Partners of Sex Addicts: PTSD – Sex Addiction Induced Trauma


Partners of Sex Addicts: Sex Addiction Induced Trauma

McKinney Counseling & Recovery specializes in individual, couples and group therapy for partners of sex addicts and intimacy anorexics in the McKinney, Plano, Allen, Frisco, Dallas and surrounding areas.

I recently came across an article in The National Psychologist by Dr. Omar Minwalla. Dr. Minwalla is a psychologist, clinical sexologist and clinical director of The Institute for Sexual Health (ISH), a treatment center in Los Angeles that specializes in rehabilitation and psychotherapy for sex and porn addiction. Importantly, ISH focuses on the healing needs of the addict as well as the spouse, and is one of the few sex addiction treatment programs that conducts research on the traumatic impact of sex addiction on the addict’s partner.

According to Dr. Minwalla, partners of sex addicts often experience Sex Addiction Induced Trauma (SAI-T). SAI-T is a specific type of  trauma that results from the direct impact of sex addiction, including the impact of the sex addict’s chronic pattern of sexual acting out, relational disturbance, emotional abuse, deception, betrayal, manipulation and compartmentalization.

According to Dr. Minwalla, partners of sex addicts often present to treatment with symptoms similar to rape trauma syndrome (RTS) and complex post-traumatic-stress disorder (C-PTSD). This includes a re-experiencing of the trauma, social and emotional constriction, frequent triggering and physiological and emotional reactivity, anxiety, emotional arousal and hyper-vigilance. Some partners experience fears of exposure to sexually transmitted disease or concerns for the safety of their children. Social isolation, shame, and disruption in the ability to trust their spouse, self, or others is common.  Psychological pain for partners of sex addicts is particularly intense upon new discovery of sexual acting out, deceit, or relationship betrayals.

Dr. Minwalla indicates that the traditional field of sex addiction treatment often ignores the partner’s trauma symptoms. In fact, few professionals are familiar with Sex Addiction Induced Trauma and, therefore, remain largely unresponsive to addressing the healing needs of the partner.

The co-addiction and codependency model of treatment that is frequently used by sex addiction treatment specialists is described as “inadequate, clinically contra-indicated and wrought with ethical and moral challenges.” In fact, Dr. Minwalla describes traditional therapy models that focus solely on co-addiction, while ignoring trauma, as potentially harmful and re-traumatizing .

As a psychologist who specializes in helping partners of sex addicts recover from sex addiction induced trauma, I wholeheartedly applaud Dr. Minwalla’s efforts and look forward to the day when the sex addiction treatment community heeds his call for  ”compassionate and responsible action” for partners of sex addicts.

Dr. Janice Caudill, founder and Clinical Director of McKinney Counseling & Recovery, is a psychologist who specializes in helping individuals and couples heal from sex and love addiction, intimacy anorexia and intimacy deprivation, and relational trauma. McKinney Counseling & Recovery serves the McKinney, Plano, Allen, Frisco, Carrollton, Lewisville and Dallas areas.

All content provided on this blog is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to diagnose or treat any condition, does not create a client-therapist relationship, and is not a substitute for care by a trained professional. The owner of this blog makes no representations as to the accuracy or completeness of any information on this site or found by following any link on this site. The owner will not be liable for any errors, omissions, losses, injuries, or damages from the display or use of this information.

Journal entry 9/10/12 6:45AM


Journal entry 9/10/12 6:45AM


When she gets up, I get up because my mind won’t stop going (obsessing, PTSD) like a movie on replay. I, even in my own body, am triggered and flooded with flashbacks of things – earlier times, trauma, etc., where I trusted her, like my father trusted my unstable mother and she failed to meet his needs and live up to her own expectations (she was out sleeping with other men).

The traumatic cycle is no fun, and it will keep you up at night, and can keep you from falling back asleep… It’s insanity – the PTSD (Post-traumatic stress disorder), like when a war victim arises in a dead sleep in the middle of the night unable to go back to sleep, flooded with fear… this is how I feel.

