May 6, 2020

How to Heal the Pain of being Ghosted: A lesson from The Great Gatsby.

A few years ago, I found myself in a relationship that ended—well, kind of.

See, we were on and then off and then on and then…

He had broken my trust, and I had broken his. In retrospect, not a healthy situation. At the time though, I was in the heat of a depression, and I decided that I could not lose him. So I was convinced we would be getting back together.

I was wrong.

He just…disappeared. Gone! Did not return texts, did not return phone calls—he was gone. This is what psychologists call “stonewalling.”

Did we even break up? What was going on? I had no clue, but I was desperate. Eventually, I had to accept the fact that we were not getting back together (obviously).

So I developed a new obsession: closure. Yes! “If we can’t get back together, I at least deserve a conversation, an explanation, a peaceful mending of what was once a loving relationship. That will make me feel better. If we can have this conversation then I can move on”—I convinced myself.

We’ve all been there.

I imagined the conversation 1,000 times. I wrote 10 letters that I never sent. I came eerily close to driving to his apartment and walking right in, demanding he finally talk to me. I planned what I’d say. I had the perfect rom-com movie monologue, and I’d deliver it and it would land effortlessly, and he’d finally understand and tell me all of the things I needed to hear to release me of all of my pain.

Reason number 721 why romcoms have failed to prepare us for real life.

Sometimes we can have “closure.” Sometimes when a relationship ends, romantic or not, there is a peaceful conversation where both parties wish each other luck and love and both move on to their respective next chapters. Maybe you’ve been lucky enough to experience this.

Unfortunately, if you’re reading this, you probably know all too well that a lot of the time, this is not the case. There’s so much left unsaid. There’s so much you wish would be different—different about the current circumstance, different about how it ended, different about what you said, different about what they said—you’ve spun your wheels coming up with all of the ways you wish it were different.

As I write this, a favorite book comes to mind: The Great Gatsby, ever heard of it? I could recite the last page for you, but I’ll keep it to what’s relevant:

“Gatsby believed in the green light…”

What was the green light? Gatsby believed that he could go back in time; that he could have the relationship with Daisy that was almost-but-never-was years before. He really believed that he needed to resurrect that relationship just as it was before. But he couldn’t. And neither can you.

We cannot go back to the past. We cannot rewrite how our story with our person ended. More so, and most important of all, we cannot depend on finding happiness or peace in something outside of ourselves. We believe that if they just said sorry or if you just had a chance to explain, all our problems would be solved. Just like Gatsby believed that if he could have Daisy and make everything exactly the way it used to be, he would feel better.

We are the only ones who determine our feelings. If I could take the I-need-closure pain (that I know oh, so well) away from you right now, believe me I would. But I can’t. Feelings occur inside of our bodies—we are the only thing that can control them.

We set up a condition for our happiness and peace that isn’t being met and therefore, we are unhappy. We tell ourselves that we need something outside of us to be okay. That is a lie. The way out of hurt is to remove that condition.

We must begin to ask ourselves these questions:

How can I be happy and at peace with the current situation as it is?

What would I have to believe in order to be okay with this situation as it is right now?

Then, walk in that direction.

The last line of The Great Gatsby is: “So we beat on, boats against the current, born back ceaselessly into the past.”

We could fulfill the prophecy of this beautiful and historic line in literature, or we could turn the boat around and effortlessly float down the river into the scary, exciting, magnificent new beginnings that only exist downstream.


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