A few years ago, I went to see a counselor about some deeply painful abandonment issues I was dealing with and he told me that we should treat the loss of a friendship or relationship as we do that of those who pass away. In many cases, as in death, we are not given the closure we so desperately crave and if we do not find a way to work through that on our own, it leaves a hole in our lives that we continually try to fill.
Sometimes the closure we need is not available and therefore it is up to us to find a way to move on without it. Easier said that done of course, but such is life.
Everyone experiences loss in different ways and for me being left behind or disregarded was something I experienced at a very early age, which is perhaps why it has become my kryptonite.
And I am not referring to the distance that can sometimes grow between two people. I have many friends that I don’t talk to on a regular basis, but it doesn’t mean I care for them any less or visa versa. We all get busy and caught up in life, but if one of us were to reach out, the other would always be there no matter how much time has passed. I value those people more than they will ever know. Their love is what gets me through in the darkest of hours, even if their presence is not always there.
What I am referring to are those that lack the common decency to clarify their reasoning before simply throwing away a long time friendship. Especially, when you are not able to find a reason for them doing so. The ones you thought you meant something to. Those you talk to on a regular basis, confide in and who never gave you a reason to doubt their loyalty until one day, they just walk away with no explanation.
Those are the ones that make it hard to open up again to anyone. They are the people that remind me why I have always found it so hard to trust people when they say they care.
Over and over, I am finding that breaking down the walls seem to only leave me in pain.
I have a tendency to internalize the cruel actions of another as a reflection of myself or as a the result of something I have done, but in almost all cases that is simply not true. Rationally, I know that, but the damage to my heart and loss of faith in humanity seems to be irreversible.
It would be wonderful if everyone treated others with the amount of respect they deserve, but that is simply not how the world operates.
Perhaps the reason I could never treat people the way they treat me is because I have been on the other end of it so many times that it has almost broke me. I could never live with myself if I knew I was responsible for inflicting that much pain on another person.
We don’t know what others are experiencing at any given time and our callousness could be what sends them over the edge. And besides, is it really that hard to be kind.
I would never ask anyone to stay in my life if they did not wish to do so, but it is simply inhuman to toss someone aside like they mean nothing and with no explanation.
If you are experiencing this in your life, I urge you to review the five stages of grief as listed below (more detail here).
Denial – The survival mechanism. The focus becomes trying to get through the day despite feeling overwhelmed and in many cases numb. You don’t want to believe that this person would treat you like this. You don’t want to believe you were once again fooled. It is dehumanizing and heartbreaking to think that someone you have allowed yourself to be vulnerable with has no regard for your feelings. Especially when it is so hard to open up to people in the first place. I remember thinking, I thought I was safe with you, we tell each other everything, how could I mean nothing after all these years?!
Anger – Self explanatory and extremely necessary. It is okay to feel angry with the person that hurt you, disregarded you and made you feel like you were meaningless. We must embrace this stage wholeheartedly if we are to move forward. After all, it is impossible to forgive someone when you still have anger in your heart. And forgiveness (even if they are not deserving of it) is the end goal. Not for them, but in order for you to move on.
This is always a short stage for me, because I am not one to get angry usually. Maybe with myself, but I always try to give others the benefit of the doubt before I fly off the handle. I was angry at myself for allowing him to take my joy away and ashamed that I didn’t see it coming, but how could I? There was no warning.
And so I did get angry, so angry. Angrier than I have been in a very long time. So much so that I busted my knuckle on a punching bag and I haven’t wanted to punch someone in years. And it felt good. To get all that aggression out and to know that what I was feeling was valid and necessary. He has known me close to 20 years, so he knows what hurts me the most and he did exactly that. It hurt like hell.
Bargaining – In this stage we are desperately seeking clarification. We wonder what we could have done to prevent this person from leaving. If only I would have been more present, more willing to compromise or in cases of relationships, maybe we wonder if we were simply not pretty enough, skinny enough, etc. It is our minds way of trying to find a way to change it or to make them come back, to care for us in the way we care for them. We are no longer angry at them for leaving, but rather in a state of confusion about what we could have done differently. And sadly, in most cases there is nothing we could have done, which leads to the next stage.
Looking back, I can’t find one reason for him ghosting me, except for maybe being honest. I respected where he was in his life, gave him space when he needed it and was there for him every time he asked. Maybe that was what I did wrong, I cared and I wasn’t afraid to tell him so.
Depression – Emptiness. We come to the realization that there is nothing we could have done or can do to change what is. The truth of the matter rears its ugly head. As David Kessler explains, “We withdraw from life, left in a fog of intense sadness, wondering, perhaps, if there is any point in going on alone? Why go on at all?”
For me this is the longest stage, perhaps because I already battle with it and have for years, but in the end of it, I always feel like I am able to shine a bit brighter after the darkness fades.
Acceptance – The final stage and the last step in forgiveness. It doesn’t mean you are okay with what happened, but rather you have accepted it and the understanding that this new reality is a permanence you simply have to deal with. We become ready to pick up the pieces and move on with our life without that person in it. This does not mean all the hurt goes away, for some of us, it will always be there. There will be days when we remember and still find it hard to get through, but that is okay as long as we have worked through the other stages in the grief process.
What stage am I in?
Acceptance. I spent the weekend working on forgiveness and finding a way to move forward without this person in my life. I would be lying if I said it didn’t still hurt, but I know there is nothing that I did or can do to change this.
The simply truth (as I have said numerous times before) is that not everyone you care for will care for you in the same way and that is not your fault. The right people will find their way to you and maybe losing someone you love is a way to make room for those that will truly value you. Not just use you to stroke their ego whenever they need it.
I forgive him for being incapable of appreciating my presence in his life, because I know that in the end it is his loss. A part of me is saddened for him, because I know that one would only behave in this barbaric way if they too were struggling in some way. When we are content with our lives, there is no need to be cruel to others in this way. And therefore I can only hope he finds happiness and peace in his life as I have in mine.
“To the friends that chose to leave without rhyme nor reason from my life: I still don’t know what I did wrong, but I choose to forgive you. Abandonment is the cruelest way you can choose to leave a person and I have found it in my heart to forgive you, not for you, but for myself. I hope that wherever you are, you are happy. And I hope no one ever leaves you wondering, the way you left me wondering what I did wrong. Because no one deserves that. Not even someone who practices or chooses that themselves.” – excerpt from: What Nobody Tells You About Losing a Friend.
May you all find happiness and peace – T