Unconventional Grief

Most people assume there is only one type of grief, the grief that happens when someone you love dies, but there are other types as well.

People also can grieve when they move, get a divorce or lose a job.  There is also something known as anticipatory grief, which happens when you know someone is dying.  This is especially common in families where someone is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s due to how this terrible disease destroys a person’s personality before it destroys their body.

Unconventional grief is different.  It is grief that is triggered by unique circumstances.  I experienced it when learning about the many new limitations because of how damaged my brain was after surviving Carbon Monoxide Poisoning.  It also can happen when someone is diagnosed with mental illness or when a loved one has a substance abuse problem.  Unconventional grief also can happen as a result of trauma & abuse.

When you grow up with a narcissistic parent or two, & you finally learn about narcissism, although it is a great thing, it can trigger grief.  Suddenly you realize that you aren’t the problem, which is certainly good news of course, but realizing what your parent was is difficult  & painful to accept.  It hurts that the one person who was supposed to love you unconditionally didn’t, & lacks the ability to do so.  You also realize how much your parent took from you, such as your childhood & self-esteem.  And, it suddenly hits you that there is no hope for your relationship.  Prior to learning about Narcissistic Personality Disorder, most people have some hope that one day their parent will realize what she did, apologize & change for the better.  Learning about NPD squelches that hope completely.  That is a tough pill to swallow!

Facing these ugly truths absolutely can cause a person to grieve, & it’s extremely painful.  It’s also difficult to understand because of the limited view of grief that most people have.  How can you grieve when the person in question is still alive?!  Well, it’s surprisingly easy to do actually.

When my father died in October, 2017, I didn’t cry.  I cry easily especially when losing someone I love, but I didn’t cry.   I barely have felt sad at all since he’s been gone.  No doubt any of my family that may be reading this thinks it’s because I’m a cold, evil person, but that isn’t the case.  It’s because I grieved him enough when he was alive that his death didn’t have a very profound effect on me.  And you know something?  Many other adult children of narcissistic parents I’ve spoken with have said that they felt the same exact thing when their parent died.

Unconventional grief can be incredibly difficult, but you can get through it.

Pray & pray often.  You will need the wisdom, guidance & comfort of God to get through this.

Don’t judge your emotions.  Accept them.  Examine them without judgement or criticism.  Feel them.  Pray, talk or write about them to cope with them.

Anger is an especially common part of this sort of grief.  If you feel a lot of anger, it’s normal!  I know, you probably grew up like most of us with narcissistic parents did, believing you aren’t allowed to be angry.  Stop that now!  Why are you angry?  Face it head on & deal with your feelings.  The pain will lose its power over you if you face it.

You also may start to remember only the good times.  They are good to remember, but don’t forget the bad as well.  Embrace the good & heal from the bad.

Write in a journal.  Writing is very cathartic, plus it will help you to have documentation.  You may even decide that you enjoy writing, & opt to start a blog or write a book.

Find online support groups & websites.  Learning that others are experiencing similar things to you is very helpful.

Don’t expect this grief to end entirely.  It will get better, but it may never end entirely. It’s like losing a loved one- you grieve most right after the person died, but even many years later, the pain is still there, just not as intense as it was at first.

If you’re experiencing unconventional grief, Dear Reader, know you aren’t alone.  You can survive this!  It will take hard work & won’t be easy, but you can do it!


Filed under Abuse and the Healing Journey, Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Mental Health, Narcissism

9 responses to “Unconventional Grief

  1. Linda Lee/@LadyQuixote

    Cynthia, this post is so brilliant. It’s hard to imagine that you have any kind of brain damage at all! But I know that’s how the brain works, certain areas remain perfectly functional, while another area may go completely offline, so to speak.

    Unconditional grief. Yes, that’s what I have gone through over my mother. I can’t imagine that I will feel much when she dies, because I have already felt it all. When my dad died, on the other hand, I had not yet faced the fact that our relationship was unrepairable, so the grief of that resolution never being able to happen hit me very hard.

