“Grief is like the ocean; it comes in waves, ebbing and flowing. Sometimes the water is calm, and sometimes it is overwhelming.” – Vikki Harrison
What’s involved in grieving the losses associated with betrayal by a partner? What are the different steps we need to take?
1. First, we need to name the different losses associated with betrayal. Don’t limit this to a few obvious ones like loss of trust, or loss of self-esteem. There will be layers and layers of losses. In fact, once you start making a list of the loses, you might find that you are writing pages and pages.
Try to be as specific and detailed as you can. Some examples of things people write include:
“I used to feel ok (even good) about my appearance. But I never feel beautiful now. I’m always criticizing my looks and figure … and I always imagine others are criticizing me, too. That’s a loss.”
“I can’t watch a movie without feeling anxious, sad, or triggered. It’s the same with songs that used to mean something to us as a couple. That’s a loss too.”
“Every time I have a PAP test I’m anxious until I get the results back from the doctor. Before, it was nothing more than routine testing. But everything is different now. That’s another loss.”
2. We need to walk towards the pain, and grieve for all these losses. This is the part we would rather avoid. However, pain that’s never processed will come between you and life. It will keep you stuck in the past. It will be a constant shadow, casting a pallor over everything. It will become the lens through which you see and experience the whole of life. You don’t want that to be the case.
3. As you grieve, you will find you start to let go of some of the very painful losses. This will help you to open up your heart again. This can make it easier to love once more.
4. It’s important to remember that grieving doesn’t mean you have to forget, or ‘cancel’ what was good about the past. When we first learn about the betrayal, we only see deception when we look back on the past. All positive emotions and memories are blocked out. However, if you allow yourself to grieve, then eventually you’ll find you’re able to recall some happy memories, too. Initially, these might be related to things you did with others – such as your kids’ birthday parties. Or you might remember a holiday in a beautiful location – something you had enjoyed at the time. That is, you’ll be able to look back on those things which were good, instead of just being swamped by sadness and regret.