Every time she gets up in the morning, I feel defeated by my own thoughts, which at this point, I can’t seem to turn off. I am not “crazy,” as my sick mother likes to project onto me, in my obsessing (flashbacks), I am traumatized.

 

What’s worse is nothing numbs the pain, and I just long for a “normal” lifestyle. I just want to live a normal lifestyle and not hurt all the time.

Every time she acts out, it just adds another layer to the cake. I have debated, when the pain gets bad enough, as a direct result of her selfish, cruel, impulsive, calculated actions, finding someone new, and while I may have tried this in the past, leaving my partner, it never worked, and I’d always come crawling back out of guilt (shame) and missing them… probably out of some false sense of security, but it (the pain, panic, longing, etc.) was nevertheless that real in that moment, beyond what you can truly imagine, beyond your wildness dreams.

I actually missed the very thing I walked away from so much that I caved and went right back to it.  It’s a never-ending cycle and hard to get away from. I actually had withdrawal when I left the last time and moved 8 hours away on my own. I moved back to the town where we had first met because that was the town I fell in love with and where I had lived before, and was having withdraw from just being there without her.

It didn’t get any easier because I didn’t have any support, because I’d pushed away (alienated) all of my support by constantly talking about our problems, ie: her acting out (cheating, raging, lying, porn, fantasy, lust, etc).  My friends dwindled throughout the sickness, and I felt myself further isolated.

Still, it’s hard for people to understand the effects of living with someone who’s sick unless they’ve been there themselves, and let me assure you, they haven’t.

Most people can’t understand why you’re in a relationship like this, even if you grew up with it, because they think you’re an “adult,” and don’t understand the dynamics of it.  You can just walk away like it’s a piece of cake.

It’s been my experience that many people act like it’s an “easy” solution and it’s not that easy when you’re in it. Then, you’re bound/prone to repeat the abusive/painful cycle with someone new without even realizing it.

Developing awareness can help, but it isn’t a safeguard, which is important when you’re suffering with PTSD, because all you want is to feel safe, in our case, emotionally; sometimes, physically, and the more “relationships” you’re in like this, the more cynical (distrusting) you become.

It’s also hard because when you finally get therapy, therapist’s because therapist’s generally overlook the fact that you have PTSD because you aren’t some typical classic war victim – shot in both legs and physically disabled, equally invalidating and counterproductive to healing.

Speaking of “invalidating,” I think many of us with PTSD, whether it’s a result of childhood abuse, a single traumatic incident, or relational trauma, need to be validated, because emotional support is crucial.

Either way, it should not be overlooked and a proper diagnosis of PTSD given and an appropriate treatment plan. Because you’re out of your mind if you think you’re going to get out of this alive, and on your own.

 

January 12th, 2011. Pending diagnosis. LYME disease.


My blood work came back and my ANA Titer is still off and indicating a speckled pattern, indicating that I have inflammation in my body.  The good news is I don’t have an “auto-immune” disorder.  The doctor’s are still trying to figure out what’s going on, but believe that I likely have fibromyalgia like my mother (technically aunt).  Supposedly there’s a genetic gene although it’s not entirely genetic, and some believe it’s stress-related.  Fibromyalgia is often co-morbid with PTSD suffers.

At any rate, I am ordering the IGENIX Lyme test to get tested for LYME again (Igenix is the best lab in the USA).  After I get tested for LYME, I need to get a LYME “Co-infection” test and then I will know whether or not I have Chronic (Stage 3) Lyme Disease or Fibromyalgia.  Both of these tests total about $800-1000.00 and insurance does not cover them.  This will be the final step before a diagnosis of “fibromyalgia” is given to me.

I was listening to Pandora and came across this song, which I would like to dedicate to all other individual’s suffering from chronic illness (MS, LYME, Fibromyalgia, Cancer, etc) and/or mystery diagnosis… You’re not alone… Please hang in there!

