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Healing From Ghosting: From Heartbreak To Self-Discovery

Dr. Lisa Lawless

Dr. Lisa Lawless, CEO of Holistic Wisdom
Clinical Psychotherapist: Relationship & Sexual Health Expert

pink heart cookie broken with bandaids

Poof! They Are Gone!

Unfortunately, many people experience ghosting. That sudden, unexplained silence from someone you thought would at least say goodbye if they ever wanted to move on.

Sometimes upon reflection, you realize you may have seen the signs, while in other instances, you may have thought everything was fine. The texts may have been flowing, the connection seems strong. Then... radio silence. Nada. Zilch. Poof! They are gone.

When It's Ghosting & When It's Not

It's not uncommon for individuals to label a partner's sudden silence as 'ghosting.' But let's dive deeper, shall we? Ghosting is more than just silence when your significant other stops communicating. Let's unravel this together and make sense of what's really going on.

Imagine a runner on a heart-pumping 5K run. They see the finish line and sprint toward it with all they've got. They've given it everything they can, and then...they stop. They're done. That's similar to a direct breakup.

When someone sits you down (or texts, calls, etc.) and tells you, "Hey, this isn't working for me. I don't want to be in this relationship, and I think it's best if we don't communicate anymore," they're crossing the finish line. They're making things quite clear. It's direct and honest; even if it stings, there's no mystery about where they stand.

Ghosting, on the other hand, is like running a race and suddenly, poof! The finish line disappears with no warning. You're left wondering, "Did I miss a turn? Was there a sign I didn't see?" It's that maddening sensation of being left in the dark without understanding what went wrong.

Why Do People Ghost?

The reasons people ghost are as diverse as the tales in a bookstore, but at the core, it often stems from the desire to avoid the messiness of endings that conjure fear of confrontation and conflict.

Ghosting is a silent exit strategy that can be due to emotional immaturity, feeling overwhelmed, or fear of abuse. Most often, when people ghost, it is because they have lost interest or feel the connection is unhealthy.

Ghosting Is Typically Not The Best Way To End Things

Besides protecting one's safety in an abusive relationship, ghosting is not typically the healthiest way to end things. Ideally, people should respectfully let their partner know they are ending things.

People often think that running from ending a relationship maturely means they do not have to face the challenges that come with a breakup. However, it can make things far worse, especially in creating more mental and emotional tension, and weigh heavily on self-esteem for both partners.

When someone does things with integrity, such as ending a relationship in a respectful manner, they can be proud of how they handled things regardless of how their partner responds.

Ghosting Is A Loud Yet Silent Statement

After being ghosted, we long for clarity and closure. Yet, if we pause and reflect, we can realize that ghosting, while being a challenging and quiet farewell, speaks volumes. Silence can be as communicative as words, and ultimately, you have received a clear and unmistakable message.

So, if you're feeling the urge to continually chase your partner beyond a reasonable message of inquiring what is going on and begging them to contact you, pause. It's time to reflect.

Your ex has spoken loudly without saying a single word. They don't want to be in a relationship with you anymore. They don't wish to speak with you. So, as your mind spirals through all the possibilities of their motives and analyzes the past, make sure you don't lose sight of the forest through the trees. Essentially, you have gotten the most important information you need to know. It's over.

When love ends, it can hurt so badly that it feels like our world is ending. But chasing someone who's already decided to move on violates their wishes and keeps you from starting your journey into healing.

Surviving The Emotional Rollercoaster

The first feeling of being ghosted is usually sheer confusion. Wait, was it something I said? Did they lose their phone? Are they stuck in an elevator? You may even be worried about whether or not they are alright.

Once you realize you have been ghosted, the next feeling is typically self-doubt. Here, we often go into a panicked mental spiral. We start overanalyzing, picking apart conversations, re-reading texts, and wondering if something that we said or did went too far.

Next on the emotional roller coaster are feelings of rejection, and it stings. In addition, the feel-good hormones of being in love have been cut off, and when they disappear from our brain, it is like someone unplugged our dopamine supply. The party's over, and we are left craving more while feeling pretty anxious and depressed.

The Bargaining Stage

It is natural to feel grief when we lose a relationship. The 7 stages of grief are denial, anger, guilt, bargaining, depression, acceptance, and reconstruction. The bargaining stage leads us into that deep dive, drafting those desperate "let's give it another try" and "please contact me" messages.

Saying goodbye to a lover can feel like a piece of your heart broke off. You're mourning the loss of the connection and moments you shared. In many cases, you even gloss over those things that annoyed you, as well as the challenges your relationship faced. Grief is complex, and it is common to feel a sense of panic and a strong desire to hold onto what has been familiar.

It's that little voice whispering, "Maybe if I changed this," or "What if we tried that?" Much like a mental tug-of-war, you may be trying to regain some control over what feels uncontrollable with your heart yelling, "Avoid the pain! Hold onto the familiar and get them back no matter what it takes!"

