said to me were, “Stay in touch.” I tried several times with no response.
In my final direct message, I asked, “Are the lines of communication between us open or should I stop trying?” I was met with more silence and the word “seen,” which was social media’s automated way of making it clear: They were ghosting me.
The last thing I felt was “seen.” I felt overlooked and discarded. It felt like someone died suddenly and I was left with an endless list of unanswered questions: Why did they vanish? Are they OK? Are they experiencing a crisis? Should I reach out one more time? What did I do wrong? Is this really happening? Did I ever really know this person? Why did they abandon me? Did I offend them? Why does this feel so horrible? Am I crazy?
A rollercoaster of innumerable emotions had me questioning everything, including my self-worth.
Some mental health professionals consider ghosting a passive-aggressive form of emotional abuse. Others say it’s more innocent than that and people choose stonewalling because they lack the communication skills to have an open and honest conversation. These and many more explanations for ghosting could be true. I’m not here to villainize, defend, or psychoanalyze ghosts. I’m here to share what I learned through my experience to hopefully help you in the event you’ve been ghosted.
Ultimately the goal is for you to love and show up for yourself, regardless of others’ behaviors. Here's more about my story and the tools I put in place to do just that.
I cared deeply about my friend. When they chose to walk away, I felt gutted. I had experienced interpersonal loss before, including breakups with romantic partners and the deaths of family members. Although this wasn’t those scenarios, I reflected on how I navigated the pain of those other experiences to try and work through this one. It didn’t work. I felt stuck and I needed help.
I synced up with therapist who is a licensed clinical social worker. After months of talk therapy, she suggested we try trauma-focused therapy. At the risk of sounding like I’m minimizing my own or anyone else’s experience, at first, I honestly didn’t think being ghosted fell into the “trauma” category. As a result, I resisted trauma therapy for months until I began to have trouble coping and functioning in my daily activities. In short, I had a breakdown.
I called my therapist, and we started narrative exposure therapy (NET), which is commonly used for the treatment of trauma-related events. It involves working through a series of questions about past events, confining those memories inside the written narrative, and ridding them of their power in the present. We also did many months of eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR), which is a form of structured therapy originally designed to alleviate the distress associated with traumatic memories. The person seeking therapy recalls an upsetting event while the therapist begins sets of side-to-side eye movements, sounds, or taps. In my case, we used tapping.
For me, both NET and EMDR were extremely difficult to get through, yet highly effective. Through both, I realized that the ghosting experience triggered a trauma response linked to negative experiences from my childhood and early adulthood. Being ghosted served as a catalyst for me to finally address and heal these past wounds that were impacting my self-worth.
A licensed therapist can help you decide if NET, EMDR, or another form of therapy is right for you. Most importantly, if you’re struggling, I encourage you to get help from a professional who is trained in helping people work through mental and emotional health challenges.
Let Go of Wanting to Know Why They Ghosted You
Your brain loves certainty. You may want to know why something happened because you believe knowing will make you feel more in control and ultimately better.
Ghosting thrusts you into uncertain territory. You’re left with no rationale and a ton of emotions to sort through.
When my friend stopped communicating with me, I didn’t know why. I still don’t know why. We experienced challenges in our relationship, but we worked through them. The last time we talked over a lunch, we parted with a friendly hug and the aforementioned “keep in touch.” I had no reason to think we wouldn’t speak again, but obviously something caused them to choose ghosting over communication.
If you’re ghosted, I understand why you’d like to know why, but the hard truth is you may never know. On the day I finally accepted that I wasn’t going to know why, I felt free. I arrived at a place of acceptance when I realized I didn’t need them to provide closure. I had the power to close the chapter myself.
Loving and showing up for yourself can mean detaching, embracing the uncertainty, and moving on with courage.
Take Time to Grieve
Grief is not just about the loss of what was; it’s also about what might have been.
There were many moments when my ghosting situation didn’t feel real. Even though my ghost wasn’t communicating, I still had hopes they would reach out eventually and we could pick up where we left off. I was in denial. It wasn’t until I took time to process my grief that I was able to face reality and begin to move forward.
Some things that helped were journaling, meditation, and ushering in feelings of common humanity — in other words, remembering that I was not alone and that others experience suffering as I do. That evoked feelings of compassion for myself, and even for my ghost.
Anger keeps you stuck. Grieving, on the other hand, allows you to free up the energy that is bound to a person and the past. Once you grieve the loss of your ghost, you can reinvest your energy elsewhere, namely into yourself and the people in your life who show up for you.
Take Care of Yourself Better Than You Ever Have
Processing grief and sadness can make you feel mentally, emotionally, and physically exhausted. I felt generalized fatigue on top of experiencing nighttime sleep disruption and insomnia, which made it difficult to maintain self-care routines during the day.
It’s not always easy, but I encourage you to take care of yourself better than you ever have, especially when you don’t feel like it. If you’re struggling to sleep due to an active mind, taking an evening walk, experimenting with meditation, or trying breathwork may help you power down your thoughts. If you’re well-rested, it naturally becomes easier to prioritize other health-promoting habits.
View Your Life from a Wide-Angle Lens
Not all impactful relationships in our lives are meant to last. I know that can be a tough reality to accept.
When you meet someone with whom you have a connection, be it a friend, a romantic partner, a mentor, or a coach, it can be easy to want them to stay around forever. If they don’t, you may think you’ll never meet another person like them. Yes, there’s only one of them, but there are approximately 8 billion people on the planet. That means there’s a great probability of you meeting and connecting with other people if you commit to doing deep self-work, release control and remain open, and develop an abundance mindset. Also, remember the people in your life who continue to show up for you. Show them love.
I still care about and miss my friend. I always hope they’re doing well and they’re happy. Being ghosted by them didn’t change that. It did, however, lead me on a path to discover how other people’s behaviors relate to my self-worth. In short, they don’t.
Through dedication to therapy, mindfulness work, and healing myself, I learned that what other people choose to do — and not do — isn’t about me. They’re on their own journey, I’m on mine, and you’re on yours. Wherever you’re going and whatever happens along the way, love and show up for yourself. You’re worth it.