Zombieing: When Someone Who Left Without a Trace Comes Back to Life

Zombieing refers to that person who, after having disappeared from your life without a trace, suddenly sends you a message. This return isn't casual; the zombie needs to make you crave more to nurture their ego and reinforce their self-esteem.
Zombieing: When Someone Who Left Without a Trace Comes Back to Life
Valeria Sabater

Written and verified by the psychologist Valeria Sabater.

Last update: 08 November, 2022

You’ve probably become familiar with the terms “ghosting” (disappearing from someone’s life without explanation) and “orbiting” (cutting off a relationship with someone but still interacting with them through social media). Now it’s time to learn about another related term: zombieing.

Whether you like these words or not, one thing is certain. Nowadays, it’s necessary to name these intimate phenomena linked to the world of technology. Why? Because these mediums have changed people’s ways of interacting with each other. They’ve changed the way people start and end both romantic and platonic relationships.

Zombieing is a type of behavior that’s probably familiar to you: it refers to a person who ghosted you and then, miraculously, “comes back to life”. They might do it through a text message or messenger app or comment on your social media account. Someone you thought was gone forever returns to your life with one purpose: to revive the relationship.

As strange or outlandish as it may seem, it’s a very common phenomenon. And the worst thing about it is that it causes a lot of suffering.

Dealing with the inexplicable disappearance of someone you had an emotional connection with is hard. However, dealing with them coming back is an especially peculiar dilemma. Let’s delve deeper into this.

A man walking on the street and looking at his cell phone.

Zombieing: when someone who left without saying goodbye comes back

Maybe you’re immersed in your work or hanging out with your friends. Or maybe you’re even with your new romantic partner. Then it happens: you get a notification on your phone, take a look, and there they are.

Someone who was important to you and decided to stop responding for no reason suddenly returns. Often, they do so with cheerfulness, innocence, and even a bit of charm.

They usually do it with a common salutation such as “Hey, how’s it going? How are you? I miss you”. Or maybe they say “Hey, you’ve been looking great on Instagram lately. Do you want to grab a drink sometime?”. If this has happened to you, you’ve experienced zombieing, a term coined in 2016.

Additionally, these 21st-century zombies have an unusual, almost supernatural capacity of coming back right when you’ve gotten over the pain of their absence. You’ve rebuilt your life with emotional bandages and stitches to heal the pain from their abandonment. That ghosting left you broken and then… there’s a knock on your door.

What do you do in this situation? And more importantly: what kind of people do that?

These zombies need to feed their egos

Those who practice zombieing don’t just show up around Halloween. A real zombie comes out when they’re hungry. Their yearning to nurture their starving ego makes them contact someone who once gave them what they needed: admiration, affection, and attention.

You could very well label them narcissists or simply immature people with little empathy. However, this behavior unites multiple processes. One of them is bad relationships. More than saying that they have some kind of personality disorder, you should consider this a social behavior. Unfortunately, it’s a pattern that’s becoming increasingly common.

A person who left suddenly one day doesn’t need an excuse to come back. They do it because they don’t value the connection of the relationship. Their conscience is clear and they don’t see any problem with their behavior. The person who was a “ghost” before returns as a zombie: it’s all about their appetites and needs. Love is disposable, made for using and then throwing away or even recycling.

If this ex-partner comes back to your life after having left you, they’re doing it to feed their ego. You can also be sure that their present reality probably isn’t very stimulating. They need new reinforcement and hope that you’ll give it as you did before.

A woman lying on her bed looking at her cell phone.

The best thing to do is avoid opening the door

Dealing with zombieing puts you in a complicated situation. It opens old wounds after the balance you’d achieved. Their sudden absence shook you, and you had to get over both the surprise and the rage. The people that return to your life do it with flair, trying to get your attention as if nothing had happened.

What should you do in these circumstances? First, be very cautious. You shouldn’t lose perspective and, as tempted as you are to read their messages, listen to their audios, or respond to their invitations that take you back to happy moments: don’t. Because their return is never casual or innocuous. The zombie always takes something, always comes back hungry, and does a fantastic job of opening old wounds.

If there’s one thing you learned from being ghosted, it’s that you shouldn’t give someone a chance to do it again. Love doesn’t involve ghosts or zombies; every relationship that hurts, wounds, or extorts you isn’t real and you don’t deserve this pain. Stay far away from them. Thus, don’t be afraid of blocking them. Remember that y our heart is sacred ground!

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.