It’s been a tough time. There has been so much on our plates, from the pandemic and climate anxieties to simply navigating the daily shit that we all have to deal with, and it’s unfortunately meant that some of our most cherished relationships have gone untended to.
Throughout the years of the pandemic, a lack of IRL socialising and often exhausting pressure to ‘keep up’ has meant that plenty of previously healthy friendships have drifted apart, or ended for good.
If you’ve ever had a friendship end – for whatever reason – you’ll know that it’s one of the most painful things you can experience. And one that slowly fizzles, with no clear cut-off, just a string of ghosted WhatsApp messages or unanswered plans to catch up, can often cut the deepest.
How to repair those rifts, digital or otherwise, seems to be playing on a lot of our minds right now.
“Often, we will shut down and ghost, simply because we don’t know how to approach a situation or we don’t have the capacity for it,” Dr Jeanina, psychologist at Chelsea Pharmacy Medical Clinic, explains to Stylist.
“There have been too many times recently when a friend has popped into my mind and I’ve wondered what they’re up to now,” says Jazmin.
She agrees that maintaining friendships is hard, particularly when so much is going on around us. “There have also been times when I’ve realised that not knowing what’s going on with them is 100% my fault,” she agrees. “I can’t think of any friends that I’ve deliberately ghosted, but I know that there are a few who I’ve not replied to for the fifth, sixth, seventh time and they’ve (fairly) given up WhatsApping me.”
“I dropped off the radar for 10 years”
“I met my closest childhood friend, Emily*, when I was 11, but we began to drift apart when we moved to different sixth forms,” Jessica* tells Stylist. “I started to make new friends, and we began to drift apart from each other fairly naturally, which heightened when I started university in London.”
“I finally met the best friends I’d waited all my life to meet, began exploring my sexuality and started living truly authentically. Emily and I occasionally messaged, but I distanced myself for a number of reasons: my memories from high school were overwhelmingly painful and I wanted to focus on my new chapter; my new friendships were more satisfying, and I assumed that she would judge me for my same-sex relationships (this wasn’t unsubstantiated: there was and remains a lot of prejudice in the area in which I grew up).
Eventually they lost contact.
“Over the next 10 years, the only times she resurfaced in my life was when she popped up on Facebook with status updates,” Jessica says. “Occasionally, my family members would bump into her in the local area, and she would pass on her good wishes, but I wasn’t ready to make contact again.”
But this summer, something changed. “I sent Emily a text asking her if she’d like to meet up while I was home. She responded straight away, and the next day, I went round to her house to see her and meet her husband and children,” Jessica explains.
“It was like no time had passed at all – and she didn’t hold it against me that I’d dropped off the radar for 10 years.
“She did ask why I’d chosen to message her now, though, after all this time. I responded, truthfully, that I’d realised something had been missing from my life. Now that my old high school friend is back in my WhatsApp messages, I feel like my life has gained a missing puzzle piece.”
How to reach back out to a friend you’ve ghosted
“It’s beyond me,” shares Jazmin. “Because if someone reached out to me after a year or two of silence with a ‘Hey stranger, long time! How have you been?’ my first thought would be: ‘What do they want?’ My second would be: ‘Come up with something better to say’.”
Dr Jeanina advises being honest with yourself about what you want out of getting back in touch. “What is the best thing that can come out of it? Mending the relationship? Closure? Absolving guilt?”
“Give the person time and space to respond, even if it’s longer than imagined,” recommends Dr Jeanina. “As all situations are different, there is not one straightforward solution. Remain open about your feelings and check in once a while to show you care, but within limits.”
“Effort is always acknowledged, even in silence,” she adds.