July 8th, 2010; Power Struggle.


I woke up with this song playing in my head, so I’d like to share it…

“Open Up Your Eyes”

A single rose left to remember
As a single tear falls from her eye
Another cold day in December
A year from the day she said goodbye

Seems it’s only been a moment
Since the angels took him from her arms
And she was left there holding on to their tomorrow
But as they laid him in the ground
Her heart would sing without a sound

[Chorus:]
For the first time you can open your eyes
And see the world without your sorrow
And no one knows the pain you left behind
And all the peace you could never find
Is waiting there to hold and keep you
Welcome to the first day of your life
Just open up your eyes

A single lifetime lays behind her
As she draws her final breath
Just beyond the door he’ll find her
Taking her hand he softly says

[Chorus]

Just open up your eyes as I lay you down tonight
Safe on the other side, no more tears to cry

[Chorus]

After I awoke, and with this song running through my head, I could not fall back  asleep, and I also could not stop thinking, or what might appear as “obsessing” (grief- stage 1) as I described it, about Erin and I’s relationship ending… I expressed my grief to Erin via text stating:

“I can’t sleep, am obsessing, and am tired today/I’m obsessing about our relationship ending and the reality setting in and starting this new chapter of my life. I feel like in many ways I’m still holding on… I am just scared/I’m afraid to take this next step… But I know I need to.  Buying out time, trying to sort through my feelings… I don’t know what’s best for me because I’ve never had to do this… Afraid, because I’ve always had security.  Just wanting to hold on/Can’t clear my mind fast enough sometimes, often; lately… Not at all, and don’t want it to come as a shock… where I’m here and then I’m gone and had no time to think, feel, or process.  Where it just sneaks up and then I regret it.  “How do we ever know if we’re making the right decision?”/Trying to make sense of it all.  Don’t want it to hit me before I know it… I’m sick to my stomach because I feel like it’s all hitting me now and we’re prolonging it by being together.”

Erin’s response:

“I understand, I am too in a way.  I do agree that we are prolonging the inevitable.  This is going to end and it might hurt worse because of our actions/We’ve been in each others lives for so long the idea of you gone is something I can’t wrap my head around./I know it’s for the best but it still hurts and scares me. I don’t want to make a mistake and cut each other out of our lives.”

Response to Erin:

“I know, I can’t wrap my head around it, either… I feel like we’ll always be in each other’s life… I’m just not sure in which ways.  A part of me, a big part, thinks it would be best if we just go our separate ways until we heal our broken hearts… And then if we get back together, meaning meet up again, we meet up, but there’s too much pain right now… This relationship hurts like a thorn in my side… Because it hurts to be close to you… and it has most of our relationship.  The closer I get, the more you push me away… and that hurts me.  I can’t take the push/pull cycle anymore… I mean, it hurts to be close to you, Erin… I never know when you’re going to walk out… you’ve threatened it so many times…” (she demanded I take her to Recycle North once after we had had a long day of errands, and I said “I promise I will take you tomorrow,” and she threw a fit and packed all of stuff impulsively with the intention of moving back to PA).

Erin stated:

“I understand completely.  I don’t want to lose you forever but it’s in our best interest to be apart for a while. The sooner the better I think because we’re going to make it worse in the end/I understand em, and I’m sorry for making you feel that way.  I think living our own separate lives now would be best.  It would ease the initial shock and start the healing process. “

Summaries:

What I’m talking about in the first stanza, in the beginning, when I say, “And the ‘reality’ setting in…” I am referring to the reality that this (Erin and I’s “relationship”) is really over.  We have been back and forth for so long, and on top of that, in close proximity, literally, that it’s been difficult to get any space, clarity, and/or closure.  So the “reality” is, or (and) the fear is that it’s ultimately over… And yes, I know this needs to happen for our hearts to heal, but it’s scary… it’s new and scary.

