What To Do if You're Ghosted by a Friend or Family Member

Being ghosted can be an agonizing experience, whether someone has blocked you on social media or simply stopped replying to your texts.

The act of cutting off communication without explanation is most often associated with matches on dating apps, but it's possible to be ghosted by friends, colleagues and even family members.

Karen Pavlidis, founder and clinical instructor of Child and Teen Solutions in Seattle, said there were a number of reasons a person might ghost someone close to them. These include the "ghoster" realizing the relationship is toxic or the "ghostee" refusing to address conflict.

"Sometimes, it's because they're not interested in the person anymore or they find the person annoying but, typically, it has to do with self-preservation," Pavlidis told Newsweek.

"Other times, they've tried to address the issue with the ghostee and they weren't able to resolve it, so thought they were left with no choice."

Here's how to heal if you've been ghosted by a friend or family member.

What do if you're ghosted
Stock photo of a woman looking down at her phone with a disappointed expression. Research has suggested that about 40 percent of us have been ghosted by a friend. iStock/Getty Images Plus/AntonioGuillem

Why Does It Hurt More?

A survey of 1,300 people, published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships in 2018, recorded that nearly 40 percent had been ghosted by a friend, while research conducted by sociologist Karl Pillemer over 10 years found that roughly 27 percent of Americans were estranged from a family member.

Those bonds are deep, so the ghostee can be left devastated. "There's a lot more loss," Pavlidis said.

"Our brains hate uncertainty. You're left thinking, 'What the heck just happened?'"

This can happen even if the ghosting doesn't take place overnight but is more of a "slow fade," with the communication falling away over time to avoid a bust-up.

How Do I Deal With the Pain?

It's normal to be upset, but there are healthy ways to respond to feeling "ostracized, rejected or really hurt," according to Pavlidis. "It can be easy to ruminate on thoughts like 'What did I do?'. Depending on the circumstances, it can be healthier to tap into healthy or assertive anger."

Healthy anger means accepting your negative emotions while also exploring your part in the demise of the relationship and making changes for the future. However, Pavlidis advised against "toxic anger"—lashing out at the other person—especially if you hope to repair the relationship.

She added that you must resist the temptation to stalk them on social media, calling this a "big don't."

"People who linger by cyber-tracking, they're trying to resolve the uncertainty, but all they're doing is prolonging the distress."

If it's a friend, Pavlidis recommends unfollowing their accounts for a clean break and focusing on strengthening your other friendships.

Situations involving a family member can be more complicated. "If it's your child or a sibling who ghosted you, and you still really care about the relationship, then depending on the circumstances, I might still suggest reaching out to that person," she said.

Should You Ask for Closure?

If you're struggling to move on, Pavlidis said reaching out and asking why you've been ghosted can be beneficial in some circumstances.

"Act with self-respect and dignity and behave in a way that is aligned with your values," she said. "You could say 'I don't know what happened, but I care about you, can we talk about it?'"

You might not get a response, but you will know you tried your best.

What if I Want To Repair the Relationship?

If you want to patch things up, leave the door open for them to get in touch.

"It could be as simple as a card or a gift on the person's birthday," Pavlidis said. "Just a message to show that you care about them and the relationship."

However, don't spend time waiting for them to come back into your life, as most ghosters feel justified in their decision.

"Sometimes, the act of ghosting is a reflection on the person. Other times, this didn't come out of nowhere," Pavlidis said. "The ghoster's perception of the situation might be distorted, but some honest self-reflection can still be helpful."

If you were the one ghosted, she advised asking yourself if you exhibited any toxic behaviors—such as not respecting their boundaries, being overly critical or letting the relationship become too one-sided—and making changes accordingly.