Based on my years of experience working with clients in my psychotherapy and coaching practices, the FSA survivor’s experience of disenfranchised grief is associated with (but not limited to) the following circumstances:
The Importance of Recognizing Our Grief as FSA Survivors
Many people are familiar with Kubler-Ross’s ‘Five Stages of Grief’, which are:
This model of understanding healing from losses has been challenged over the years for a variety of reasons, including the implication that the grief process is linear. I agree that these stages are not linear – we could move in and out of any of these states at any time. When assessing a new FSA recovery client, however, I can get a feel during the first session where they are in their healing journey in regard to all that has happened to them, which can be a critical aspect of recovering from chronic family abuse. Note: For an insightful commentary on the grieving process, please visit David Kessler’s website – He co-authored books on grief and grieving with Kubler-Ross and addresses misunderstandings commonly associated with her original model (which, as Kessler emphasizes, has evolved over time).
I find many new FSA recovery clients hover between denial and bargaining. They simply can’t believe that the mistreatment they have experienced within their family qualifies as mental and emotional abuse. Some clients are well beyond the denial stage and are able to easily access their justifiable sense of ‘righteous anger’ and will be drawn to self-help books, online forums and social media content that allows them to freely express their outrage and pain over what may have been years of parental / family abuse.
It should also be noted that because many FSA survivors are simultaneously suffering from symptoms of complex trauma (see my article on FSA Survivors and C-PTSD), the process of grieving and accepting what may be years of chronic, repetitive abuse from parents and other family members can become particularly complicated, which I shall be addressing in a future article.
While each person’s recovery journey is unique, I have found both personally and as a clinician that if grief and the idea of grieving is avoided, deep and lasting healing from the trauma of family scapegoating abuse can be difficult to achieve. Doka’s concept of ‘disenfranchised grief’ has therefore been a gift to many of my FSA recovery clients, for within his descriptions of isolation and loss, they often find a critical aspect of their own experiences of isolation and loss.
If you related to anything in this article, I’d love to hear from you in the comments. What you share may help others in their own recovery!
Have you been impacted by Family Scapegoating Abuse (FSA)? Find out more by visiting my website (link included in my profile, below, along with a link to purchase my introductory eBook on FSA. -Rebecca).
You are welcome to reprint this post with the following attribution:
Rebecca C. Mandeville, MFT, specializes in recovering from the negative effects of being raised in dysfunctional / abusive family systems. She served as Core Faculty at the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology and is a pioneer in defining and describing what she named (for research purposes) Family Scapegoating Abuse (FSA). Today she focuses on helping family scapegoating abuse survivors navigate the unique challenges they face.
Doka, K. J. (Ed.). (1989). Disenfranchised grief: Recognizing hidden sorrow.
Lexington, MA: Lexington.
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