In the second stanza when I say “…and I don’t want it to come as a shock,” ie:  “Can’t clear my mind fast enough sometimes; often, lately… not at all.  I just don’t want it to come as a ‘shock,'” once again I am referring to the break up, but particularly me leaving… physically, ie: going back to Vermont, or elsewhere.  Just physically leaving.  I don’t want the emotions to come on like a heatwave. In the next sentence, the”it” I’m referring to, ie: “Where ‘it’ just snuck up on me…” is the terrible grief… the “monster” in my closet.  The “I don’t want to regret it” is the actual leaving…

When I say “Don’t want it to hit me before I know it,” part of me knows I’ve been avoiding it… there is some consciousness here.

In the stanza where I say, “I can’t ‘make-believe,'” I am once again referring to this break-up and the pain I have experienced… In a lot of ways I think I’ve chosen to stay in this relationship because it’s easier to be in denial and in love with the fantasy, or the hope/belief that Erin will come around and be on mutual playing ground than to be not involved and disrespected.  I am disrespected either way though because Erin does not love herself and has commitment issues, but at least (this is my subconscious frame of mind) if I am in a relationship I can pretend (“make-believe”) that it’s okay.”

Song interpretation:

As far as the song interpretation, I am not sure exactly what it means, but it reminds me of another song, by Nickelback, called “Far away.”  Far Away was (still is) one of my favorite songs, and the song Far Away actually initially reminded me of two women very close to me in my life… Jen and Ashley… but several months, maybe years (I believe) later did it occur to me that the song is actually referring to myself…

The song itself may actually be about a relationship that the lyricist experienced, but as I said, it wasn’t until years later that I realized the whole time the song was really about the “relationship” I had with my self.  Very ironic,  nevertheless surprising!  At any rate, I feel like (this is the impression I sort of get) that this song by Daughtry, “Open up your eyes” may be about the relationship with myself.

The beginning of this song is very confusing because I don’t know (for me) if it’s a about a girl who reclaimed her life (me in this case), or if the song is referring to someone, ie: Erin. ie, “A single rose left to remember.  As a single tear falls from her eye,” etc.  Is this me crying?  Is this me actually mourning my childhood, my father, or my actual self?  Mind you, I lived in the shadow of my mother, and I essentially at some point or another abandoned my real self… so am I referring here to my own inner child, now in a woman’s body?

When I listen to the lyrics and read along I honestly almost get that impression, similar to the impression I got with the Nickelback song “Far Away” that this song is about me.  And as I read these lyrics and listen to the song my mind goes back and forth trying between “Me” or “Erin,” ie: “Is it me or Erin?” I am trying to figure out what resonates and rings true for me.  I just think it’s suprising the similarities between this song and the Nickelback song, and how with the Nickelback song I originally thought (And it very much was, in that time, and still is, but in an entirely different way) the song was about two women I deeply loved… I think this may be the same case, only I am coming to (and wanting) to love myself, so I think it can be seen metaphorically as a “rebirthing” process in a way.

The simple truth is, I may not know right now whether it’s more about me, or Erin, or even (this thought crossed my mind) my father’s death… This part actually made me think of my father and discovering him unconscious:

Seems it’s only been a moment
Since the angels took him from her arms
And she was left there holding on to their tomorrow
But as they laid him in the ground
Her heart would sing without a sound”

I was thinking of my father because my father was so much a part of me… and losing him was like losing myself.  The part that states “And she was left there holding on to their tomorrow” reminds me of both Erin and my father.  It’s weird (but makes complete sense) how after my dad died I sought security outside in every which direction, but that’s another story!  At any rate, the “as they laid him in the ground” takes me straight back to my father’s funeral.

When Daughtry begins to say “For the first time you can open your eyes…” “…And see the world without your sorrow
And no one knows the pain you left behind
And all the peace you could never find
Is waiting there to hold and keep you
Welcome to the first day of your life”

This is truly like a new chapter of my life.  I literally think of a book, and it’s “part II” and brand new.  What this is saying to me is that I can “leave the ‘pain’ behind,” ie: I can choose to live.  I don’t have to be defined by my pain.  “Welcome to the first day of your life” is saying this is a new chapter of my life.

