My Best Friend Ghosted Me When I Came Out

She praised my authenticity until it became too much.

Woman looking out the window of her home Marjan_Apostolovic | Canva

Nearly seven years ago, I fell head over heels in love with my Pilates instructor, Cecilia. I was upended, obsessive, stumbling through the darkness in an attempt to understand what was happening to my mind, my body, and the heterosexual, mom-of-four life I had carefully crafted. Charles, my then-husband and father of my four teenage children, encouraged me to explore my feelings. 

“I can be almost anything for you, Kat,” he said, “But if you need a girlfriend, I can’t be that.” 


After many agonizing months of self-reflection and couples counseling, sleepless nights, and tearful phone calls to my closest friends, I came out of the closet. I could not continue to live an existence that now felt inauthentic. In hindsight, it was clear I’d always been gay, but a small-town, Midwestern, Catholic upbringing had not made that life a possibility for me. 

Twenty-five years into our marriage, Charles and I divorced, we split the belongings, and our four teenage kids began spending two weeks at his place and two weeks at mine. I kept the dogs. He didn’t want them. 

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Although we’d aspired to do it differently, our divorce became bitter and angry. We hurt each other in all the worst ways. We’d vowed to remain friends, but we parted as enemies, discussing business only because emotions were too high. By the time we’d reached that divorce milestone, many of our couple friends had chosen to side with him. I mean, who doesn’t empathize with the man who’s left by his gay wife? But as all things are, our marriage wasn’t black and white. There was so much gray, gray that I’d chosen to live with until I realized I didn’t have to anymore. 

The fallout, however, was swift and difficult, and the silences left in the wake of our marriage were some of the most unbearable. 

The worst of those silences came from one of my dearest, most treasured friends. Grace’s laugh was a bubbling stream — deep, strong, and refreshing. It was distinctive and healing, just like her friendship. To be enveloped in it was a warm blanket, a long hug, and a cool drink at the end of a hot day. People were drawn to her smile, to her aura. She was beautiful and kind and fun and funny. I was proud to be her friend and honored to be a part of her world.

We enjoyed many glasses of Pinot Noir during summer evenings on her patio where white lights on strings warmed the night, mature trees sheltered us, and shared friends’ laughter blended with the sound of a soothing playlist. Our kids tumbled around the backyard together with other neighborhood kids, playing flashlight tag and collecting grass stains on their knees. Grace was a fixture in my life, a companion I thought would always be with me — until she wasn’t. 


When I was packing my house for a recent move, I came across a collection of Hallmark greeting cards that I had saved from her. There were cards for birthdays, for holidays, for no occasion at all. Some were funny, some were poignant, but in every card, there was a personal note — a declaration of love and friendship, a promise that she’d always be around, words of gratitude that we had found each other in this mixed-up, crazy world. 

A hard lump formed in my throat as I read them. They were ghost notes — once so real and sincere, and now, just vapor words. I wasn’t quite sure what to do with the cards. Would it be best to keep them? To throw them away? To store them in a memento box to read from time to time? Would revisiting them twist my heart into knots again? I decided to keep three and let the rest go. I don’t know why I chose the number three. But there are three cards in a box in storage now, tucked away between my kids’ elementary school artwork and report cards, a reminder of what once was, when I led a life very different from the one I live now. 

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I feel like Grace’s withdrawal came suddenly, but I recently found the last Facebook message I ever sent to her. It read: "I don’t know what went wrong between us. Maybe I never will. But you’re done with me and our friendship — a friendship I thought was pretty indestructible. I won’t say I thought we were 'forever,' because if I’ve learned anything in the past six months, it’s how tenuous that word is. But I thought for sure we were something more than what we have become. I want you to know how grateful I am for everything we shared. Our friendship changed and strengthened and bettered me in so many ways. I wish you nothing but happiness, joy, and love. Be well. XO"


She texted me back: "You make it sound so dramatic. I’m not dead. Friends go through hills and valleys. That’s where we are now. That’s all it is."

And that’s the last I ever heard from her. That was six years ago. 

I don’t know why Grace left. My best guess, of course, is because I’m gay. She loved the married, heterosexual, mother of four that she’d first met. Although I was still the same person, I didn’t occupy the same place in society. 



Maybe the love I had for her became too much when my sexuality was uncovered. She said once when we were dining with friends, “I love you all, but I don’t want to look at your boobs!” It was a strange, uncomfortable thing to joke about, but I didn’t think much of it until I became the woman who liked to look at boobs. Of course, my same-sex attraction didn’t apply to my friends, but it was probably enough to give some of them pause. Did the neighbor who wanted me to feel her expensive, fake boobs regret that now? There was nothing sexual about it for me, but I was pretty fascinated by the feeling of the silicone implants. Did she think I was too interested? 


