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Delayed/complicated Grief Coming Up...

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I wasn't sure whether to post this entry under "Loss of a love relationship" or "Loss of a parent." Please comment. Thank you!

I am posting because tonight I voiced to my partner that I really need to be alone. I told her that ever since my father died 7 years ago (I have not grieved) I have hid behind relationships for security... (I never realized I was doing this). Truth is, I realize the pattern now... I am painfully aware of it, and cannot turn back.

I do not know if I am a love addict. It may simply be that I have unresolved grief. I have not grieved my father, and it's been 7 years... I am starting to feel massive amounts of it. I broke down tonight when I talked to my partner about leaving the relationship (We live together; breaking up would make us exclusively friends) because in so many ways now I realize that I will have to grieve the loss of my father AND all of the relationships that I have been in and lost (not peacefully).

I never knew how a loss so large could effect so much of my life... especially a loss that occurred 7 years ago. I realize that I never got over my father's death, but still... to think that all of these relationships and the grief associated with them has accumulated shocks me. I am surprised that I haven't been able to grieve any of them either. PTSD? I don't know... all I know is that since I lost my first imago (Jen) since after my father, I have not been the same person... I stopped trusting, slowly, but altogether.

I feel like in many ways now I am my own worst enemy, and I am imprisoned. I feel like I cannot get outside of myself because I cannot feel my grief... the grief comes out in spurts maybe once every month or two for but 30 minute increments. It's frustrating.

Anyway, my partner and I have decided to "sleep on it" and figure out later what to do about our relationship, but it was pretty much decided on that we will no longer be together. We both know that we need to be friends and would be much better off as friends. We never started a friendship from the beginning and should have... the thing is, (and this breaks my heart), I fear that she will not give me another chance in the future --near or far, because of the negativity that prolonged in our relationship for the time in which it did.

Early in our relationship the trust was shattered, and I never got over the hurt... I was hurt not only once, but twice, and I haven't been able to shake it since... anyway, as a result of my being hurt, my behavior changed, and I became rigid and a tight ass. To say the least, for someone so free-spirited as my partner, I think it really wore her down... There's a lot to be sorted out-through in regards to this, but that is all I know and can say for now.

I just wanted to write and share my feelings of fear and sadness in regards to the loss of this relationship and how now I am afraid that I might have to face the last 7 years of grief from MULTIPLE relationships beginning with the very first, my father... I am terrified and beyond devastated.

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You have two separate issues going on, although they may be related...one, the loss of your father, the other, the breakup with your current partner. You may wish to post about each of them separately in the related areas.

It might be advisable to get some help regarding the loss of your father from a grief counselor, particularly since it's been so long and you haven't allowed yourself to grieve. It might help you uncover why you haven't grieved before now and how to best get it out. There are support groups in most areas that you could join also. The main thing is in recognizing the loss, remembering, acknowledging, expressing, and releasing.

The other is the issue of your current relationship. You say you have been through many relationships in recent years...you mentioned the concern that you may be addicted to love...that is certainly one possibility. Have you looked in to that? There is much good help on line in explaining what that is. Again, counseling might be in order to help you understand your life patterns and help you learn to develop healthier ways of living. Most people do not dissolve their current relationship in an effort to grieve a loss from the past...most people would welcome the support of their partner in dealing with that grief and loss. It is only for you and your partner to decide if it is best to go your own separate ways or to work through what needs to be dealt with in the relationship. While grief is something we must do on our own, we can enlist the support of others. It sounds like you have some issues in your current relationship that would need to be addressed and worked through if you decided to salvage it. I hate to sound redundant, but again, a counselor could be of assistance in helping you do that. You haven't exactly mentioned why you feel you need to let go of this relationship in order to grieve your father, and perhaps it has nothing to do with that, perhaps you just feel it's time to deal with everything you've put off dealing with. This is a good place to come to for support, suggestions, or even just venting, but it sounds like your situation might warrant something more extensive in addition. I wish you the best in both of your endeavors.

Marty, any suggestions???

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Dear Emily,

Since your status with your current partner seems to be your current and most pressing issue, I think this may be the most appropriate place for this particular post, which is why I've deleted the messages you posted last night in our other forums, since those posts were exact duplicates of this one.

Having read all that you've posted on our site since you first joined us (including your "About Me" statement on your profile page) and having visited your Web site as well, I can only echo what Kay has said to you already. Of course you are most welcome to continue obtaining whatever information, comfort and support we are able to give you in an online discussion group such as this one. Nevertheless, I agree with Kay that, given your complicated family history and the multiple losses you've experienced in the last few years, as well as your current situation, your needs would be best addressed in some sort of face-to-face counseling, whether that is in an in-person support group or in therapy with someone who specializes in grief, loss and transition (or both). The grief work that lies before you shouldn't be done alone, and each of the losses you've endured deserves to be mourned separately.

In his amazing book A Grief Disguised: How the Soul Grows through Loss, Jerry Sittser writes:

I learned early on that I did not even have the luxury or convenience of mourning the loss of my loved ones as a group. Instead, I had to mourn them as separate individuals. As my grief over one loss would subside, grief over another would emerge. If it was not one birthday I wanted to celebrate, it was another. If one piece of music awakened sorrow for [my wife] Lynda, another would awaken sorrow for [my daughter] Diana or my mother. I had to face what felt like one wave of sorrow after another. I could not get away from it, no matter what I tried. The pain was relentless, like midday heat in the Sahara (p. 45).

Harriet Hodgson makes the same point in her article, Multiple Losses: Start with the Pain.

I also encourage you to read as much as you can about what is normal in grief so you will better understand your reactions and what you can do yourself to manage them. See some of the resources listed on the Death of a Parent and Death of a Relationship pages of my Grief Healing Web site.