When Daughtry says:

A single lifetime lays behind her
As she draws her final breath
Just beyond the door he’ll find her
Taking her hand he softly says”

For me, “A single lifetime lays behind her” is describing my past.  The “As she draws her final breath,” is about being shock and saying goodbye, physically and emotionally… “Just beyond the door he’ll find her” is about me walking away and fighting it… it’s consciously about me not wanting to say goodbye to Erin, but subconsciously it’s about me not wanting to be with myself.  “Taking her hand he softly says…” is about me letting go of Erin (At this point, grief-wise, I have not yet come to stage 5 “Acceptance;” I am still very much in denial and in the midst of grief) and her hand because she (a part of me) has finally “died.”

And then the chorus repeats, stating…

“For the first time you can open your eyes
And see the world without your sorrow
And no one knows the pain you left behind
And all the peace you could never find
Is waiting there to hold and keep you
Welcome to the first day of your life
Just open up your eyes…”

For me, this is all about a choice.  We have a choice on how we choose to live our lives… this is a new way of celebrating and looking at things… we can either continue to hold onto the past or we can choose to live.

Daughtry then says “Just open up your eyes as I lay you down tonight
Safe on the other side, no more tears to cry”

“…as I lay you down tonight” is about bringing peace to my mind-body-soul; more than anything, mind-heart.  And then “Safe on the other side, no more tears to cry,” particularly “…no more tears to cry” is about the hurt stopping… it’s about knowing somewhere inside that I’ve made the right decision and I’m in a much better place.

Where you go from here, I’m not sure, but I guess that’s the beauty in life… you discover it.  “Life’s a mystery”

My question now is, “How do you say goodbye to the only ‘friends’ you’ve ever known?”  Your ex’s have been a representation of you… parts of yourself you’ve repressed… if they’re addicted, maybe you’re addicted? ie, to avoiding your pain (grief & sorrow).  How do you part with those pieces/persons?  The pieces… these parts of ourselves, our grief… past baggage, and are literally (pain-wise) like losing a limb…

How do you “catapult” into this new life and not feel guilty about it?  …guilty for “abandoning” them, though you’ve really abandoned yourself?  How do you separate them from you?  Simply put, how do we put the past behind us and grieve when so many of these people have been a part of us… heavily ingrained.

It’s just like drugs… when drugs have been a part of someone’s life for so long, how do they part with it and make sense of the present and future?  How do they integrate, re-integrate, or re-learn a whole new world view?  I guess I just want to understand the trauma I have endured and build a “brand new me.”  I want to feel whole, healthy, and alive again…

I think that honestly losing someone when you’ve experienced as much trauma as I have can be compared to losing a limb… and the abuse that I endured emotionally, verbally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually can be compared to a “combat zone.”  I honestly feel (and relate) very much to veterans who have been involved in combat.  My mind, body, psyche, soul, everything was literally in this “shock,” fear, panic, etc… everything that a veteran has associated themselves with.

I really relate to Evan’s Blue… the old Evan’s Blue with Kevin Matisyn… Kevin’s lyrics, music, melody, etc. reminds me entirely of someone who has been “emotionally battered,” or traumatized…

In all of Kevin’s lyrics there are overtones and overlays of extreme, excruciating pain… longing, agony, beauty, bitterness, bitter-sweet, desiring, hoping, wishing… just being a child and cut off.  There is much pain there.  His albums are beautiful yet hopeful.  They are his process of healing.  At any rate, I relate to this man.

I think that we can all heal from our pasts, it’s just about moving through the pain.