Maybe Grace had some internalized homophobia like most of us do. She had gay friends, but the gay friends she had had always been gay. Maybe it was the late-in-life awakening that pushed her away. Maybe she thought it was just a phase. 

When Charles and I were in the should-we-stay-or-should-we-go stage of our split, I overheard her drunkenly whisper in his ear, “Don’t worry. I’ll always be on Team Charles.” Maybe that was just a promise that came to fruition. Maybe I did something else that was unrelated to my sexuality, but highly offensive nonetheless. I’m far from a perfect friend. Maybe I inadvertently insulted her husband or ignored her child or didn’t show up for something she expected me to show up for. But if that’s what happened, I was never given the chance to right my wrongs because I never knew what I’d done wrong. 

All I knew was that her absence left a hole in my heart as big as the island of Manhattan. She blew me into a million pieces with her departure, with the unanswered questions, with a little dash of gaslighting thrown in at the very end. 

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Two years after Grace’s final text to me, I was having dinner with another dear friend — one who remained by my side as well as by my ex-husband’s side. One who understood that we didn’t want her to choose. The choice Kathy made was to love us both right where we were. To not judge or condemn, just to be who she’s always been to us.

The restaurant was a favorite of mine, dimly lit and intimate, and we sat at a two-top by the bar. In the back was a table full of Grace’s friends and former colleagues. They could see us in the elevated bar space from their table. I recognized many of their faces as they turned their heads away from me, like anxious middle schoolers who didn’t know what to do with the strange new kid in the cafeteria. Kathy and I ordered a bottle of Cabernet to share, and as the server delivered our wine glasses, Grace entered through the front door. 

She walked directly past our table — head held rigid and high — and pretended she didn’t see me. Eyes forward and focused on her destination, I could have reached out and grabbed her hand, she was so close. But I didn’t grab her hand. I didn’t reach for the arms that used to embrace me in such warm, welcoming hugs. 

She had erased me with her indifference. 


My face caught fire, and I couldn’t stop the tears that were burning at the corners of my eyes. 

“Do you want to go?” Kathy asked. “We don’t have to stay.” 

“No,” I said. “This is our time together. This is for us. Let’s stay.” 

“She doesn’t deserve you,” Kathy said. “Let her go. She’s part of another life. No looking back. This is your life now.” 

I choked back the tears and drank my Cabernet. 

There are many moments that I’ve wanted to call Grace to ask her what went wrong. To dig deeply with her into what changed. But the 54-year-old in me has lived long enough to know that that particular call will most likely end up in heartbreak. We’ve both moved on with our respective lives, the wound has closed over, and it’s best not to open it up again. 


There is a poem, often attributed to Brian A. “Drew” Chalker, that suggests friendships are made for a reason, for a season, or a lifetime. It’s painful to realize one you considered a lifetime friendship was only a seasonal friendship. But there are lessons to be learned from that, too. When it’s time for them to leave, you have to let them let you go



My life looks very different now than it did when I was friends with Grace. When we were friends, I was raising my kids, and my ex-husband and I were living an enviable, white-picket-fence life. Today, I’m divorced, my ex is remarried, my kids are grown and living their own lives, and I am openly gay. The skin I’m living in now finally fits. My life is happy and fulfilled, honest and free, and I have expanded it with my chosen family and supportive friends. It is finally my life; not the life I was living to meet everyone else’s expectations.


That life is foreign to Grace, and if she can’t walk through it with me, we should parted. I won’t sacrifice myself and my authenticity to meet anyone else’s standards ever again, and I don’t expect Grace to change her belief systems, either. 

One of the three cards I saved from Grace still sticks in my mind. Her note read, "Thank you for being so real. Your authenticity is so fresh and so honest and so rare."

The life I am living now is more honest than I’ve ever been. I miss the laughter and joy I shared with Grace. I will remember holiday shopping and evening get-togethers and family beach trips and heartfelt conversations and pounds upon pounds of really good cheese and what we used to call “red wine incidents.” And I will never forget the sound of her laugh. But as Kathy reminded me, there’s no looking back. We all have one, precious life, and I intend to live the rest of mine as the real, authentic me.

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Katrina Anne Willis is an author and proud mother of four. Her first novel, Parting Gifts, was published in 2016 and she is currently at work on her memoir, "Hurricane Lessons," which chronicles her late-in-life coming out.