    My husband’s mother died one year after we were married. I had never met her and I knew nothing about her — he had spoken very little about her to me — so when he got the news that she had died, it shocked me that my normally deeply caring husband had no emotions, no discernible reaction at all. Since then, however, I have learned about what his mother was like from my stepdaughter and my sister-in-law, and yeah, that woman was a narcissist and a half.

    When his mom died in 2005, I asked my husband if he felt sad? He said no, that he had already lost his mother years before. It totally makes sense to me now, but at the time I found his lack of grief a little scary!

    I love your blog, Cynthia. 😊

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so very much! You’re very sweet!

      Unfortunately, that’s the brain for ya. My father had a near fatal brain injury at 15, yet he went on to become a master machinist. If you’d asked him what he did yesterday morning though, he would’ve had no idea. The brain is such a strange thing, isn’t it? Fascinating too.

      Very understandable how you felt when your father died & how you don’t know what you’ll feel when your mom dies. With narcissistic parents, you can have a pretty good idea what is coming, but even so, you can’t be fully prepared. Honestly, I’ve been having a tough time with my father’s death as it’s been 1 year now, but even so, I can’t pinpoint why or what I feel. It’s so strange, grieving narcissists.

      I can understand that.. to see someone who is normally loving & caring seemingly not care or grieve, that’s so odd! It makes sense though- he had lost her a long time before. So very sad..

      Thank you for saying you love my blog. ❤

      Liked by 2 people

      • Linda Lee/@LadyQuixote

        I really do love your blog. I was going through a rough time awhile back, my PTSD was triggered by something I read on another blog, and I seriously considered just ending my WP account and never reading another blog again. Then I thought, I can’t do that, I would miss Cynthia’s blog too much! I like some other blogs too, but your is the first one I thought of. Your blog saved the day!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. This piece is filled with truth and good advice. But what struck me the most is your attitude about anger. Most people either shy away from it or let it rule them. But anger was built into us by God, and it serves an important purpose as a response to injustice of all sorts. There’s nothing wrong with anger about the way we were abused. It’s a natural, normal response to abuse and neglect. And as long as our response to anger isn’t to take revenge or to be self-destructive we don’t have to suppress or deny it. And about mourning I don’t know for certain how I’ll respond when my mother passes away. I’m already mourning never having had a normal, loving, mother-daughter relationship, as well as the loss of my relationships with my siblings and their children. On some days it still really bothers me, while on others it’s less intense. I’m stuck between the natural, normal longing we all have for belonging to a family and the need to protect myself from abuse. It’s unnatural and that’s why it’s so painful for us even after going NC.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thank you, Suzanne!

    I totally agree with what you said about anger, When I first became a Christian & for years, I heard people quote “Don’t let the sun go down on your anger” & say that means you can’t feel anger. If you do, you’re a sinner. It kept me stuffing anger as I always had. Eventually I began seeing things as you do- it’s from God & there’s nothing wrong with anger itself. It’s a good warning that something is very wrong & normal after abuse. You can forgive someone & still feel anger at their actions. God’s also been working on me to face it head on so I can heal from whatever caused it.

    I can tell you, it’s going to be hard when your mom passes. Not the normal hard either. In a sense it’ll be easier because you’ve grieved so long already, but mostly it’ll be harder simply because the feelings are so much more complex. You’ll need plenty of love & support on top of staying close to God.

    And yes, it’s so unnatural which is why it’s all so hard! You got that right!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. MamaBearOfABlendedFamily

    I love this post! My husband and I are currently grieving many a things, separately as well as combined. Child custody, parental Alienation, and narcissistic abuse from the mother is much of what currently hangs over us. My husband has grieved two jobs in this last year and we’ve moved three times. There’s been a lot of grief.

    But your post hit me differently because it really hit so many points with me. I grew up with a narcissistic mother and maternal family. I watched my siblings grow up accepting this way of life, and I last year went complete no contact with my mother. Moved, twice, changed our phone numbers and blocked emails type of no contact.

    I grieve not having a mother, but knowing she is out and about living her life without us in it is refreshing to me. Especially since she knows not where to find us. I grieved the loss, absence rather, during multiple phases of my life. So not having her or the family in our lives is actually so much easier. As sad as it sounds.

    Liked by 1 person

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