By Joyce Alexander, RNP (retired)
Many times our friends, in an effort to be helpful, but not actually understanding what we have been through in a “break up” with a psychopath, may tell us, “It’s time you move on with your life, and start dating again,” or words to that effect.
Any time you lose something important in your life, you suffer what is known as “grief.” It doesn’t matter if that something is a break up of a relationship, a job, a death of someone you love, or you lose the Miss America Pageant when you expected to win. Anything that was important and is lost causes grief.
Dr. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, MD, an internationally known psychiatrist, studied grief in the terminally ill and wrote a book called On Death and Dying. It is a classic text for nurses, physicians and others who work with patients who are terminally ill.
You may ask why the grief she studied in the dying is the same grief we experience in other instances. Grief is grief, and one of the important aspects in dealing with grief is time.
Importance of time
I have learned about time that there are some things you just cannot rush. You cannot get a baby in one month by getting nine women pregnant. Healing from a significant loss is one of those things that cannot be rushed.
One of the things that seems to be consistent in failed relationships, especially with psychopaths, is the intense trauma experienced by those who have been abused by this class of individuals. It doesn’t matter if the relationship is with a psychopathic parent, psychopathic child, or psychopathic lover, the damage is intense. The grief afterwards is equally intense, and takes time to resolve.
Stages of grief
According to Dr. Kubler-Ross’s research, grief can be divided into several stages. Denial is the first stage. This is where the acceptance of the problem, the loss, is denied, because it is just too huge to comprehend “in one bite.” We tend to think, “No, no, this cannot be the truth; there must be some other explanation.” Denial, short term, is protective. It keeps us from having to acknowledge something that is too horrible to comprehend all at once.
“Sadness,” which is pretty self-explanatory, is another stage. As well as “bargaining,” or trying to figure out a way to “fix” the situation so it doesn’t have to be permanent. “Anger” is another normal part of the grief process. Any time we have been injured, we will feel a normal anger. The final stage in healthy grief leads to “acceptance” in which the grieving person comes to accept the reality of the situation and moves on with their lives.
Unfortunately, the grief process leading to acceptance does not proceed in a straight line from denial to acceptance. It vacillates back and forth, from denial to anger to sadness to bargaining to acceptance and back again, seemingly at random.
The death of a spouse, as an example, may take from 18 months to three or four years to adequately be resolved, in even a healthy grief resolution. Trying to “move on” from a huge loss too soon leaves us vulnerable to making poor decisions. Many people who have suffered emotional and other traumas from the psychopathic experience may try to ”move on” too soon and become vulnerable to getting into a relationship wit another psychopath.
I thought I was rescued
After my husband’s sudden death in an aircraft crash, I was totally devastated by his loss, especially in such a dramatic fashion. I felt alone, lonely, old and unlovable, and I was perfect fodder for the first psychopath who came along looking for his next “respectable wife” to cheat on. He love bombed me, and I thought I had been rescued from my sadness and my loneliness.
I was fortunate that I got out of the relationship before I married him, because I caught him cheating even before the marriage. I kicked him to the curb, but it broke my heart to do so. I ended up wounded again when I had little in the way of resources.
Not long after that trauma, my son decided to have me killed. I was again devastated by the realization that my son was truly a psychopath. I had denied it for decades, but was forced to finally face my emotional trauma.
Not completely healing from the trauma of my son killing Jessica Witt in 1992, I had failed to appropriately resolve my grief over that loss … the loss of the son I idolized. He wasn’t physically dead, but he was “dead” as far as a relationship was concerned, and I had difficulty admitting to that truth.
Time alone won’t heal us; I wish it would. But not giving enough time, and work, to grieving does not allow us to come to acceptance of our loss, and leaves us vulnerable to the next psychopathic trauma.
Be kind to yourself and give yourself adequate time to work on the emotional devastation you have experienced. But not only time, give yourself the gift of working on your grief issues. It is work, too. It is hard labor, harder than digging the Panama Canal with a teaspoon. There will be days, weeks, maybe months, when you will feel like you are not making any progress. Times when you feel like your pain will never end.
Given time and work, though, it will end, and you can come to acceptance of the losses you have suffered. You can then “move on” in a healthy way. God bless.