By Ox Drover
In Part I we looked at what grief is and what “stages” we may pass through when we lose something or someone of great importance to us. We saw that grief can be “legitimate,” in which others “support us” by validating that we have a reason to be sad over the loss. Yet, there can be “disenfranchised” grief, grief that others do not view as “legitimate” reasons for grief, or shameful private grief that we cannot share.
In their attempts to “help” us, many people make fumbling attempts to “cheer us up” or to trivialize our pain, or attach “reasonable” time limits to how long we are able to grieve, which disenfranchises our pain.
Since most people view “grief” as equal to “Sadness,” the other stages of grief, which include Denial, Anger, Bargaining, and Acceptance, are not necessarily seen as parts of “grief processing.” Especially the stages of anger and bargaining may make the grieving person appear to be “crazy” to observers.
The sudden and irrational angry outbursts that we experience are just as much a part of our processing our grief as a crying bout is. Yet, this scares away and shoves away friends and would-be support, because they don’t understand the grieving process or why we would be so angry.
The bargaining stage, in which we may try to stop the pain by making deals with either God or the devil himself, is also another stage not understood by many of our family and friends, or the public in general. I think this is the stage that many victims of psychopaths are in when they go back again to an abusive relationship. “The devil you know is less scary than the devil you don’t know.”
Processing the roller coaster of feelings
Our grief over the losses of our deeply felt relationships with the psychopaths in our lives is just as valid and just as real as any other grief over any other important loss. Accepting that our grief is real to us, and that is all that matters, is our first task. Our pain is real; our pain is valid. We have a right to feel our pain. To experience the grief is our right! To express that pain without being devalued or disenfranchised is also our right.
Sometimes there is no one else who can or will validate that our pain is genuine, real and our right. In fact, many times others in our lives trivialize our pain, or emotions, or try to make us appear “crazy” for feeling as we do, for hurting, or even deny that any loss occurred. We must validate our own loss, our own pain, sometimes without the outside support, without the supportive presence of empathetic others. In a state of acute grief and pain, this is a difficult thing for us to accomplish.
Understanding the “roller coaster” nature of grief, the rapid cycling of one “stage” to another and back again, sometimes in a matter of minutes or hours, can keep us confused, and those in our environment confused, about whether we are “sane” or not! This rapid cycling of emotions, “okay” one moment, wildly crying the next, or angry and striking out, or trying to find some way to stop the pain by healing the relationship we lost, literally making a bargain with the “devil” psychopath, is the “normal” course of processing our grief and pain.
How long will this go on?
Until it is over.
Though there are trends in grief processing, each of us is an individual who will process through the grief at our own rate, in our own time and our own way. There are several things that will affect the “time line” in grief processing. The first thing, of course, is the depth of the loss. How much did this loss mean to you? How big was the loss?
Another thing that will impact the amount of time needed to process grief is having had prior experiences with grief that were positively resolved into acceptance. We learn how to process grief just like we learn to walk, a little bit at a time, and by practice. A child may learn to grieve over a loss of a beloved pet, yet some parents deprive this child of this learning exercise in the mistaken belief that they are “cheering up” the child when the day after the beloved puppy dies, the parents run out and buy Junior another puppy. Depriving a child of valid grief, the valuable learning experience of grieving, is not arming that child for later life which will be filled with losses in one form or another. So, the effects, either positive or negative, you have had with experiencing grief will effect how you process grief in the future.
Knowing what to expect in the grief process, and being able to name it, will affect the length of grieving. Though I professionally “knew” about grief and the processes we go through in resolving this emotional roller coaster, I was not “immune” to the feelings by my knowing. We cannot intellectually go around our pain, under it, or over it, we must go through the pain of the grief. There are no “short cuts.”
The number of other losses that happen at the same time will affect how long the processing of grief lasts. Sometimes there are so many losses in a relationship with a psychopath that grieving for all of the losses at the same time is impossible. Because of the magnitude of grieving for all the losses at once, sometimes we are forced to put some losses on the back burner, so to speak, to deal with later. In my own experience, I found dealing with them individually for the most part was easier for me to handle than to try to lump them all together into one huge mass of loss which seemed too big and daunting to even tackle.
Because I dealt with them one at a time, it seemed to me the grieving over one thing or another went on for “decades.” As soon as I got one thing resolved, I had to tackle another one. This was very tiring and discouraging for me at times, but the burdens slowly lifted, and it seemed to me that the grief over each succeeding loss was less painful than the previous ones, that my experiences had made it easier for me to process, and quicker.
How much support we getand how we are validated affects the time needed to process the grief of our losses. When we are disenfranchised, or our grief is devalued or trivialized, we spend our time trying to validate the grief rather than resolving it. We try to “prove” to others that our grief is real.
Sometimes even well intentioned people who are trying to support and comfort us say the absolutely wrong thing, such as, “I know how you feel,” or, “It was meant to be,” or, “You will be okay,” at a time when we know they do not know how we feel, and that we feel we will never be okay again, and how could it be “meant” for us to hurt like this!?! We may fly into an emotional rage of pain and anguish.
How long? As long as it takes, without artificial limits from others like, “You should be over this now and move on with your life.” Also without artificial limits and time lines imposed by ourselves. “It’s been over a year now, I should be dating already.” Distracting yourself from the grief of one loss with another “new puppy” is not going to allow complete resolution of the first loss. Reaching the “acceptance” stage at one point, may not be staying there—remember the “roller coaster.” Giving yourself time to reach and remain in the acceptance stage for a time of peace, calm and quiet, is important. Don’t try to rush things!
10 Tips to support yourself in grieving:
- Listen—listen to your own pain, thoughts and feelings.
- Validate those feelings—yes they are real and I have a right to feel that way.
- Be kind to yourself—take time for yourself without guilt, you deserve it.
- Don’t put artificial time limits on your grief—it lasts as long as it does.
- Do know that though you don’t feel like it this minute—you will be okay.
- Reach out for support from others—talk about your pain to others who will listen.
- Come to Lovefraud and read and learn and receive support and validation.
- Distance yourself from stressful situations (and people) as much as possible.
- Decrease and delay voluntary and unnecessary changes in your life, if possible.
- Forgive yourself—you deserve it!