Update (1 hour later):  Release, but still holding tight…

Erin and I were conversing today via text about separating… we merely spoke of it, but never actualized anything.  After writing this entry, I initiated a break up. I honestly hope (I feel it should be) this is our last and final breakup.  I have now engaged in the push/pull cycle with Erin… for 2 years she was push/pull with me, and progressively worse over the last 6 months… and I was push/pull with her once, this past week… now I am through.  I want to be over this.  I also must be very careful with how I talk to myself in terms of my grief and healing process, ie: “I want to be ‘over’ this” is like telling my body, “It’s not okay to feel,” and it is okay to feel.  I need to feel.

Erin stated that we should physically space apart… and I disagree, only because it was hard enough initiating this breakup and making the breakup final… not to mention, I spent two years “apart,” both physically and emotionally… obviously more emotionally, but I still spent enough time physically apart because Erin would work herself to death and use work (and other things, ie: porn, food, computer, online gaming, fantasy, etc.) as a distraction.

To say the least, I am still resentful about us not having spent enough time together because she was more absorbed in her own interests.  I do not want to re-traumatize myself so-to-speak by “spacing out.”  I told her the main thing right now is to just not kiss… that that’s a major step… which should not be a problem since we’re not together.  For me it wasn’t a problem before; for Erin it was… Erin has poor impulse control, and when she’s around me she always wants to kiss me… I did not have a problem not kissing her because I guess I knew that it was not logical to kiss and not be together, so I didn’t.

The truth is though I can’t stay here forever… and Erin and I need space.  We need to heal.  I need to grieve.  I cannot tolerate being around her because it hurts me… even as friends… even when we’re not together her actions hurt me.  Likely because I have not been able to grieve yet.  I also don’t like how dirty the house is here… and as I’ve said before, her dad isn’t willing to clean or hire a cleaner… I could always hire a cleaner myself if I can get his permission, however I don’t feel I will ever be able to properly grieve while living here… Erin said at one point that she would consider moving out and back into her mom’s house, and I could stay with her dad if worse came to worse… that I could continue paying him rent and have the “whole upstairs” to myself, and I would strictly be a tenant, but even back then when she said this I remember a distinct feeling of dread, in that 1.  That would be very awkward (to be living with an ex gf’s parent… Umm… yeah), and 2.  I would still see Erin and have reminders of her, and I would not be able to handle wondering if she’s dating someone else…

With that being said, I (we) really need distance from each other.  It would torture me seeing her every now and then, and I feel it would just prologue the grief… even living with her dad!  …I would still hear about her, and from her!  …and besides that, it is just downright awkward!  I mean, I appreciate the thought… I really do… but yeah, I don’t think that would be a good situation… not right now anyway… maybe later on.  Maybe in a couple of years if I need a roommate… I’m sure he might consider letting me rent out the top floor for a little more and just being my own, independent person, and experiencing the city… but yeah, I won’t start future tripping :P

As of right now, that does not sound appealing to me at all, and I would really like to become financially stable… I am young, and I am heavily in debt due to my student loans.  I just want to build a life for myself… a strong, sturdy foundation… I just need to figure out the whole “work” situation, and my time is quickly running out… I honestly (clearly) do not know what I want (need) for myself right now.

I need clarity.

Erin’s response:“I understand, I am too in a way.  I do agree that we are prolonging the inevitable.  This is going to end and it might hurt worse because of our actions.  I’m scared to be without you in what ways?  We’ve been in each others lives for so long the idea of you gone is something I can’t wrap my head around.”I then stated to Erin, “I know, I can’t wrap my head around it, either…” I said, “It scares me too… and I feel like we’ll always be in each other’s life… I’m just not sure in what ways.  A part of me, a big part thinks it would be best if we just go our separate ways until we heal our broken hearts… And then if we get back together, meaning meet up again, we meet up, but there’s too much pain right now…” 

Erin states, “I know it’s for the best but it still hurts and scares me.  I don’t want to make a mistake and cut each other out of our lives.  I don’t want to lose you forever but it’s in our best interest to be apart for a while. The sooner the better I think because we’re going to make it worse in the end.”Still expressing my feelings, I said to Erin, “This relationship hurts like a thorn in my side… Because it hurts to be close to you… and it has most of our relationship.  The closer I get, the more you push me away… and that hurts me.  I can’t take the cycle anymore and make believe…”

