Worried About Texting an Ex? Send Them to the "Graveyard"

Photo Illustration: Aly Lim
Photo Illustration: Aly Lim

We've all been there: tempted to text or call your ex (or situationship) for a little classic comfort, to be vulnerable, to attempt to find the ever-elusive closure, or just simply reconnect. But chances are, there is a good reason things ended the way they did, and going no-contact is the best approach. If you're having trouble with zero contact after a split, however, do what I did, and just send them to the "graveyard."

No, it's not what you're thinking. (We're not recommending any illegal activity here.) Instead, it's the practice of sending them to the graveyard of your phone's contact list, where you can't easily access their number anymore. It's easy: just change the name of the contact to a tombstone emoji, so that they end up at the bottom of the contact list, with other no-names that have been replaced with emoji. That way, you won't be able to differentiate each person in the cemetery.

Last year, while I'd been struggling to let go of the idea of reaching out to a former lover I'd made a no-contact pact with, I finally came across the solution that changed everything. I got the idea while scrolling TikTok and coming across a viral video from @ChelseaNicoleNGang, who shared her inventive way of holding herself accountable. And as it turns out, it managed to keep me accountable, too.

In the viral video, the text overlay reads, "She wanted to reach out to an old situationship but can't." While scrolling through her contact list, Chelsea says, "So the thing is, I already sent him to the graveyard, so I don't know what number is his." TikTok followed suit to the tombstone trend, and found it's actually a pretty effective way to help aid in moving on from the past.

Licensed mental health counselor Carlos Escobar thinks so. According to Escobar, the strategy isn't just a funny trend, but can be a symbolic way of enforcing boundaries with your ex after a breakup. "By changing their name to tombstones," Escobar tells PS, "you are creating a mental association with the end of the relationship, which can serve as a deterrent when you feel the urge to reach out."

Experts Featured in This Article

Carlos Escobar, LMHC, CCTP, is a mental health counselor and clinical director at Real Recovery.

Claire Law, MBACP, is an accredited counselor and psychotherapist.

While it might seem light-hearted and fun, the graveyard no-contact approach can actually be quite effective in keeping folks accountable because it offers a visual cue to your brain that reinforces your decision to move on.

Claire Law, a relational psychotherapist, agrees. "On the surface, renaming your ex's contact to a row of tombstone emojis might seem like a silly gimmick, but from a therapeutic standpoint, this method introduces some powerful psychological elements," Law says. "The tombstone imagery provides a symbolic sense of closure and finality to the relationship. It quite literally 'buries' that connection in your phone's graveyard of contacts."

In 2022, I'd been in a true situationship: a three-month fling that stemmed from an Instagram DM and led to long weekends together in bed and, ultimately, hurt feelings on both ends. When it ended, we both agreed no-contact seemed like the best way to go. But like any human with deep feelings for another human, I struggled to cope with the sudden end, and sought out this tech tactic, one that I hoped would save me.

Each time I saw the tombstone in my contacts, as Escobar suggested, I was reminded of the finality of the relationship and the reasons for its end: incompatibility, wanting different things, and polar opposite communication styles. Once I put the tombstone in place of her name, I logistically found that I could no longer communicate with her, yes, but I was also reminded that the situation had been buried and there was no more coming up for air.

Is the graveyard a long-term solution, though? Can you really move on from an ex this way? The answer, as I found out, was no.

With time, I still felt myself still missing her; the way she loved dirty martinis, pop stars, and her new espresso machine. The way she smiled big and lit up any room. How she could so quickly see through my exterior. That doesn't just go away — and still, it hasn't. I still see things and want to tell her about them. I still envision what could have been if we had been right for one another. I think, perhaps, that's just what happens when we connect with another human — when we feel their heart and what makes it beat.

The truth is, no-contact can only take you so far in your healing, and this method in particular can't take you the whole way through. It didn't for me. "While it may prevent accidental texts or calls," Escobar says, "it doesn't address the emotional aspect of the breakup, which is crucial for long-term healing."

Sure, renaming an ex's contact to tombstones is a clever way to avoid contact, but Law adds it should be complemented by emotional work and support from friends, family, and even a therapist. After all, the goal is to heal and grow, using the period of no-contact to rebuild and rediscover oneself.

"Embrace the humor, then put in the hard work."

"By all means, employ the 'graveyard' as a creative commitment device. But view it as the first phase in a longer journey. Support it with other practices like journaling, counseling, medicine, self-care routines, and surrounding yourself with positive friend groups," Law suggests, "Embrace the humor, then put in the hard work of truly letting go."

You don't just want your ex buried in a digital graveyard, Law adds. Instead, emerge from the experience having laid to rest what you couldn't before.

Now, almost two years past my situationship, I hurt less. I can see the relationship for what it was while also appreciating its beauty. But I don't attribute that to the graveyard; I attribute it to the work I put in, which, for me, was complicated and strange and meaningful: therapy, daily meditation, matcha over coffee, employing a psychic, writing about the relationship — what we see in each other, how we left each other better, and how I'll always be thankful for knowing her the way I did.

Truth be told, I only used the graveyard trick for a little bit, until I felt strong enough to let her be. Sometimes, what we want is not what is best for other people, and when we can find a way to put down our selfishness, we can let someone else shine without us. Now, she lives in my contact list as she once did, with a sun emoji next to her name, bright like her smile and gel manicure. And I'm happy for her.

Hayley Folk (she/her) is a freelance writer, editor, and podcast host based in New York City. She is the host of the "Naked Folk" podcast — a sexual wellness and relationships podcast — and she writes for major publications about the LGBTQ+ community, travel, lifestyle, sex, and wellness. In 2022, she received her master of fine arts in creative writing from The New School.