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?