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!
Good afternoon, Dear Readers!
A little while ago, I read about Brittany Maynard, the termanilly ill young woman who chose assisted suicide. Something popped into my mind..
It is amazing that people are calling her brave & strong & other such positive things, yet if someone who lives with depression, PTSD/C-PTSD or another mental illness commits suicide, they are labeled such terrible things as selfish or cowardly. I don’t understand what the difference is.
First off, I just want to say that I am not passing any judgement on Ms. Maynard. Honestly, I can’t say I wouldn’t have done the same in her situation. No one knows what they would do unless in the situation. What I am saying is what makes people call her brave for opting to end her life rather than face the pain & suffering of a horrible disease, yet label someone who is depressed enough to want to end their suffering through suicide is a selfish coward? Neither person wants to suffer any longer. Both are tired of the pain.
It just breaks my heart, the lack of empathy & compassion in the world. They also seem to be very selective on the rare occasion they do show up. In fact, there is a line in the movie, “John Q” that comes to my mind often. If you don’t know the movie, it is a great one! Denzel Washington plays the father of a young boy in need of a heart transplant. He & his wife don’t have proper insurance to cover the procedure, & he holds several people hostage in the hospital out of desperation. The police are called in to try to talk him into releasing the hostages safely. The negotiator, played by Robert Duvall, tells him, “Do you think these people (the crowd & tv crews) really care? You’re just the cause of the moment!” That statement is so true! People are so fickle! They may support a cause passionately, but as soon as something else comes up, the first cause will be abandoned.
Anyway, back to the original topic. Choosing to end one’s life isn’t selfish or cowardly. it simply means someone is tired of pain & wants to avoid further suffering. It also doesn’t mean that person is weak. Any person can only handle so much suffering before wanting an end to it. I urge you to have compassion on those who are considering suicide rather than pass judgement. If you know someone is suicidal, talk to her! Show her gentleness, love & understanding. Maybe all she needs to know is that someone cares. Maybe showing her that you care will help her to choose not to take her life.
If it’s you that is contemplating suicide, please know I understand what you are going through! I’m so sorry that you are in such a terrible place! Please reach out to someone for help- a non-judgmental friend or relative , your pastor, a counselor or even the National Suicide Prevention Hotline. Most of all, reach out to God! Tell Him how you feel, & allow Him to help you. The world would not be the same place without you! You are a special, unique person & the world needs you! Please think very carefully & reach out for help before doing anything rash! xoxo
Good morning, Dear Readers!
I read something this morning. It said it’s best not to say “It’ll get better. You need to move on” to someone who is depressed; instead say, “It’s ok to be sad.” While this makes sense to me, I got to thinking- there are plenty of things that those of us struggling with depression, anxiety, PTSD or C-PTSD do NOT need to hear. I hope writing them here will help you to respond to others when they say these things to you. And, unfortunately someone will say something hurtful or invalidating to you. Even the most well-meaning people slip up sometimes. No human is perfect!
-“Get over it.” “Stop feeling sorry for yourself.” Cold, heartless statements like this are very shaming, & there should be no shame in having a mental illness any more than in having a physical illness. “Is there anything I can do to help you?” is a much better thing to say!
-“Yanno, *insert name here* has it way worse than you. You should be grateful you didn’t go through what she did!” This only makes a person feel guilty for being depressed or having PTSD because that other person survived worse things than you did. No one should feel guilty for struggling with a mental disorder! Ever! Instead, offering support without judgement is a MUCH better alternative!
-“I wish you would smile more often.” News flash- you’re not the only one! Mental illness is miserable! Smiling is a hard thing to do when going through a depressive episode or PTSD/C-PTSD is flaring up! How about instead offering reassurance that she isn’t crazy or bad or whatever she may be feeling?
-“Life can be hard.” While this is true, this hurts! It makes a person feel like she doesn’t matter. Make sure she knows she *does* matter instead!
-“You just need to think more positive/pray more often.” “Happiness is a choice.” “Christians don’t have mental illness!” While there is great power in prayer & positive thinking, mental illnesses are just that- illnesses. God certainly is able to deliver you suddenly from any situation, however, I believe He prefers to walk with us through the situation. Remember Psalm 23? “Yea, though I walk THROUGH the valley of the shadow of death..” Going through things offers us great wisdom & experience which can help other people who are going through similar situations. Sudden deliverance is nice, but it doesn’t teach anything. Going through trying, painful times has a purpose! How about instead offering to pray or with her??
-“I had a bad childhood too, but I just don’t think about it.” Well goody for you. If that works for you, fine, but some of us experienced brutal abuse that we can’t forget, as much as we might like to. Although we don’t think about it voluntarily, we still experience nightmares, flashbacks, & intrusive memories even though we would like never to have such things again. The past just doesn’t want to let us go, even though we have done our best to let it go. Understanding that & the frustration we feel over it would go a long way!