In the stanza where I say, “I can’t ‘make believe,'” I am once again referring to this break-up and the pain I have experienced… In a lot of ways I think I’ve chosen to stay in this relationship because it’s easier to be in denial and in love with the fantasy, or the hope/belief that Erin will come around and be on mutual playing ground than to be not involved and disrespected.  I am disrespected either way though because Erin does not love herself and has commitment issues, but “at least (this is my subconscious train of thought) if I am in a relationship I can pretend (“make believe”) that it’s okay.”

I stated, “I mean, it hurts to be close to you, Erin… I don’t know when you’re going to walk out.”

Erin stated, “I understand em, and I’m sorry for making you feel that way.  I think living our own separate lives now would be best.  It would ease the initial shock and start the healing process. “

June 11th, 2010; Types of Grief.


I found this thread:  http://forum.psychlinks.ca/grief-and-bereavement/21086-types-of-unresolved-or-complicated-grief.html online when googling “Complicated grief and addiction,” and I emailed the publisher (David Baxter) in hopes of finding some relief and coming to terms with the grief that I am experiencing…

I actually wrote the individual and stated:

David,Thank God I found you and your informational thread…

Direct link:  http://forum.psychlinks.ca/grief-and-bereavement/21086-types-of-unresolved-or-complicated-grief.html

I am wondering if you can quickly tell me what kind of grief reaction I am experiencing?

I am a 26 year-old female, and I lost my father when I was 18, 19 years old… my father was my protector… I grew up with him… we lived in a house together.  He protected me (the best he could) from my abusive mother who I still had to go see… Anyway, he died unexpectedly one night of a massive heart attack, and I found him the next morning in our home in his bed on my way to go pick up my partner from school.


When the ambulance was there and the medical examiner, the family, etc. my abusive mother shamed me and yelled at me in front of these people while I was staring at my dad when I asked why there was “wet stuff” in dad’s bed (that’s where he died).  I may have been 18 or 19, but I didn’t know that when a person dies they excrete fluids… and she yelled at me in front of everyone –strangers, etc. and said to me loudly something along the lines of “Oh my god, you don’t ask that kind of stuff…”

Anyway, it was toxic shame, and she said something else to me that made me feel really embarrassed… You have to understand, I was traumatized.

Anyway, ever since my father died I have found myself in very unhealthy toxic relationships… I have developed codependency and codependent behaviors/patterns and the relationships have gotten worse… I first started finding myself with alcoholics, then mentally ill people mixed with drug abusers.  Additionally, I feel this unusual, intense sense of responsibility and unwarranted guilt.

In terms of my father and his death… I did not grieve him.  I have literally cried maybe 3 times since 2003 when he died… I do not understand what is going on.  I do not know why I can’t grieve.  I was close with my father… and as I said, he was my protector.

Nevertheless, I want to understand why I have clung to unhealthy relationships and developed codependent, clinging behaviors and stay in these unhealthy relationships (some very abusive) out of guilt and an unusual sense of responsibility.  I attribute this to be somehow linked to my father’s death.

By the way, I do not use drugs/alcohol/food, etc. nor am I self-harming… I only stay in these unhealthy relationships which I have just recently realized have only served to distract me from the immense grief.

Based off this information, can you please tell me what kind(s) of grief I am experiencing?

The desire to understand…  I would really like to understand the type of grief I am experiencing and why I haven’t been able to grief properly… ie, is it because I have been in relationship after relationship as an escape?  I did not turn to substance, but I did turn to relationships… is this what’s blocking me from experiencing grief?  I may or may not know until I am single and alone for a while… I could just experiencing absent or delayed grief for some unknown reason.