When Love Turns To Fear

When lifeguards teach swimming classes, people learning to swim often gasp and flail, even in the shallow end. Why? Because they erroneously believe they are drowning, only to find out they can merely stand up and be safe. Despite their ability to stand, their helplessness feels very real, and the desperation they are experiencing is palpable.

While it may feel like you are sinking into a vast ocean of emotional turmoil after being ghosted, please know that you're just feeling overwhelmed by the initial fear of these unknown emotional waters. Rest assured, your feet can touch the pool floor, and once you feel more grounded, this feeling of panic from your loss will pass. It really is temporary.

The Desire To Hold On

Wanting to grasp tightly to a lost relationship can keep us from healing and moving forward, blurring our vision so that we can't see our present and future clearly.

It can also inhibit us from working on our self-growth and can take an emotional and mental toll on our sense of self-worth. We become trapped, a bird caged by memories, unable to soar to our potential or to truly see our value.

It is easy to get caught up in a storm of emotions that is intensified by our fragile self-worth. Out of desperation, we may even find ourselves adopting some not-so-healthy behaviors such as manipulation, obsession, or even trying to control the narrative. Beware of these pitfalls, for these are the signs that we're dancing with fear, not love.

It's natural to sink into the depths of emotion when love takes a downward twist, but remember, a relationship doesn't define our worth. And sometimes, letting go with grace is the bravest thing you can do. 

Creating A Fantasy About Your Past

Have you played an old song, and suddenly, memories flood back, those rose-colored moments when everything felt just right? That's how many of us sometimes see past relationships, especially when ghosted.

But just like that old song doesn't always represent the entire playlist, remembering only the good parts about our ex doesn't give us the whole relationship story. When we cling to past relationships, it is often based on a nostalgic, idealized fantasy that never really existed. It is easy to overlook our relationship and partner's flaws. 

But here's the silver lining: every heartbreak brings a lesson, and every lesson is a stepping stone to becoming your most fabulous self. Think of it as a detox. We need to rid ourselves of past hurts and patterns that no longer serve us.

Because on the other side? There's the promise of a relationship that resonates with the person you're becoming, offering you a richer, more meaningful, and healthier love starting with love for yourself.

Looking Out For Yourself

Self-respect is one of the biggest reasons we should not try to win someone back after they lose interest. Sometimes, we get so wrapped up in wanting someone to want us that we forget to look out for ourselves. Continually seeking validation from someone who is no longer interested in a relationship can damage our emotional and mental health.

Because here's the tea: constantly seeking that "you're amazing" stamp of approval from someone who's already checked out is like running on a never-ending emotional treadmill that is exhausting while never really going anywhere.

If you're ever in a situation where you feel like you need to convince someone they should be with you, pause and take a deep breath. You have some emotional work to do.

People with healthy self-esteem will only seek relationships with a genuine mutual interest. If you have to convince someone to be with you, the foundation of the relationship is not genuine or healthy.

Writing A New Chapter

You may be wondering how to manage the loss you are feeling. Let's explore how you can take back control. After all, it is your life.

Imagine your heart as your favorite novel, with chapters of love, loss, and growth. Rather than chase lost pages with a story that no longer serves you, choose to sum up the lessons learned and write a new chapter.

Each partner we have, whether they grace our life's story for a mere paragraph or several chapters, carries with them valuable lessons that mold our life's narrative, and we can choose to learn from our experiences to create a healthier reality without them.

We often see heartaches as failures, seeing our goodbyes as the end of the story rather than the beginning of a new chapter. And sometimes? That lesson is the art of letting go, standing tall, and having the courage to turn the page.

Allow yourself time and a blank page for healing and writing a new verse. Because in between those unwritten lines, fresh beginnings await for you to pen them. And always remember that every story, including yours, deserves a tale that dives into self-discovery and new adventures.

Seek Healthy Support

To bloom and thrive, you need the sun, the rain, the soil, and a community. Focusing on nurturing yourself and your future while utilizing support systems is an excellent way to move forward.

It may be helpful to seek help from trusted friends, family, a therapist, or support groups who can offer support and steer one in the right direction toward overcoming deep-seated emotional wounds. 

In life's mysterious journey, it's fundamental to pause and recognize a simple yet profound truth: You, with all your intricacies, are worth respect, love, and a healthy relationship. Just like a memorable line from a timeless novel, remember, you are undeniably and irrefutably enough.

Your New Love Mantra

Instead of looking for love from your ex or someone new right away, how about showering yourself with some love? It's far more empowering and healthy to focus on self-improvement. After all, the most fabulous relationship you'll ever have is the one with yourself.

It's a great time to celebrate YOU! So go for that hike, grab that face mask, dive into that book, or simply dance around in your living room! Build that emotional muscle of self-respect and self-love.

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