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Sometimes I think that when we grieve deeply, we revisit and re-grieve previous losses. If we were lucky enough to get to a place where we were able to come to a comfortable place within us about the previous losses, we can draw on that to help get to a better place.....but if the previous losses have not really been resolved, I think it complicates things and makes the task of healing so much harder.

I also think that making big changes when you are so upset may be a mistake. But that is just an opinion....Take care.

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  • 2 weeks later...

That is a good point. When my husband George died, I heard so many times "Do not make any major changes in the first year"...really, I'd have to say it'd be better to give it even longer than that. (I rushed into a marriage 1 1/2 years later only to regret it, and all it did was further complicate things.) One of the things I try to do when deciding about a relationship is see how it is in the whole scheme of things...if it generally works well and you've hit a bump, maybe stick it out through the bump time and see how it goes.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I am sorry it has taken me so long to get back to everyone... I checked this post a few times the day after I posted and didn't hear back from anyone, and so I sort of just closed the tab. Anyway, I am re-reading former posts now. I would like to update everyone and let them know that I am scheduled to see a few counselors within the next 2 weeks. I will pick a counselor at that point.

The question I would like to speak aloud right now and address is the question of "How can I maintain my independence and still live with someone (ie, them and their family)?" Assuming that my only option right now is to live with another because I cannot live on my own for various reasons. I mean, do I just "suck it up" so-to-speak and know that some day I will get back on my feet? The unknown, the fear of "What if" eats me up.

It is SO hard for me to rely on people and to admit that I need help. It feels weak and even threatening... Where does this come from? I am afraid... of maybe being shut out again. Thrown out in the cold, whether it be emotionally or physically? Unwanted? I have never been able to trust anyone, and so it's hard to trust again. Nevertheless, I am able to admit defeat and to admit that I need help, but then it becomes a matter of "How do I get others to understand I need help?

The situation right now is that I can stay in Vermont here with my former partner, Erin, as roommates and deplete my checking account, or I can move in with my biological father for the very first time... Going back to my alcoholic and abusive family is not an option. The third option is going with Erin to PA to live with her family and paying them a small amount for renting a room. Erin and I would obviously decide what to do with our relationship then.

I just feel (this sounds awful) helpless in many ways... because I feel like either way I compromise my independence. The truth is, I am very happy in Vermont, but what I am living off of is checking account. Since my grief is coming up from 6 years ago, it's causing me to have difficulty working in the 9-5. The 9-5 physical exhausts me, and my body cannot handle it full-time. I am not sure if this is because of the current living situation, with all of the excessive worry, etc, or if it's because of my PTSD and long trauma history? ...or simply that the grief unexpressed from 6 years ago is coming up 3-fold.

Regardless, I am afraid right now, and I do not want to compromise ANY of my independence, but it seems to be that I will have to in some way, and either way I lose. I guess I am angry that this grief is coming up... resentful, though I know it needs to happen, and I am trying to be non-jugmental of it. It's very hard to get others around me to understand because they say it's 6 years ago and it doesn't "count." They don't realize I never grieved finding my father dead... They also don't understand PTSD or just trauma in general and the effects of it.

I feel like most of my life I have been trying to get people to understand... validation, over and over again, and the only damn people that understand are my 12-step group. Still, if I can't live here, then I will have to relocate to yet another 12-step community... I don't want this. I want stability and consistency. This is very hard for me. I feel like there is so very little support for trauma survivors... I know that when I get on my feet I will do my best to create resources for individuals like myself so that they can get the help they need, because we all deserve it. No one deserves to self themselves short of their life potential. I will give back to what's been given to me if I can just get the validation... And please don't say that I must validate myself, because that is not the case when it comes to grief...

It is very important during grief that we have people around us to fully support us. Unfortunately I have not had that. Now, with what little nest I have built around me, it may be taken away from me if I have to move... I will have to start all over again... it just seems so exhausting...

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To your question...I don't believe one maintains their independence while they are dependent upon another. And yes, interdependence, and love, can make us vulnerable in that we risk rejection...but the converse is that we never let in love, never risk anything, and never enrich our lives with the blessings of involvement with others...and that, to me, is just too barren to contemplate.

You already have a relationship with Erin...it is too late to step back and say "I'm not sure I should get involved" because you already ARE involved...at this point you have one of three options with your partner...you can break it off, you can change the relationship, or you can continue working on it and make it the best you can make of it. Sometimes one person wants to change the relationship and the other doesn't, if that is the case, you have to accept that the other person may not want to "part friends" which is presuming and expecting a lot of another...sometimes it's hard to step backwards and let it be less than it was.

It is pretty hard to use Erin's family for a place to stay while breaking off with her altogether...they may find that a presumption and not wish to allow that to continue.

You have the other option of going to your dad...this may or may not be a good time to pick up on trying to establish a relationship that has been lacking for whatever reasons in the past. You have a lot on your plate right now to work through, do you really think you have what you need to put into yet another relationship right now at this time? It might be tipping the scale, so to speak.

You have not said why you are not self-supporting, but that would seem to me to be the best option...is there some reason you can't take a job and support yourself instead of relying on others to take up the gap? It seems a better option than depleting your savings or living with someone's family that you wish to break off with or starting up yet another relationship that you don't know how it will go, when you still have grief and decisions to work through in your life.

I earnestly look forward to hearing from you once your counseling has begun...these all would be good issues to bring up to your counselor...they don't make decisions for you, but rather would help you to see all of the things you need to see clearly in order to arrive at your own best decision. All of these are things that only you can decide. The fact that you are looking at different things from different angles tells me that you know this is not simple and there are others to consider. I wish you the best in arriving at the best answers for yourself, and wish you and Erin the best in your future/s.

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