When our partner has been unfaithful it is a shocking betrayal we don’t expect. If they then leave the relationship, we are forced to grieve. This is another painful betrayal which can blindside us. They are still alive and as such grieving them becomes what I would categorize as a different sort of “complicated grief”, no less painful than a bereaved partner.
We are not only grieving our partner but also the loss of the life we had together and the loss of dreams of the future that will no longer be. It is a multi-layered loss which is often minimized by well-meaning people trying to help by pointing out facts meant to quiet our pain like,”wow, what a such and such!!! .” and “you just dodged a huge bullet.”
Complicated Grief or CG – from Mayo Clinic.org: “losing a loved one is one of the most distressing and, unfortunately, common experiences people face. Most people experiencing normal grief and bereavement have a period of sorrow, numbness, and even guilt and anger. Gradually these feelings ease, and it’s possible to accept loss and move forward.
For some people, feelings of loss are debilitating and don’t improve even after time passes. This is known as complicated grief, sometimes called persistent complex bereavement disorder. In complicated grief, painful emotions are so long lasting and severe that you have trouble recovering from the loss and resuming your own life.”
I believe that my experience and those of others who experienced infidelity and were then abandoned by their partner, CG could aptly describe the same type of grieving process.
I decided that my ex-narcopath’s idealization phase was just that, a way to reel me into the relationship on his fishing line. However, the feelings and love for him were real for me. Just because they were contrived on his end only meant that I felt the loss and pain and grief of losing what I thought I had.
I eventually came to accept that I had fallen in love with an illusion. That took time to arrive to that understanding and even longer to accept. In the end, I was grieving the man I thought I had, not the man I actually had. This cognitive dissonance slowed my grieving process down. For as I would start to become angry at him and go through the grieving process, I would quickly remember how wonderful he had treated me in the beginning and get hopeful again that maybe we could reconcile. Then I would have to begin the grief process all over again. Not to mention him staying in touch with me, one weak moment of me communicating with him and I was right back to missing him only to be cast aside and wounded by him again.
It came in cycles. Waves as it were. Until the waves came closer and closer in succession until they were on top of each other colliding.
Then, I was faced with despair and nothing the grief process itself. But how? How does one grieve someone who is still alive?
I observed and compared people who lost partners to death and noted that as a victim of infidelity who was dumped, I was lacking ritual and ceremony in my grieving process. I then set out to find find personal ways to make my grief feel more real and tangible.
I first visited many online forums and connected with lots of people who had experienced the same thing that I had. I listened to their stories and advice.
Once I accepted that it needed the be over for ME….(it had long since been over for him) I decided to take all his fake-ass love letters and put them in a wooden box. Then I took said box with his photo in it and dug a hole into the woods. I placed a medium sized rock over the pseudo-grave with a simple black symbol I had painted on the rock which was meaningful to me.
I wrote a short eulogy and read it out loud expressing my feelings of betrayal for the sweet man that I would miss. I said in closing he never had existed except in my heart. I wrote it for the man I thought I had, for he was the man for which I was crying. . I had my best friend there to bear witness to my process. I found this helpful and was pretty sure by then she was ready to smack a shovel over his head and put him into a box with the sheer amount of hours I cried on the phone to her.
I have heard other women getting lighter fluid and torching their love letters. Still others ripping them into bits and throwing them into the ocean. I knew of one other woman where threw her letters into a trash dumpster and then taking a photo and sending it that the ex. Another man simply bound his letters up and returned them via mail no return address.
Which method you choose matters not. The important thing is that the process empowers you and brings you closer to healing. There’s always the option to do nothing at all. Simply sit be with your pain.
There is no right or wrong way to grieve. There is no blueprint and certainly no handout anyone gives you for this kind of off the charts level of fucked up pain. You will have to do it your own way. At your cadence. On your terms.
You may grieve before your ready but not before you can. Freedom really has always been inside of you. You can do this. You will be okay.