Grief & Complex PTSD Understanding, Accepting and Mourning for the losses helps heal childhood hurts

I’ve spent most of my life in a numbed state. Too grief-stricken to feel anything. Mourning for losses that have no names.  The deep sadness of losing my mother was literally like a black cloud over me.

Grief & Complex PTSD
Grieving is essential to our healing from childhood trauma 

Gradually, my carefree life changed into one of despair. However, more than my mother dying, it was the betrayal of my family that led to my feeling persistent sadness and constant depression, among other afflictions, the symptoms of Complex PTSD.

Recovery From Childhood Abuse

Recovering from the wounds of childhood abuse means coming to terms with the past. It is then we realize what had been and what should not have been.  You are heartbroken of having been cheated of a better life. An existence with less confusion and pain.  If only someone had cared enough,  had not been mean, had not been selfish.  You realize the devil has many faces.  Moreover, evil people are not strangers but your own family.  Who thought nothing of destroying, a helpless, vulnerable child?

Some losses have no words to describe them. Nevertheless, understanding, accepting, grieving, and letting go of them is crucial to healing from the pain of abuse.  And the pain is a deep gnawing wound.  As children, we manage to cover it, stuff it or bury it deep within ourselves. No matter how far down we try to hide the hurts, it eventually finds a way out, destroying our present.

Little Deaths

As a victim, when you wake from the trauma later in life, a new trauma exists that your life was destroyed and damaged. The indescribable sadness and grief over tangible and intangible losses. The anger and rage of having been wronged.

Psychiatrist Sandra Bloom In her book Loss, Hurt and Hope: The Complex Issues of Bereavement and Trauma in Children discusses the aspect of loss in the context of childhood trauma. She calls them the “little deaths” – of hope, of innocence, of love, and of joy. For some, the sources of grief constituted the loss of already established assumptions and beliefs about self, home, family, and society.

For others, the assaults on their integrity began when they were so young that they had no time to even develop a coherent assumptive world before their lives were shattered.

The core sadness and grief of childhood abuse is that feeling of betrayal. Our assumptions are shattered. That the world is benevolent and meaningful, and we are worthy.  We fall into a deep psychological quagmire when our beliefs are systematically destroyed.

Grief and Our Need For Attachment

Grieving from losses can be understood in the context of our need for attachment. Being part of a social setup. Our mother, father, siblings, and the wider family unit.  The core of human bonding is affection, the feeling of being loved and cherished. And of course, being protected from harm and feeling safe.  Psychologist John Bowlby coined the term affectional bond within the context of attachment behavior.

Unfortunately, a cloak of secrecy surrounds childhood abuse. The perpetrators pretend and deny any wrongdoings. This leaves the victims feeling further traumatized and minimized. The survivor is supposed to just forget and get on.   The feelings of grief that go with these losses are not accepted, rejected, denied, or stigmatized. Without a doubt, these “little deaths” have to be mourned and released. These hurtful splinters in the survivor’s psyche have to be eased out.

Processing Our Grief

And it is important to understand and accept that how people behaved had nothing to do with your badness, but their inherent evil. One has to stop feeling shame, guilt, and self-blame. The essential step to becoming mentally healthy is not taking things personally. One of the four Agreements of Don Miguel.

Once we process our grief, we feel as though we are coming back to life.  Each new level of awareness brings with it a comparison between what was and what could have been—grieving for the time lost, missed opportunities in life, unmet wishes, and past distractions from this centered place of living. 

There may be decades of fighting the overwhelming grief, and then just the simple, natural, bodily-directed process of grieving. No longer does one part of the body expend energy containing the “unwanted” energy of another part. No longer is it “too much” to bear. It just is. We are able to sit with the experience without reaction, without separation, and with nonjudgmental presence. It might be less letting go and more letting be.

Every Mile Mattered” by Nichole Nordeman

But it’s history
It don’t define ya
You’re free to leave
It all behind ya

Grieving and releasing is akin to having an emotional detox. The result is that no longer do we trip over the past debris and pass this legacy to our vulnerable kids.

Image Source: Pixabay


Further Reading:

Complex PTSD & Grieving


The Road Back to You: An Enneagram Journey to Self-Discovery – Ian Morgan CronSuzanne Stabile  

Necessary Endings – Henry Cloud 

Strong At The Broken Places – Linda T Stanford

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