You may be familiar with the term Narcissism Awareness Grief; maybe you’ve done some work and have acknowledged that you’re processing through it; maybe you’ve heard of it but aren’t sure what it entails. Or maybe you’re somewhere in between. Wherever you are in the understanding of Narcissism Awareness Grief, know that it exists.
It can be an incredibly validating experience when we realize that Narcissism Awareness Grief is a real “thing.” After recognizing that a relative, friend, or significant other is on the narcissism spectrum, we may actually start to feel relieved. Because now we know there’s a name for what we’ve been feeling and dealing with, it’s real, and we are not alone. It means we have choices we didn’t know about and that we can find support.
It’s great to have information and understand something on a deeper level, but what are we supposed to do with this new information? How can knowing or understanding Narcissism Awareness Grief help us to move forward?
Well, learning is only the beginning. Eventually, we need to acknowledge how someone’s narcissistic behavior has affected us. Once we do, we begin to grieve the losses this relationship has cost. And then we start moving forward. Narcissism Awareness Grief involves feeling denial, anger, bargaining, depression, rewriting, and acceptance.
How Narcissism Awareness Grief Can Empower You
When you recall old hurtful or traumatic memories now alongside your new understanding of narcissism, you may feel disappointed or angry by the realization that someone important to you has narcissistic traits. It’s OK to acknowledge that your life experiences could have been different if this person didn’t have those traits, or didn’t mistreat you because of them. It’s more than OK to feel everything you’re feeling. All of us get hurt, sometimes because of our own decisions, and sometimes because of others’ choices or behavior. It’s natural to feel wronged, angry, or confused when someone important to us mistreats or hurts us.
After the stunning revelation that their behavior is because of something within them that you didn’t cause, can’t cure, and have no control over, you’ll begin to understand that the way you interact with them is a choice. You will start seeing more clearly what’s happening in your interactions. You’ll start using tools like the Grey Rock Method, and other strategies. Instead, of losing yourself, or losing control of your emotions, you’ll learn to not respond at all. You’ll learn how to stop providing the narcissistic supply.
And you’ll stop hoping for the day that they will admit their hurtful behavior and apologize to you. You’ll stop imagining the validation you’ll feel when they finally realize how much they’ve hurt you as they begin feeling remorse for their behavior. Narcissists believe they’re never wrong, never do anything hurtful, never make mistakes. They can’t feel guilty because to feel guilt, they’d have to take responsibility for their actions and admit their transgressions. They’d have to feel empathy. But narcissists do not feel emotional empathy. Instead, they justify their actions or blame someone for them. It’s never their fault; it’s always someone else’s. The sooner you can accept that they don’t feel responsibility, remorse, or guilt and that they aren’t going to apologize, the sooner you’ll be able to move on.
The healing process can be complex and lengthy.
Some of us feel further traumatized by the realization that we didn’t understand when it happened that the treatment we endured was actually abusive. We might feel sick, enraged, guilty, ashamed, or numb as we comprehend this. It’s emotionally challenging to think of someone as an abuser. If we attain this insight and call it what it is, we may also begin questioning more aspects of the relationship.
Whatever you feel, please don’t judge yourself for feeling it. Accept what you feel, and know that if you do the work to heal yourself, you’ll come out on the other side. Expect to feel a wide range of emotions, and let them come. They are there for a reason. Be kind to yourself and let yourself feel and process the dazzling and unbelievable insights you will have. They are cannon events leading to tremendous personal growth.
Recovering from any type of trauma or abuse is a complicated process, mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually. But it can be done.
The Journey of Narcissism Awareness Grief and Healing
In recovery and healing, there is no timeline. You can set parameters, but you can’t force them. Healing takes as long as it takes. Everyone on this journey is on their own unique path, and no two are alike. We may have support, and friends may accompany us now and then, but the track is narrow. Even when we work with a therapist, we walk through the vastness of the dark, scary place called “healing” mostly alone.
What we see, hear, learn, and do along the way in recovery becomes part of our life experience. These recovery experiences will change us as individuals, and we alone get to determine whether they’ll be positive or negative changes.
It’s important that we don’t compare our recovery journey with someone else’s. There is no competition. There is no comparison. This healing journey is exclusively for you. It’s your time to acknowledge and recognize some hard truths. Healing is a gift we give to ourselves, to finally deal with the emotional pain, memories, and triggers, so we can be free of these influences once and for all.
When we’re focused on recovery, we need to consciously set aside time, regularly, for doing the recovery work. It takes awareness, focus, and commitment to do this. I believe that the more structured we are, the more we will see and feel the healing taking place. We’re all different, but that’s how it worked for me.
If you’re stuck in any one area of recovery, it’s important to know that you need to nudge yourself forward and keep going. I got stuck too, at several points.
Sometimes self-help is enough, but other times we need something more. Please give yourself the gift of working with a therapist if your progress has stalled. We owe it to ourselves to do everything we can to heal.
During the recovery process, you might feel tired, emotionally drained, or even exhausted. Personally, depending on the type and amount of work I did, I sometimes felt like I’d been hit by a truck. There were times I felt depressed or angry and days when my eyes hurt from crying. You might feel like quitting; you might find yourself thinking thoughts like: forget it, it isn’t working, nothing’s happening except for remembering painful times that I don’t want to remember. Based on my own experience, all of those are signs that I was actually making progress. For me, the only way out of the trauma was through the trauma. And trauma specialists agree with that principle.
From Denial to Acceptance
The bottled-up emotions that we weren’t allowed to express are still inside, demanding to be recognized and affirmed. Those feelings (or their effects) don’t magically disappear just because years have gone by. They’re still there, waiting to be acknowledged. They won’t go away until we do that.
