6-Stages Of Grieving After Narcissistic Abuse
When you are experiencing a breakup from someone significant in your life, such as an intimate partner, you will naturally experience a period of grieving, and if both individuals within the relationship are emotionally intelligent with time you will eventually heal and move on with your life. On the other hand, when attempting to heal and move on with your life after dating a narcissist who was emotionally abusive towards you within that relationship, as was my case, the grieving process is never a linear one. The way you process your feelings and journey through each stage of grieving is greatly intensified due to the trauma bonding that you’ve most likely endured while dating such a toxic individual.
When you have broken up from a healthy relationship you will organically accept that the relationship has run its course and you are free to move forward without harboring or experiencing any lingering feelings of anger, resentment, or shame towards your ex-partner or yourself. However, it’s an entirely different ballgame when attempting to move on with your life after dating a narcissist. You will be confronted with many intense emotions and confused thoughts about the relationship itself and you may also question why this relationship feels completely different from any other intimate relationship you’ve ever had.
Narcissists are very good at choosing their targets in which their goal is to methodically tear you down and attempt to destroy the essence of who you are spiritually, mentally, and emotionally; as was my case, after realizing that my ex-partner was indeed a covert narcissist. My life after leaving that relationship was destroyed and for a while, I became a shadow of the woman I used to be. I just couldn’t put one foot in front of the other and found it extremely difficult to process my feelings and move on with life as I did in previous relationships. For example, it was difficult for me, at the time, to accept that the relationship was over. I also experienced prolonged periods of anger and resentment about what had happened to me while being in such a toxic relationship, which eventually led to bouts of depression.
Below I have highlighted the grieving process I reluctantly journeyed through on my own with little help from outside sources. I hope that the advice given will help you to be aware of what happens at each stage when grieving a toxic, narcissistic relationship. Please be aware that each phase will not be experienced in the same order, and that sharing my personal experience of grieving an emotionally abusive relationship is done so to support and help you to understand that what you are feeling is normal. It’s also important for you to be aware of what stage of the grieving process you are at so that you can avoid the dreaded place of being in limbo after experiencing such a destructive relationship.
Stage 1: shock + embarrassment
You will most likely experience intense feelings of shock and embarrassment; especially if your toxic ex-partner dropped the ‘breakup bomb’ out of thin air when you least expected it.
Advice: Put as much space between yourself and your toxic ex-partner as quickly as possible. This is also known as enforcing your no contact rule. Try not to judge or criticize yourself during this stage of the grieving process, it’s normal to feel this way especially if your ex was good at love-bombing you. Take the necessary time to reflect on what has just happened, but do not feel as though you must hastily react to save the relationship, it will only end in more heartbreak and embarrassment for yourself.
Stage 2: denial + resistance
At the denial stage of grieving a toxic relationship, you may experience denial in the form of anger that the relationship is over for good, and then question “is it truly over?” You may say to yourself, “we’ve been here before, and we always get back together.” But for some reason, it feels different this time around; more final, and resolute; this is also your resistance to accept the breakup and move on with what’s left of your dignity.
Advice: Think about it, even if you were going to return to that toxic relationship will your narcissistic ex magically change who they are and how they choose to maliciously treat you? What I’ve come to realize is that if you force your will upon the Universe to make this relationship work it will only cause you more misery in the future because this relationship is not in alignment with your highest and best self.
Stage 3. bargaining + compromising your values
As you try to settle into this new phase of your life without your toxic, narcissistic ex-partner you may begin to experience what is commonly known as the bargaining phase of the breakup, but you also may experience yourself compromising your values to try and make things work with your ex.
Advice: Plain and simple just don’t do it. I know it’s easier said than done, but it’s the truth. You will save yourself unnecessary pain, and resentment if you accept things for what they are and keep moving forward. I am not encouraging you to simply ignore the reality of the situation and forcefully move on with your life. No, I am not advising you to do that. However, I do recommend that if you find yourself stuck in this phase of the grieving stage to remind yourself of who you were before getting into this soul-sucking, toxic relationship. Fill up your own cup with self-love, acceptance, and gratitude for having the opportunity to escape any further destruction to your life if you were to stay in such a relationship.
Stage 4. loneliness + isolation:
You will naturally want to be alone after breaking up with a narcissist. During this stage of my grieving process, I became a legit hermit for a period which I do not recommend. I am not saying that healthy time alone to reflect on your situation and what has happened to you is not needed, it is very much needed. But what may happen, as it happened to me is that you will get too comfortable being by yourself.
Advice: As tempting as it may be to completely shut down and cocoon yourself in self-pity, anger, sadness, and regret, please try your best NOT to stay isolated. If you must, force yourself to interact with someone in your life who you trust for at least 1-hour a day. You don’t have to talk on the phone every day, but you can email or text as a way to keep yourself actively engaged in your life. You may find that being able to communicate and interact with your trusted circle of friends and family will help you to realize that the world isn’t that bad, perhaps it’s just that one person you dated was the bad apple in your life.
Stage 5. eventual acceptance:
Depending on how long you stay stuck or move through the previous 4-stages, you will eventually come to accept what has happened to you. As you journey through this phase of the grieving process, you will most likely experience bouts of depression, guilt, and regret. Try not to feed those feelings with energy or too much attention; otherwise, you will begin to obsess and place yourself in a loop of negative emotions that will have you cycling through the grieving process from stage one, all over again.
Advice: Getting to this place of acceptance is not easy and will take time, but once you get there you will feel the intense, heavy emotions of this breakup start to lighten. I promise that you will be able to look back on this relationship from a different perspective – providing you have done the necessary inner healing work. What I’ve realized is that although each of the grieving stages come with their own flavor of emotions and energy it’s part of the Universes way to heal you, toughen you up and eventually graduate you into the next season within your life.
Stage 6. healing + transformation:
Here is where the magic really begins to unfold! The day you declare to yourself and the Universe that you are READY and WILLING to HEAL and TRANSFORM your life. It’s a beautiful experience and one that will hopefully change the trajectory of your life moving forward – if you are willing to be disciplined and consistent with doing the necessary inner work needed to heal.
Advice: Healing and transformation will not happen overnight, as you probably already know. But it will happen one day at a time, as you intentionally rebuild the foundation of your NEW life with unstoppable optimism! Take things slowly. Work on your self-esteem, self-worth, and reconnecting to the true essence of you are as an empowered Divine Feminine. Due to the nature of being in a toxic, narcissistic relationship, you will need to work on building up your self-confidence to move forward and take strategic action in transforming your life from the old to the new – but it can be done!
The journey ahead of you
Will it be easy? Not right away. But as you intentionally take steps every day to do the necessary inner work you will eventually reclaim your power, repair your self-worth and self-esteem, which will enable you to move forward with empowered determination in transforming your life for the better!
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