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Grieving Over the Narcissists I Loved and Left

“I’m so over him / her,” combined with a flippant head wag and finger snap seems to be the prevailing sentiment amongst those who have gone No Contact. They may have left a narcissistic husband, wife, boyfriend or girlfriend. Often, they’re No Contact with their mother, father, siblings and heartbreakingly, sometimes even their own children.

Their prevailing sentiment is anger, a secondary emotion.

But where is the grief!? I mean, hello! We’ve lost the most important relationships in our lives! It’s like a death. Surely there must also be grief.

Shame, Shame and More Shame

Up until last week, I was deeply ashamed by how much I grieved for those I’d chosen to go No Contact with. Everyone else seemed to be “so over” the Personality Disordered people in their lives. The abuse they endured seemed to have killed their love. They were more enlightened than me. They didn’t struggle with Stockholm Syndrome.

So I felt shame, yet again. Shame for being weak. Shame for not being reasonable and allowing abuse to kill my love. Shame for having Stockholm Syndrome. Shame for struggling with denial. Shame for being un-enlightened.

It’s OK to Love

It was a conversation with my husband that put things straight. “Of course you love {fill-in-the-blank},” he said. “It’s only natural. They’re you’re family. You don’t just stop loving them.”

That helped. A lot.

He was corroborated by what Madeleine Landau Tobias and Janja Lalich wrote about grief in their excellent book Captive Hearts, Captive Minds: Freedom and Recovery from Cults and Other Abusive Relationships. As you know from this week’s trending article, I consider narcissism to be a kind-of cult. The dynamics are the same!

In Chapter 22, they tell of a six-year-old girl, “Ganga,” who was rescued from a cult by her parents after they themselves escaped. Before her rescue, the cult had been her only family. Her parents said, “It took months before she let herself cry and feel her intense grief at losing her first family [the cult].”

Finally, there was a precedent for missing the very people who nearly ruined my life. Finally, I could stop fighting my emotions and stop feeling ashamed for loving my abusers.

Good Memories

For some people, there isn’t one good memory of their Personality Disordered family. Not one!

But for many of us, we do have good memories. Honest-to-goodness good times. Special moments. Hearty laughs.

These good memories probably date from the time before we were devalued. Perhaps it was when the narcissist was first charming and romancing us. Or it was when we were still un-threatening children prior to hitting puberty and the inherent devaluing that goes along with growing up and attempting independence.

Realizing that the person we loved has NPD, covert narcissism or any personality disorder doesn’t erase the good times. The past is always there, both the good and the bad. No amount of “magical thinking” will change it.

Nor does realizing that we can no longer have our family in our lives automatically switch off our love for them anymore than a diagnosis of cancer would make us stop loving them. If it did, well, we’d be pretty shallow, wouldn’t we? But that doesn’t mean we should stick around to take more abuse. No! We did the right thing by leaving and going No Contact.

Sobbing

I’m finally allowing myself to grieve deeply over losing my mother when I went No Contact with the entire family. Mother and I were incredibly close, too close really. But she showed me how to enjoy being a girl and celebrate my femininity. Whatever crumbs of self-esteem I have, I owe to her love and praise. She always made me feel so loved and so special. When I was little, she decked me out with jewelry and painted my nails “Pearly Pink.” When we went shopping, she bought mint ice cream cones, beef burritos and huge Pixie Sticks just to make me smile. It was Mom who was always calling, “Lenora, c’mere! You gotta see this sunrise.” She showed me how to iron Autumn leaves between sheets of wax paper and cut paper into a ruffly snowflake. Mom demonstrated how to appreciate beauty, introduced me to good poetry and spun records for me in the ’80s. She kissed my boo-boo’s and dried my tears. She was my god, my everything…for far too long.

But that’s just one side of story, the side that I’m finally grieving with gut-wrenching sobs.

The other side of the story steels my resolve to remain No Contact.

Go Ahead. Grieve Already!

The worst mistake I’ve made in my healing journey was refusing to grieve. My recovery has been delayed by my dry eyes and stiff upper lip. Pretending to be “so over them,” lacking self-empathy and the inability to cry screwed me over. Unfortunately, the primary emotion of grief metamorphosed into the secondary emotion of anger…anger at myself for being such a horrible person that I’d abandon such a wonderful family.

Of course, that’s bullshit. I’m not the villain in this story. I bore thirty years of narcissistic nonsense with a mandated smile, for goodness’ sakes!

In Chapter 8, Captive Hearts Captive Minds has this to say about the grief of leaving a cult, but it’s the same for leaving the exclusivity and isolation of a narcissistic relationship or family.

“After you lose the group environment, the sense of belonging, innocence, your belief system, family and friends, and feelings of pride, it is no wonder that you may feel a deep sadness. Unsettling questions may surface: ‘If I’m so glad to be out of the group, why do I miss it?’ or ‘How can I weep for the loss of something so horrid?’ The worst thing to do in the face of this enormous loss is to ignore it or push it aside.

Remember this: there was nothing wrong with your commitment. What was wrong was that your commitment was turned against you and exploited. The mourning is for you as much as for the group. Your grief is justified and righteous, and your healing will be swifter if you allow yourself to feel the grief. There must have been good moments, good people and good feelings, and it is normal to mourn their loss.

Do not let your sense of grief push you back into the group, or into another situation where you will be similarly abused. Remember, whatever good there may have been is most certainly outweighed by the lack of freedom, the exploitation, and the abuse your experienced. Let yourself grieve-then, move on to integrate the experience and rebuild your life…your own life.”

Now go grab a hanky and let those tears fall! You’ll feel better after allowing yourself to finally grieve!

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Grieving Over the Narcissists I Loved and Left

Lenora Thompson

Lenora Thompson is a syndicated Huffington Post and YourTango freelance writer and entrepreneur. Her readers call her the "Edward Snowden" and "Wikileaks" of narcissism because of her no-holds-barred-take-no-prisoners approach to writing about narcissism. “Narcissism Meets Normalcy” is the real-life, ongoing story of her healing journey from being held “hostage” by a multi-generational, cult-like narcissistic family. It's gritty and real, bloody and bruised, humorous and sarcastic. Lenora Thompson considers herself a “whistleblower,” shining a spotlight on narcissistic abuse so others can also claim their freedom and experience healing. To learn more about Lenora, subscribe to her bi-weekly e-newsletter, contribute to help her husband fight his extremely rare lung disease, Pulmonary Alveolar Proteinosis and shop her e-store, please visit www.lenorathompsonwriter.com.


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APA Reference
Thompson, L. (2016). Grieving Over the Narcissists I Loved and Left. Psych Central. Retrieved on June 22, 2018, from https://blogs.psychcentral.com/narcissism/2016/12/grieving-over-the-narcissists-i-loved-and-left/

 

Last updated: 30 Dec 2016
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 30 Dec 2016
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.