When we hear the term grief, I think most people think of the horrible pain of losing someone you love. The sense of loss, the depression because you know you will not be able to pick up the phone and call that person any time you like, the emptiness left behind once that person passes away. When someone you love dies, you know that you are going to go through the grief process, and it is necessary and normal.
Grief is also necessary and normal when you experience painful situations in your life, such as a divorce, losing a long time relationship or friendship or even the loss of your childhood due to being abused.
Grieving the loss of your childhood, the parents yours were unable to be and any other pain stemming from being abused as a child is a very necessary part of emotional healing. It gives you more peace, and also makes you more capable of dealing with your narcissistic parents when you need to. Going through the grief process enables you to live without the advantages of a happy, healthy childhood that many people have. It means you have accepted the fact you did not have that, while at the same time not making the abuse you endured OK.
In my experience, I have learned that even though I went through the grief process, sometimes I still get sad. It is much like grieving the loss of a loved one. You process the painful loss, learn to live as best you can without that special person, then one day something reminds you of him or her. A scent, or a song perhaps takes you back to a time with that loved one, and you cry. Unfortunately, some things in life are so painful that no matter how well you deal with them, they always will hurt to a degree. Being abused by a parent who was supposed to love you unconditionally and care for you is one of those things.
I believe there are seven stages of grief. Not everyone experiences all seven or experiences them in the same order, but this gives a basic idea of what many people experience:
- Denial. You cannot believe how bad things were. Learning just how wrong what was done to you truly was is extremely hard to comprehend. You feel immense disbelief.
- Pain and/or guilt. It is becoming more real to you, and it really hurts. It feels overwhelming. You also may feel guilty for being angry with your parents (most abused children were raised to believe they are not allowed to be angry with them), or for failing to protect your younger siblings if you have them.
- The rage kicks in. You feel things such as, “How dare they do this to me!” “How could they be so cruel/cold/hateful/evil?”
- Depression and loneliness.You begin to feel sorry for yourself. After all, you went through so much pain and suffering! You were not allowed to have a normal childhood, or be a normal kid who enjoyed life. You feel as if no one understands what you went through, and no one has experienced the things you have. This stage often takes the longest.
- Moving on.The depression starts to lift.
- Healing. You begin to look for things that can help you heal, such as reading self-help books, you begin to keep a diary, you start talking to safe and supportive people, seeking out a counselor.
- Acceptance. When you can say that you were abused by your parent(s) without feeling anger or shame.
When you are going through the grief process, you may go back and forth through a few stages several times. There is nothing wrong with that, so don’t be surprised if that happens.
You also may skip some steps or experience them in a different order. It is ok! Everyone grieves differently.
How do you go through this very difficult grieving process?
I have found a close relationship with God is the most important and helpful thing. Unlike with people, you can go to God anytime. You can tell him anything you think or feel without fear of judgment. He will comfort you as no one else can.
If you have someone you can talk to as well, that will help. You need someone supportive, caring and non-judgmental. If you prefer, a grief counselor may be helpful to you.
I find writing to be very helpful as well. Whether you write in a nice journal or use a word processing program or diary website isn’t important. Just get your feelings out. Later reading over what you have written may help you, too. You can measure your progress, which will encourage you.
Also, do not stifle your feelings. Acknowledge them, do not judge them, and let them out in a healthy way. You have been through some very bad things – it is ok to be angry or hurt about the things that have happened to you or to feel sad that your childhood was lost. In time, you will be able to heal from those feelings, and yes, even eventuallyforgive your abusive parent.