-“You just need to find the right medication & you’ll be fine.” Not necessarily true! While sometimes anxiety & depression are basically simple malfunctions in the brain that can be fixed with medication, more often they are instead connected to abuse in one’s past. This means while the right medications may help some, counseling & other treatments are needed, especially if they are connected to PTSD/C-PTSD. How about learning about your loved one’s mental illness & the treatments involved instead?
-“You just need to get out more.” Really?? Many of us with PTSD/C-PTSD have agoraphobia, & leaving home only causes more anxiety. Anyone who knows even a little about PTSD/C-PTSD understands this. Again, learn about your loved one’s disorder.
Thank you so much to everyone for your support & kind words this past week. Losing my sweet Georgie then my aunt four days later has been really rough.
Grieving is always painful & difficult, but it’s even harder for me since the C-PTSD fully developed two years ago. C-PTSD seems to exaggerate the normal grief depression, & my anxiety levels are very high. My short term memory is worse than usual, & I’m having more trouble than usual finding words. Just getting through each day is a challenge, because frankly, I’d rather crawl into bed & not come out for a long time. And, tomorrow, I have to drive my father & I an hour one way to my aunt’s memorial service. That doesn’t help the anxiety! I haven’t driven this or any busy highway in probably eight years, so yes, I am panicky.
In spite of how I feel, though, I know God will keep enabling me to get through this hard time. I’m grateful for that. I don’t know how I’d survive right now if it wasn’t for God in my life. He’s even helped me to make some progress on my new book about narcissistic mothers. Usually when I’m grieving or the C-PTSD is flaring up, I can’t work. It’s awesome to me I’ve been able to work at all this past week.
And, the funny part is, I haven’t been praying as much as usual. I withdraw from everyone, even God, during bad times. Thankfully, He understands that, & obviously loves & cares for me anyway.
God is so good! He is so loving, gentle, understanding & kind. If you haven’t thanked God for His love today, I’d like to encourage you to do so now. If you aren’t feeling loved for some reason, then think about what has been going on in your life lately. I bet you can think of little ways that God has shown He loves you. If not, ask Him to show you. And, when you see those things, let Him know how grateful you are. It not only pleases God to hear that, but it makes you feel good, too. A grateful heart, aware of God’s blessings & unfailing love, is a happy heart. It also strengthens you to make it through the hard times, which is what’s happening with me right now.
Good afternoon, Dear Readers!
Today has not been a good day. My mind has been wandering all over the place. Sometimes it’s like a browser with about 50 tabs that keep opening & closing at random. Annoying doesn’t even begin to describe it… but I thought I would share some of my random thoughts with you in the hopes that maybe something will help you as well.
The holidays.. God forgive me, I absolutely hate the entire holiday season. It feels strange to feel this way- I am all about being thankful for the blessings in life (not just on Thanksgiving day) & celebrating Jesus- but I hate the holidays. I have been out of my parents’ home since 1990, & in these last 23 holiday seasons, I could count the number of enjoyable holidays I’ve had on one hand. Most of them have been lonely &/or miserable. Many spent with people I’d rather not be with. As a result, I admit it- I’ve gotten bitter. I just don’t want to be bothered with celebrating. I would much rather just enjoy a quiet day relaxing, maybe watching movies on tv or going out to dinner. Because of this, I have had a lot of people tell me how wrong I am, how i need to lighten up, let go of the past, etc etc. I used to beat myself up because this is something I can’t seem to shake, no matter how hard I try to start new traditions or get into the holiday spirit. I’ve finally realized that it’s ok. I have overcome a lot of abusive, hurtful things in my life- maybe this “Grinch” attitude will be one of those things at some point, but for now, it isn’t.
I think a lot of people are like me. For whatever reason, you just aren’t a fan of the whole holiday season. I just wanted to tell you to stop beating yourself up over it! If you can’t seem to change your disdain, it’s ok! There are quite a few of us out there.
I’ve found some things that helped me a little at least:
There are people, too, who get depressed during the winter months. If that describes you, you may have Seasonal Affective Disorder. SAD is caused by the lack of sunlight during the shorter winter days. It isn’t necessarily the holidays that depress you, but the lack of sunlight. Then, all of the work, hustle & bustle of the holidays seem like even more work, which depresses you further. If that describes you, there are ways to cope with SAD. A mental health professional can prescribe anti-depressants that you take during the winter months. Or, if you prefer natural remedies like I do, St. John’s wort & Sam-E (both available in pill form) are wonderful alternatives. Valerian root (also available in pill form) & lemon balm are very helpful for combating anxiety.
Whatever the cause of your dislike of the holiday season, there are ways to cope with it, & possibly get rid of your dislike.
I hope this post helps you! God bless you! 🙂