Ghosting

No moon is out which makes the night even darker. Your night hasn’t gone as planned. The friend you had plans with never showed. You hope they are okay. They didn’t respond to your text but that sometimes happens with them. You drive home along a lonely country road. There are no messages on the machine when you arrive home. It’s so strange. Shrugging it off, you shower and settle in for what turns out to be a fitful night of unrest. A transparent image of the friend you had plans with flickers in and out of several dreams like a ghost.

You awake with the realization that your friend may just as well be a ghost. They’ve faded from your life.

You’ve been ghosted.

Defiinition: Ghosting – (noun) the practice of ending a personal relationship with someone by suddenly and without explanation withdrawing from all communication.

It is frequently applied to the dating world where one person gradually (or more quickly) drifts away. Some people think it’s an easier way to gently break things off. It may only be easier for the person ghosting. The ghosted can be left feeling haunted because they don’t understand what happened or what they did wrong.

Ghosting doesn’t just happen in dating relationships. It happens often in the cancer community.

I feel there are several reasons why ghosting happens when someone has cancer. Here is what I’m thinking:

  1. They get tired of a sick person. Hmmmmm, I’m tired of being sick. Even though I share more with those I trust, people still have no idea how I feel or the amount of work and planning I need to do to function on a day to day basis.
  2. They want to get back to their lives without disruption. Gee, I’d like to get back to my life before it was disrupted. There isn’t much of my past that glimmers in my present. Talk about ghosts. My former self is a ghost to me.
  3. It’s too hard for them. They are uncomfortable. It’s emotionally painful. Hard? Uncomfortable? Painful? It’s hard for me. I have emotional and physical distress as well. I revert to my response from the first reason I gave – people have no idea how hard I work to be here. Running away and not dealing with an issue isn’t an effective way to problem solve. Not that I’m a problem. Someone’s inability to show up with empathy is the problem.
  4. Some actually come right out and say they cannot cope with another person’s cancer or side effects. I remind them of something they don’t want to hear about or see. Honesty can sting like a bee. Bees sting when they feel threatened. I’m not sure how I’ve threatened people. If I can cope, I would hope for a little support. I need support. I remove the stinger and let the area heal. But I never truly forget.
  5. They were false friends rather than true friends from the start. I understand some people are in our lives for a reason and that reason may be short lived. Some are in our lives for a season. Seasons change. Some friendships are for life. I have a few of those. The false friends I can do without. I can’t count on them. I can’t share with them. Part of me feels relieved to know now rather than later.
  6. Friendships do ebb and flow. The ratio of relationships lost to those gained can be disproportionate when you are living with cancer. Interests shift. What I’m able to physically do changes from time to time. Circles become smaller.
  7. People lose interest in you. I’m old news. Glad to still be here, but my continued living with metastatic cancer is old news. I don’t want to have problems. I don’t want to be talked about or pitied. I don’t want to be fussed about. I don’t want to be ghosted either. I still need support and encouragement, connection and friendship, warmth and laughter.
  8. Friends have died. It’s a grim reminder. I understand why these friends have left even though this reason haunts me the most. Some I’ve known better than others. There is still a bond because you’re all in the same club.

The problem is I miss people who have ghosted me. I have been hurt. Ghosting hasn’t been complete in most cases. It’s friendly enough when I’m able to catch up with long lost friends. It’s just not how it used to be. It never will be because I can’t get away from a disease that’s here to stay.

It’s hard but necessary to let go of relationships and people who are unable to fit into my life. Ghosts are haunting reminders of loss. Living with cancer involves layers of loss. There are days where all I feel I do is lose some more. If I can eliminate the specters of former friends, that is less loss for me to experience. Their transparent bodies offer transparency to the status of the relationship. It’s empty and nothing is there. My focus must be on relationships that work and truly exist.

Are there other reasons why ghosting has happened to you?

Author: Kristie Konsoer

I am a breast cancer survivor, living well with metastatic breast cancer since 2012. This blog is a place where I can share thoughts and ideas on how I feel perceptions of cancer must change, and how I am finding a way to live with strength, hope, meaning, resiliency, humor, and hopefully a little wisdom.

14 thoughts on “Ghosting”

  1. Kristie, I’m so sorry for your ghosting experiences. Ghosting does hurt and all of do it at some point in our lives. Thank you for following my blog. Here’s to more friends and happier times in spite of what you are living with. Abigail gave some wonderful suggestions on how people can support you and others who are ill. She has suggested some metastatic groups. Are you part of any of them? I listened to a podcast she was in, and they all seemed to be having fun in spite of their woes. Best to you and I hope you can connect with some real friends.

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    1. I do get by with a little help from my friends. I have some true blue friends, but cancer has cost its share. And yes, I think we all are guilty of ghosting in our lives for a variety of reasons. For instance, some people can be plain mean and I don’t agree with many of their core values. We move on. I am in a couple of private groups on Facebook where I feel a sense of belonging. I will keep seeking them out. Perhaps I’m already in some of the ones Abigail suggested. So glad we are now connected!

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  2. This happened to me in a big way, twice. A high school friend who was very close ghosted me during college. Almost 10 years later, she reappeared full of apologies, saying she thought we had drifted apart. We re-built our friendship, she even made me her daughter’s Godmother. Years later, when my mother was in her last days struggling with cancer, she abandoned me again. This time she sent a message that she was doing it but it hurt nonetheless. Perfect example of the Maya Angelou saying to believe people when they show you who they are. This friend was always just a ghost.

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  3. Great article, Kristie. I experienced this after my cancer diagnosis. A few good friends, who I thought were friends, cut communication. At the time, I didn’t know it was called ghosting. In my case, I think they didn’t know how to handle the situation. However, I have since made many new wonderful new friends.

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    1. Losing friends is an unexpected side effect of cancer. You make a good point that some people may not know what to do. I was still in high school when one of my aunts got sick. My family didn’t interact much because she wasn’t feeling well. I think that was the wrong call. I’m much older now and can use a bit of what I understand to share with others.

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  4. Ghosted before death. I think can’t they wait for the inevitable and that’s what they really want to avoid – we are the death row inmates and there’s no commuting our sentences. Even murderers and cocaine traffickers got out of jail free cards from tRump. My goodness how I could not do that to a friend never mind my family who have all ghosted me. Oh well. They’re missing out on the gift of the deepening of a life and maybe even a better look into what it is that causes their own fears. Well, you know you have me and the rest of our tribe and whenever this pandemic is over I hope we get to seal the hearts of our virtual dedications in person. ❤️

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