Over and over, women are shocked to find out how badly they feel about leaving a dangerous/pathological man. As horrendous as the relationships has been, as hurt as they have become at his hands, and the emotional/physical/financial/sexual/spiritual cost it takes to heal…they still say “Why in the world am I so sad and in so much grief?”
One of the things we have discovered from our Women Who Love Psychopaths research project is that ‘loving’ a pathological (not just a psychopath, but any person with a pathological disorder) seems to involve having a very intense attachment to the relationship. Most women report that ‘loving’ them is like nothing else they ever experienced. They indicate that it’s more intense than other relationships, there are more mind-games that keep them very confused and unable to detach, and a kind of hypnotic mesmerizing that keeps them in the relationship LONG after they know they should have left.
Because of this intense bonding, mental confusion, pathological attachment and a hypnotic connection, the woman’s grief is likely to be HUGE. This is often confusing to her because she has suffered so much damage by the time she leaves that she thinks she should be ‘relieved’ to simply be out of the relationship. But when the paralyzing grief mounts, she is aggravated with herself for being in so much pain and grief over the ending of something so ‘sick’ to her.
Lots of women are confused as to ‘whom’ or ‘what’ it is they are actually grieving over. Grief can seem so ‘elusive’—a haunting feeling that is like a grey ghost but can’t be nailed down to actually ‘what’ the loss is.
The end of any relationship (even a pathological one) is a loss. Within the ending of the relationship is a loss of many elements. There is a loss of the ‘dream’ of partnership or togetherness, the loss of a shared future together, as well as the loss that maybe he would someday ‘get it together’ or actually ‘love you.’ When the relationship ends, so does the dream of being loved (even if he was technically not capable of truly loving anyone). There is the loss of your plans for the future—maybe that was buying a home, having children, or taking a big trip. There is the loss of shared parenting (if that occurred), loss of income, loss of being touched or held, the loss of sex, and numerous other losses.
Although a lot of women may actually see a lot of these hopes and dreams as ‘illusions’ it still constitutes a loss and women are often surprised at the kinds of things they find themselves grieving over.
In the breakup, some women lose their pets or their house or career. Some lose their children, their friends, her relatives or his. Some have to relocate to get away from him because of his dangerousness, so they lose their community, roots, and home.
No matter what it is you perceived you no longer have… it’s a loss—and when you have loss you have grief. People spend a lot of time trying to stay on the perimeter of grief—trying to avoid it and stay away from the pain. But grief is the natural way to resolve conflict and loss. It’s the body’s way of ridding the mind and soul of ongoing pain. It’s an attempt at rebalancing one’s mind and life. Grief is a natural process that is given to you as a pain management tool. Without grief there would never be a way of moving through pain. You would always just remain stuck in the feelings and you would always feel the same.
Don’t avoid grief. While no one LIKES grief, it’s important to allow yourself to feel the feelings and the pain because to suppress it, deny it, or avoid it means you will never work through it. I don’t know anyone who WANTS to live in this kind of pain. There is only one way through the pain of grief and that’s through the middle of it. There are no shortcuts, quick routes or other ways ‘around’ the pain and grief. There is only through it—like a wilderness. But on the other side of it is the promise of healing, hope and a future.
Don’t judge your grief. What hurts, hurts. Even if it doesn’t make sense to you (he was horrible, why am I grieving HIM?)—it’s your body’s way of moving through it so let it. Get help if you need it—counseling, group, medication, a grief group—whatever it is you need.
Don’t set a predetermined ‘time’ that you think you should be ‘over it’. It may take much longer than you think it will or that you want it to. But that’s how it is—grief takes its time.
Grief can look like depression, anxiety, PTSD or a lot of other types of symptoms and sometimes it’s hard to know where one starts and the other one ends. That’s because all too often you aren’t having one or the other, you are having some of both.
Journal your losses, talk about them, tell others, get help when you need it. (We’re here too!!) Most of all, know that grief is a God-sent natural way of working through the pain so you can move on.
(**If we can support you in your recovery process, please let us know. The Institute is the largest provider of recovery-based services for survivors of pathological love relationships. Information about pathological love relationships is in our award-winning book, Women Who Love Psychopaths, and is also available in our retreats, 1:1s, or phone sessions. See the website for more information.)