Types of Unresolved or Complicated Grief

Types of Unresolved/Complicated Grief
by David Baxter
Monday, December 14th, 2009

Historically, researchers have argued that complicated grief is an expression of a major depressive disorder or an anxiety-based disorder that has been triggered by a specific loss.

More recently, researchers have concluded that grief symptoms only partially overlap with symptoms of depression and other DSM-IV-TR categories, such as anxiety and post traumatic stress disorder, and that although there may be some expected shared variance, complicated grief reactions do display sufficiently unique variance to warrant separate consideration (Kristjanson, Lobb, Aoun & Monterosso, 2006).

Absent grief is characterised by the bereaved acting as though nothing has happened. The bereaved show no feelings of grief or mourning and become detached from reality as if the death never occurred. Emotional numbness is common with this form of grief. Maladaptive behaviour is also common but often the bereaved is unable to associate such maladaptive behaviours with the loss experienced.

Delayed grief may result from pressing responsibilities (e.g. funeral arrangements) that the mourner needs to attend to, resulting in postponed grief that may last for years. An experience of grief may eventually be triggered by another loss or an event related to the original loss.

Inhibited grief involves inhibition of the normal behaviours that are associated with grief. Those who do not allow themselves to experience the pain of grief directly may develop some kind of somatic complaints or illness. It is common in this form of grief for the mourner to choose mourning some aspect of the deceased and not the other, for example, the positive aspects and not the negative ones. Like absent grief, this form of grief also encompasses maladaptive behaviour that the bereaved will usually be unaware of or not attribute it to their grief response.

Conflicted grief involves an exaggeration of one or more behaviours commonly displayed in normal grief while other aspects of the grief is suppressed. This form of grief is often characterized by extreme anger and guilt. Exaggerated anxiety manifested in panic attacks is also common. Substance abuse problems may also arise or existing problems may be exacerbated. The conflicted grief pattern can become quite prolonged and is normally associated with dependent or ambivalent attachment to the deceased.

Chronic grief involves the mourner exhibiting intense grief reactions that are common in the early stages of grief but continue long after the loss has occurred. There is little or no progress and mourning fails to come to any conclusion. The bereaved seems to keep the deceased alive with their mourning. This form of grief is maintained by feelings of insecurity and insecure attachment to the deceased.

The bereaved feels that they have sustained a loss of an irreplaceable relationship. With regard to this type of grief, the therapist needs to identify those aspects of grief that are not resolved and intervention would then need to focus on the resolution of this (Williamson & Shneidman, 1995; Freeman, 2005; Worden 2005).

Unanticipated grief, as the name suggests, is grief that results from unexpected sudden death. This form of grief is said to be disruptive to the bereaved and will often involve a complicated recovery. This form of grief entails great difficulty in accepting the loss that is accompanied by overwhelming feelings.

The adaptive capabilities of the bereaved can be seriously damaged in the context of an unexpected and sudden death, resulting in their inability to function normally in any area of their life. Although the grieving person can intellectually recognize the death, they will often have great difficulty in accepting the loss due to it being so sudden and so unexpected. In this situation grief symptoms will tend to continue on much longer than normal grief reactions.

Abbreviated grief is typically a short lived but normal form of grief. This is often mistaken for unresolved grief. The grief process is shortened or abbreviated commonly because the attachment figure or lost person is immediately replaced (e.g., remarrying immediately after the spouse dies) or there has been little or no attachment to the deceased.

At times abbreviated grief occurs due to anticipatory grief whereby an individual embarks on the grieving process prior to the actual loss occurring. This results in a much shorter grief after the actual death.

The problem with abbreviated grief is that the bereaved may show very little sense of discomfort as negative feelings can be blocked away by denying themselves the opportunity to experience normal grieving process at the time of loss. This type of grief can manifest in the future.

In every form of complicated grief, the bereaved tries to deny or avoid aspects of the loss and the full realisation of what the loss means to them. The tendency to hold on to and avoid giving up the loved one is also a common factor in complicated grief.