The Pain of Being Ghosted by a Very Good Friend
I have fallen out of touch with friends before. Most of them, in retrospect, have felt inconsequential — high school friends I didn’t actually like, work acquaintances who moved on to bigger and better things. With the exception of maybe one or two of them, I never really give a second thought as to why we stopped talking.
Of course, it never feels good to lose friends, but I also know that new ones come along when you least expect them, and the cycle renews.
The pandemic however, changed this. I recognized that the effects of COVID-19 hit people in new and different ways, but I thought, if anything, it would bring my friends and I closer together. After all, we weren’t “busy” anymore. We were all sheltering in place, so we had no excuse.
Back to Normal — Almost
I couldn’t have been more wrong. Suddenly, people I spoke to every day went radio silent. People who never seemed to have anxiety before were panicking. It became difficult to have conversations with my closest friends who were all going through very different things and feelings.
Eventually, when life became more routine, my core friends and I picked back up where we left off. Except for one, Diane*.
Diane and I had been friends since college. We were close because we had the same kind of weirdo hipster tendencies, and we also shared a mutual love of New York City. Eventually, she moved to Brooklyn, and we saw each other more regularly — even traveled together. I was especially happy she was nearby when the pandemic hit, because if we weren’t allowed to go anywhere ever again, at least I had one friend I could see and feel normal around (from a distance, of course).
"I was especially happy she was nearby when the pandemic hit, because if we weren’t allowed to go anywhere ever again, at least I had one friend I could see and feel normal around."
We both lost our jobs at the same time (Diane worked in film, I was furloughed from a creative agency), and this should have bonded us even closer. In some ways, it did, but the crushing depression we both felt in comparison to our other friends — who lived in other states not as affected by the pandemic at that time — caused a surprising rift. When I was happy, she was sad, and vice versa. It was hard to find a balance that worked for our friendship that didn’t involve one of us crying and cursing our misfortune.
“I’m taking a social media break,” Diane eventually told me. “It’s getting really hard to see other people not wearing masks, or posting stuff about politics. I just need to remove myself from that for a bit.”
I respected her decision, and it made sense. With social media as the only outlet for some people, things were getting intense online. But Diane and I texted and called each other regularly, so while we weren’t sending memes back and forth on Instagram, I could at least reach her.
Eventually, a break from social media became a break from texting. And then a break from phone calls. I heard from mutual friends that Diane was laying low, maybe a month at most.
Diane left a voice message wishing me a happy birthday back in May, but she didn’t pick up the phone or return my call when I tried to get back in touch with her. I periodically sent “thinking of you” text messages. Sometimes, I popped into her Instagram DMs with a funny image I thought she’d like. One time, I even sent her a card, hoping the physical piece of mail would elicit a response.
Pandemic Hole of Despair
Eventually, I was able to pull myself out of my own pandemic hole of despair and shift my mentality into a more positive place. I wanted to use that energy to help Diane, to go on socially distanced walks together, or sit in the park near her apartment. Just be around a human I cared about. She doesn’t know I left my old job to go full-time freelance, or that I moved to Serbia. If she does, she hasn’t heard it from me personally.
One month of a social media/text message break turned into two, four, then 10. I haven’t heard from Diane since May, and I’m not sure I will again.
I’m making peace with it day by day, and don’t know what I’ll do if Diane decides to contact me in the future. Part of me wants to pick up where things left off, but I know I’ve changed so much, and don’t know if she has, too.
Being ghosted by one of my closest friends is tougher than I ever imagined it would be, mostly because I have no idea why the silence exists. But that’s also something I have to respect, in a weird sense. Not everyone wants to stay friends with me, and friendship ebb and flow is a natural part of life. It’s just hard when it was someone I really cared about, who I thought also cared about me.
* Names have been changed to respect privacy.
This post is part of a month-long February CircleAround series, tied to Galentine's Day. What was once a celebratory day on a fictional TV sitcom has emerged, like Festivus before it, as a very real day, spawning a legion of loyal followers. That's because it celebrates the platonic friendships among women. We asked writers — and readers — to tell us how their gal pals are helping them navigate one of the most challenging periods in our history, as well as to share stories about their meaningful female friendships. To see all the posts in the series — including relevant news stories — visit here. And if you'd like to contribute to the series, send us your thoughts to firstname.lastname@example.org or post on our "2021 Inspiration Wall."