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'I ghosted my friend after she got the worst news of her life. Here's why.'

As told to Ann DeGrey

I was going through a tough time. 

My mother died of breast cancer, and I was her main carer as my father had passed away two years earlier. My youngest child is on the spectrum and things had been difficult with her until we found a fantastic school. My partner lost his job and started drinking heavily. 

I had a very close friend who tried to help me through this rough patch, but I ended up ghosting her and this is why.

Watch: Why friendship is more complicated than other relationships. Post continues below.

Video via The Big Bang Theory.

Jenny* and I had been friends for several years, meeting through our work. We always had a good friendship, we had a lot of fun together and also helped each other through difficult divorces.

We were planning on catching up for lunch but she called me the day before to cancel. She told me she had breast cancer. She didn't mean to upset me but I started crying because it brought back all those feelings about my mum dying from breast cancer. I told her I hope she'll be okay, but I didn't offer to see her. Memories of my mother's battle with cancer resurfaced, raw and painful. At that moment, I couldn't bear the thought of facing those emotions again, so I withdrew. I didn't offer to help with her kids or provide the support she needed. Instead, I convinced myself that distancing myself was the best course of action.

When I ended that call, I had already decided to end the friendship. I just didn't have the headspace for her issues when I could barely cope with my own.

But ending a friendship isn't easy. I found myself overwhelmed with a flood of emotions.

As time passed, my guilt only grew. I'd blocked Jenny's number and knew she'd be wondering why I had ghosted her. I just couldn't deal with anything negative so, in some ways, it was a relief for me to cut her off.

Then, weeks later, I heard through mutual friends that Jenny was having a tricky time, juggling solo parenting duties with her cancer treatment and other personal issues. But still, I couldn't bring myself to reach out. I was trapped in a cycle of fear and avoidance, unable to break free from the grip of my own emotions.

I was horrified one day when I saw she'd sent me an email when I'd mistakenly thought I'd blocked her. I was quite ashamed of myself when I deleted her email without reading it and then I blocked her properly. Yes, I realise this was awful behaviour but, at the time, it was what I felt I had to do to protect my mental wellbeing.

Weeks turned into months, and the weight of my guilt became unbearable. I'd heard from a friend that Jenny had two surgeries plus several weeks of radiation. I knew that wouldn't have been easy, and I also knew she had no family close by, so I felt like I was such a horrible person.

How could I do this to a woman who had only shown me love and kindness? 

Six months went by and more news about Jenny fell into my lap via our mutual friends. I heard she was having issues with her daughter and that her ex-husband had stopped paying child support – this just intensified my guilt for ghosting her. 

But, by then, I thought it was too late to reach out. What if I reached out, and she rejected me for treating her badly? 

But, in my heart, I knew I had to try and repair the damage I had done to our friendship.

Two years later, I'm trying to build bridges again, slowly but surely. I sent a card and flowers to Jenny to say I was sorry I wasn't there for her. I explained that, due to the trauma of losing my mum to cancer, I just couldn't be around her. I also let her know I felt dreadful and wished I was a better friend.

We have since rekindled our friendship, and she's forgiven me. I told her that it was very cowardly of me not to explain why I dumped her friendship without any explanation. She told me she was incredibly hurt, but she's willing to give our friendship another go.

I realise that I acted on a whim and I should have spoken up and told Jenny exactly why I couldn't be around her during her toughest time. I also regret doing absolutely nothing for her. I wish I'd at least dropped off some meals for her. 

I'm still filled with shame about my behaviour and I'm so lucky that Jenny found it in her heart to forgive me. I'll never abandon another friend in need but I did what I felt was right in the moment. Ghosting sounds flippant, but it feels awful when you're the ghoster; it is better to be honest because it's not worth the pain of being overloaded with guilt.

*Name has been changed due to privacy.

The author of this story is known to Mamamia but has chosen to remain anonymous for privacy reasons.

Feature Image: Getty

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