We alone experienced these events, and we alone retain the memories, even if others were living in the household with us. Healing requires the validation of our experiences and our memories. Give yourself the gift of validating what you survived. Believe your memories. Acknowledge that events happened the way you remember.
Healing isn’t about eliminating symptoms, but rather addressing the root causes of the pain. When we start working through the trauma, we can finally begin to acknowledge and process the feelings that we were never allowed to recognize or vocalize. We can do that now and finally release them. Afterward, when we remember, we won’t have those old, familiar, emotional reactions anymore because we’ve worked through them. “Remembering” is validation. “Feeling” is validation. We didn’t get any kind of validation when we were in the abusive environment. It’s time to validate ourselves.
So, in my own journey, I recalled the memories, felt the confusion, anger, guilt, shame, and humiliation, and acknowledged that what I was re-experiencing really happened—no more gaslighting myself or denying it. I had to bring it all back up into the light where I could really see it, look at it, sift through it, and feel it all again one final time, the LAST time, with my new perspectives and understanding of narcissism, and be done with it.
If your heart validates your painful experiences, try to be grateful for that. Listen when your heart speaks to you. You probably have questions, and you want answers. But, in fact, as you heal, having “answers” may actually become irrelevant. Sometimes it’s not “answers” that hold the key to healing, but rather it’s understanding that who we are now is the result of all our past experiences, both the good and the bad. Going forward nurturing and caring for our newly discovered selves is what will determine who we are tomorrow and every day after that.
We are survivors.
Navigating the Recovery Process: Tips and Strategies for Healing from Narcissistic Abuse
Healing from any hurtful or toxic event depends heavily on your own attitude. How we feel about ourselves dramatically influences the entire recovery process.
Recovery from narcissistic abuse includes replacing negative thoughts and beliefs with new ones. We need to learn new ways of coping with stress, rid ourselves of self-sacrificing behaviors, (people-pleasing,) practice excellent self-care, and surround ourselves with people who validate our daily experiences.
Any recovery work requires the willingness to be open to new ideas about self-love, self-respect, personal growth, self-acceptance, and even forgiveness. Healing requires a willingness to do the work to become a new and better version of ourselves.
While it’s daunting to figure out how to begin the recovery process, I suggest that you keep an open mind, do your research, and experiment with different approaches to see what works best for you.
You’ll have good days and not-so-good ones. I can tell you from experience that you’ll want to give up at times. You might feel you aren’t making progress or that it’s not worth it because of how painful and difficult it can be.
If you feel comfortable, tell your story to someone who has earned the right to hear your story. If they don’t understand narcissism or abuse, you risk being re-traumatized by their response. It should be someone you trust, and who cares about your well-being and supports you. You can journal, or talk with a recovered, trustworthy family member, emotionally stable friend, counselor, abuse recovery therapist, certified trauma recovery life coach, C-PTSD specialist, or narcissistic abuse/trauma support group.
Support groups are great for validating our feelings because the members have all had similar experiences. There is no judgment, shame, or anxiety about sharing those experiences. Ideally, everybody in the group is interested, supportive, and motivated to recover and move forward.
There are many healing and recovery modalities for abuse and trauma, facilitated by experts in their fields. Give any method you try a reasonable chance. Nothing works overnight. Be fair to yourself by allowing your methodology to have a real effect and make a difference.
You may find yourself hesitating because you’re anxious or fearful of the next steps. Or maybe you don’t want to revisit or reexperience specific or unknown upsetting events. Maybe you don’t want to find out what you’ll feel or discover next. I think if that’s true, then working with a professional would be something to consider strongly. A professional could help you identify ways to get unstuck. Sometimes a shift in attitude or perspective is what it takes. Or you might benefit from trying a new or different approach, whether that means a different form of therapy, a different therapist, or adding additional treatment. Whatever it takes, I hope you do it.
Tools for Healing
Find out if you’re a people-pleaser
See what verbal abuse does
Protect yourself with boundaries
Learn about the narcissistic abuse cycle
Find out if you have Trauma Bonds
Read about dysfunctional family roles
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Lemon Moms: A Guide to Understand and Survive Maternal Narcissism, by Diane Metcalf
For as long as I can remember, there was something “different” about my mother. She wasn’t like other mothers.
My mom didn’t hug or kiss, smile at, spend time with, or play with me. She never seemed happy to see me. She didn’t ask about my school day and wasn’t interested in knowing my friends. She seemed to have no interest in me or anything that I did. My mom called me hurtful names and obscenities, and at times, she ignored me, not speaking to me for days, weeks, or even months. When she felt sad I was expected to emotionally care-take her. When she didn’t feel like parenting, I was responsible for my siblings. When she lost her temper she hit. When I was disobedient, there were bizarre punishments.
I was not allowed to express feelings, ask questions, or show initiative or curiosity. My feelings were discounted, minimized, or invalidated. She re-wrote my memories, and I was expected to believe her version. I was to obey, stay quiet, and not question.
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About the Author
Drawing from her personal experiences of growing up in a dysfunctional household, Diane Metcalf has developed effective coping and healing strategies. With the assistance of professional therapists and mindful personal growth, she has honed her skills and now happily shares them with others who are interested in learning and growing.
As an experienced advocate, speaker, and writer, Diane is well-versed in topics such as narcissism, family dysfunction, abuse, and recognizing warning signs. Her extensive knowledge is drawn not only from her personal experiences, but also from her work in human service fields, including domestic violence, partner abuse, and court advocacy. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology and a Master of Science in Information Technology.
Diane’s transformational books on healing and personal growth, such as the highly acclaimed “Lemon Moms” series, offer emotional support and guidance in understanding narcissistic traits and healing past wounds. Her approach emphasizes self-awareness, intention, self-care, and establishing healthy boundaries as essential components in the healing process.
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This website is intended for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional therapy.