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The Grief of Ghosting: Navigating Relationship Loss in an Era of Connectivity

Dr. Maxine Bradshaw, Pillar College Associate Dean and Professor of Psychology & Counseling examines the Grief of Ghosting.

You check your messages and there’s no response to a text you sent a week ago. You try calling the person—someone with whom you thought you had a good relationship—and it goes straight to voicemail, or worse yet, your call has been blocked. You’ve been cut off with no explanation, leaving you awash in a sea of emotion. What did you do to deserve this treatment? What are they telling others about your now defunct relationship? Ghosting, the practice of ending a personal relationship with no explanation by shutting down all forms of communication between that person, is not a new phenomenon but has become increasingly common as people develop relationships not just in person, but through the vast amount of technology we hold at our fingertips.

Associate Dean and Professor of Psychology and Counseling Maxine Bradshaw, Ph.D., offers some insight on the practice of ghosting by giving tips on how to handle it when it happens and how to be mindful of your relationships.

“Human beings are social beings and in the process of navigating life, relationships develop. The COVID-19 pandemic forced individuals to rely heavily on social media to remain connected. These relationships extend beyond familial bonds to social, professional, spiritual and cultural friendships, leading to a rise in virtual dinners, parties, work environments and religious connections. So while the world has returned to some level of normalcy, the ties of friendship seem more precious given the uncertainty of the times in which we live,” says Bradshaw.

When one of these relationships abruptly ends with no explanation, the persons being ghosted are left to navigate what went wrong by themselves, leaving them with feelings of insecurity and uncertainty. Being ghosted can be detrimental to a person’s mental health and include feelings of depression and anxiety, culminating in social withdrawal and questioning one’s self worth.

“Being ghosted can also lead to being afraid to form close relationships in the future and questioning the motives of others,” says Bradshaw.

Ghosting affects everyone differently, but commonly results in the person feeling used, disrespected and abandoned. Unfortunately, the more it happens to someone, the more likely they are to ghost someone themselves.

Why Do People Ghost?

Ghosting can stem from a variety of reasons; from having unrealistic or unmet expectations from another person to having a self-absorbed or narcissistic mentality, or simply misreading another person’s attitudes or behaviors. It also can be used as a revenge tactic for perceived wrongs. Often, it can be the result of poor communication skills.

“Poor conflict resolution skills can result in running away from the problem being addressed. Additionally, failure to adapt to change or having poor coping skills, can lead people to use ghosting as a solution,” says Bradshaw.

Ghosting is sometimes used as an emotionally immature form of self-protection, allowing the person to reject someone out of fear of being rejected themselves. While this method may seem protective to them, the person doing the ghosting may never learn how to communicate effectively in their relationships.

What To Do If You’ve Been Ghosted

“It’s important to process the experience, to accept the lessons taught by it and let go of any urge to retaliate,” advises Bradshaw.

She also recommends talking to someone about your experience, trying not to be too self-critical and making the time to practice self-love, self-acceptance and self-care. Going forward, be choosy in selecting the people you let into your inner circle in order to maintain safe boundaries. In any relationship, speak up when you feel judged, wronged, misunderstood or put-upon.

“You may want to reach out to the person if the relationship was worthwhile. It’s possible they are experiencing some trauma and need some space and alone time,” says Bradshaw.

What you shouldn’t do is harbor hatred towards them.

“Pray for them, wait and reset your emotions,” says Bradshaw.

Lessons On Not Ghosting Someone

Before cutting off all ties in a relationship, you owe it to yourself and the other person to examine how you got to this point.

“Try to identify the factors or issues surrounding the decision to ghost someone to determine the validity,” says Bradshaw.

Communication is key in any relationship, no matter how big or small that connection is to you. If you just need some alone time, let the other person know. If the relationship is truly over, exploring options on how to communicate that to the other person can help increase your awareness of the emotional and psychological impact of rejection or abandonment on others.

In the end, treating others with the same dignity and respect you expect for yourself can act as a guide to how you approach repairing or ending any relationship.

“Practice forgiveness and treat others the way you wish to be treated,” counsels Bradshaw.

If you would like to speak with Dr. Maxine Bradshaw on ghosting or any other psychology or counseling topic rooted in Christ, you may contact her at [email protected]; 973-803-5000 Ext. 1009.

Pillar College offers Therapeutic Workshops for self-care and self-help backed by biblical context. Participants will be trained on how to conduct a successful Therapeutic Group and resolve conflict through the various stages of the group process. Most workshops meet monthly on Fridays. Contact [email protected]; 973-803-5000 Ext. 1009 for more information.

Dr. Bradshaw is pleased to announce that a new coaching program is being offered to every student at Pillar College who wishes to become a certified coach. With the addition of four elective courses and passing of a final exam, participants can become certified coaches and start their own coaching businesses. The coaching program is aligned with the International Coaching Federation (ICF) and also provides mentorship.

The first course begins Oct. 10 and space is limited.

Individuals interested in learning about the coaching program or upcoming cohorts are encouraged to visit Pillar.edu to learn more or register. Pillar College: Your #1 choice for a Christ-centered accredited higher education.

About Pillar College

Pillar College is a comprehensive institution of higher learning, providing a Christ-centered education. Pillar College is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE) and licensed by the New Jersey Commission on Higher Education and the Association for Biblical Higher Education (ABHE). Pillar College offers Associate’s, Bachelor’s and Master’s Degree programs. Pillar College educates, inspires, and equips students for excellent scholarship, service and leadership. Rooted in and committed to Christian faith, Pillar College fosters intellectual, spiritual and social development among its diverse student population. Pillar College has locations in Newark, Jersey City, Paterson, Plainfield, Ocean County, and Basking Ridge, New Jersey. Founded in 1908. For more information about Pillar College, visit https://pillar.edu.