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Dear Swipe This!
About three years ago, my good friend ghosted me.
She went through a breakup, left the city (where we met) and flew home to reconnect with family. Before she left, I told her I was sad that she was leaving but I knew we’d reconnect one day soon. We had gone on a big road trip together and really bonded. She even helped to plan my birthday trip a few short months before she left! But soon after she left, she stopped answering my texts. I thought it was weird and I started to worry about her. I sent her an email, but she didn’t reply to that either. I started to wonder if something bad could have happened to her. At one point I seriously started asking my friends if they thought it was possible she had died. Was she secretly on drugs? Did she overdose?
I know people get ghosted by shitty dudes, but this was a friend! She had opened up to me about her life, and I’d opened up to her about mine. I could understand needing a little time to adjust to new surroundings, but totally cutting everyone off struck me as super weird. I spoke to our mutual friends, and they all said the same thing. No one had heard from her.
I should also mention that this friend is totally anti-social media. No Instagram, no Facebook, no Twitter. So I couldn’t even check in on her via digital stalking to see if she was alive.
Eventually, I spoke to her ex, who is still friends with one of my friends, and he told me he had heard from her family. She was safe and sound. I was relieved to hear it. But it confused me. If she wasn’t sick or in trouble, why was she ghosting me?!?
So I reached out. Again. Still no answer.
It’s been years, but I still worry about her. And once in a while, I send her an email saying I miss her and I hope she’s OK. I’ve never asked her this, but I also wonder what happened that she just didn’t want to be friends anymore. We never fought. Nothing bad happened between us. It just doesn’t make any sense. Even with all the time that’s passed, thinking about it makes me feel rejected and hurt all over again.
I recently drafted an email to say hello again and that if she wants to reconnect I’m open to it. But then I hesitated before hitting send. Is it stupid to keep reaching out? Is it worth a shot? How do you get over getting ghosted when the person who ghosted you is a good friend?
Is it crazy to hope that I’ll hear from her one day?
I think it’s time you held a funeral.
I am sorry for your loss, I really am, but you’ve been waiting three years for an answer and, as I’ve learned from some of my own painful losses, sometimes silence is an answer. It may not be the answer we want, but it’s an answer nonetheless. And the sooner you can accept that, the sooner you can begin to heal.
I have heard a lot of people describe the end of romantic relationships as being similar to a death. And I would argue that the same is true when a platonic relationship ends, especially if the relationship in question is a loving, caring friendship.
But what you’ve described is something a bit more confusing. There was no rift, so the ending doesn’t resemble a death so much as it resembles a disappearance. Your friend vanished, and now, like those who wait for their disappeared loved ones to come home, you’re waiting for your friend to rematerialize. How can we let go of someone if we aren’t really sure they’re gone? Isn’t it a betrayal to abandon hope?
Here’s what I think you need to do. Delete her contact info, delete her email address, get out a pen and paper, and write a eulogy. Not for the friend but for your friendship. Obviously, this friendship was quite special to you, so take the time to really honor it. Write down all the things you loved about this friendship and all the things you’re going to miss. You can write about the friendship’s untimely death, too. This eulogy is yours, and you can stretch it to hold everything that you feel. So let it all out.
Then, go somewhere special—maybe a bar you enjoyed with your friend or a beach or anywhere that you deem holy and safe. If you have some mutual friends who you’d like to bear witness, invite them to come along too. Maybe you prefer to do this alone. That’s fine. Take the space you want or gather the community you need. Once you’re ready, read your eulogy from start to finish. Then you tear it up, or burn it, or bury it, or scatter it into the ocean or a bar toilet. Seriously. Give this friendship whatever kind of burial you want, but find a way to let it go.
Maybe you’ll find some humor in this act. Maybe there will be tears. But what I really want you to give yourself is an ending. Because as painful as endings can be, they give us the clarity we need to move forward.
It’s true that your friend could zombie back to life via text or email one of these days. And I understand why you want to hold out hope for a reunion. But what on earth do you gain by holding your breath? If you keep reaching out, if you keep waiting for that response, you stay in perpetual emotional limbo. Do you really want to hand your happiness and well-being over to a factor that you have so little control over?
I understand why you are hoping for a happy ending. I would, too. But there is no award for holding out hope. So, as someone who has had a very hard time letting go of pretty much everyone I have ever loved and lost, I’m urging you to treat this ending as an ending. If your friend wants to be found, she’ll let you know. In the meantime, you deserve to feel peace.
Nayomi Reghay is a frequent contributor to the Daily Dot, covering body positivity, feminism, sex, relationships, and gender. She is also the author of the advice column “Swipe This!” A former New York Teaching Fellow, her writing has been featured in Reductress, Rolling Stone, Mic, Someecards, and more.