By Joyce Alexander, RNP (retired)
One of the things I have heard from victims of psychopaths here at Lovefraud, seemingly over and over, is that people compare their losses to my losses and Donna’s losses and Dr. Liane Leedom’s losses, etc. and think that their losses don’t “count” because they haven’t lost X, Y, or Z and we did. They seem to think that because I lost a child, or Liane lost her medical practice, or Donna lost a quarter of a million dollars, that they are not entitled to feel as injured as we were/are.
The people expressing this somehow seem to have “survivor’s guilt” about feeling so devastated when their losses were somehow “less.” Or they feel that we are somehow “super heroes” because we survived “big losses.”
I felt that way too when I was reading Dr. Viktor Frankl’s book, Man’s Search for Meaning. Dr. Frankl wrote the book after his years in a German Nazi concentration camp, in which he lost everything except his life, and barely retained that.
Pain is like gas
I felt that my own losses didn’t compare to Dr. Frankl’s losses, and that somehow I should feel guilty for feeling such great pain and desperation. Then I read Dr. Frankl’s explanation of how pain operates like a gas.
In science, we learn that a gas, because it has atoms that are far apart, will expand until it completely fills an empty container. It will also compress easily so that a larger amount of the gas can be put into a small container. In any case, the container is full. It is totally filled.
I realized upon reading this that my pain was just as “total” as Dr. Frankl’s, and that my losses were just as “big” (or “small”) as his were. All pain and all loss is total. If something is important to us, we value it and when we lose it, we grieve for that loss. We feel pain, which is what grief is.
The “grief process,” as Dr. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross explains it, is an emotional process where we come to grips with loss, and eventually come to acceptance of that loss.
Dr. Kubler-Ross’s grief process consists of denial, bargaining, sadness, anger and acceptance. These five stages of grief are not processed in a linear 1-2-3-4-5 formula, but in alternating steps, more like 1-3-4-2-3-4-1-2-4-5. Eventually we come to and stay in the last stage, which is acceptance of the loss.
A baby who drops his pacifier is totally in misery and pain. He cries from the depth of his soul’s loss that his grief is total, his pain is total and his life is ‘ruined,’ because he doesn’t have his pacifier. Of course we know that his life is not ruined, he will recover, but he doesn’t know this at that time because he doesn’t have the knowledge and experience to know he will come to acceptance of his loss and recover.
Pain is proportional
When we lose something that we care about, our pain is in proportion to how much something means to us. If we drop a penny, usually we will not be devastated. We know that we will still be able to buy lunch, pay the mortgage and go on with life. But if we drop the bank deposit for our business and lose it, it is another matter entirely. Now we may not be able to make payroll and things will get very bad, so our loss is bigger and we grieve over the problems this will cause, the bigger loss.
When we are devastated by the loss of a “great love,” or by the betrayal of someone we trusted, depended on and cared for, we have suffered a great and grievous loss that rocks our world. It isn’t anything we can put a dollar value on; it is an emotional attachment that has no price. How do you quantify “love?”
When we have lost something that is of utter value to us, whether it is something that we can quantify, or whether it has no monetary value, only value of the heart, the soul, then we must realize that our grief is total. We must not compare our losses to what someone else has lost and feel that their loss is “greater,” because it isn’t greater. The pain isn’t greater. It is all TOTAL LOSS. The pain is total.
So if you start to feel that your loss is nothing compared to someone else’s loss, Stop! Realize that your loss, your pain, is your loss and pain. No one else’s is more or less.