Sure, there’s a set of technical details — deleting them from your contacts list and all social media, trashing any (physical) pictures you’ve got of them, removing yourself from any mutual associations (and hoping they remove themselves from the ones that you were in first, or have greater ownership over), and making avoidance your default mode with that person.
But how do you erase them from your life?
Let’s back up slightly. Are there unforgivable trespasses? Are there unforgivable trespasses that result in you having the option to walk away?
It’s one thing to have a falling out with a former roommate at uni. It’s another altogether if you have a falling out with a sibling, and you’re stuck forever related to them, in an occasionally-overlapping orbit with the rest of your family (inevitably made worse when the parents keep trying to force a truce). Family isn’t really something you necessarily have the option to walk away from.
But other folks? 20-year friends who turned out to not have your best interests at heart, and perhaps were actively undermining you when you needed their support the most? Generational friends whose companionship had spanned multiple careers, cities, marriages, time zones… eras? Are there unforgivable trespasses that you can’t get past and instead choose to just remove someone from your life, as though you were de-rezz’ing a Tron program?
It’s weird when they pop back up in unexpected places. The obvious one is whatever “memories” feature you’ve got set up on your social media. You edit the old post to remove them; or if they’re the only person to feature in it, you remove the post altogether. You scour your digital archives for any appearance and delete them all, and your wrath is such that even if it’s the only other appearance of someone in the picture with them, it still goes in the dustbin, as you don’t want to look at an edited photo and remember “oh yeah, that bastard was in the original”. And then when you’re updating your kid’s emergency contact info at school, you need to make sure to remove them as an alternate pickup person. There’s no way that bitch ever gets near my kid again, even though it’s going to be a while before you can explain to the kids why their oldest friends (yes, you have pictures of them together about 4 months old) aren’t around anymore.
But are they every truly erased from your life? Have you ever really forgotten them if you’re constantly on the lookout for the next vestige of them to erase? Are they truly gone from your life if you still find yourself thinking back to that totally-shitty-summer everyone acted like you were a complete paranoid asshole addicted to Excedrin, and it turns out they were all just gaslighting you and you keep wondering how you fell for it, and how they so casually kept the charade going?
And are you really erasing them when you’re writing a rambling column about the need to erase them, and hoping someone else will chime in with their own experiences?
So yeah, there’s the “how to” and if that’s what you’re looking for, I guess there’s some of that in here.
But there’s the greater question of how do you reclaim your life — not just what it’s going to become, but what it was — to make it your own without the stain of someone you now wish had never entered it? How do you rewrite your own personal mythology to elimate the influence of someone who so brutally scarred you that you never want them to cross your shadow again?