Managing Grief after a Narcissistic Relationship
Sometimes life does not seem easy, nor fair. However, designing a life of happiness that is healthy and positive for you, (and your children if you are a parent), is always worth the temporary pain and effort. Leaving a toxic relationship and managing the grief after a narcissistic relationship is essential to long-term physical and mental health, emotional freedom, and self-confidence.
Although separation/divorce is one of the most difficult and stressful times in life, you do not have to do this on your own. Four Seasons Counselling is here to help you along your journey. Knowing the various stages of grief will hopefully help you to realize that what you are feeling is normal and that other individuals have experienced these same conflicting and complicated emotions and challenges as they move towards building a better future.
Stage 1 – Denial
Questioning yourself and questioning your decision. During this stage it is normal to second guess yourself and whether the reality was as bad as you thought that it was, “maybe I can live with this?”, “maybe it’s not so bad?”, “maybe they will finally change when they realize I am leaving?”.
During this stage you are also heavily influenced by your anxieties of what will happen in the future and also any fear of repercussions by the narcissist. You may imagine all the worst outcomes. It is easy to become overwhelmed by wondering what is going to happen next for you and your children. You may worry about the perceptions and reactions from family and friends, finances, housing, childcare, etc.
Stage 2 – Anger
Resentment, frustration, disappointment, and anger towards the narcissist and their behaviour. “Why are you like this? Why couldn’t you just change? Why did you have to cheat? How could you have stripped so much of my life away? Why did I waste so much of my life on you?”
Rage fuels a desire for the narcissist to “pay for all the pain and suffering”, try to expose the truth about them and their behaviour and turn the world against them.
It is easy to get stuck in this stage for a very long time which is not healthy.
In some cases, the victim feels that if they forgive or move on, that the narcissist then “got away with it in some way” – which is not the case.
You need to move on and heal for yourself so that you are not living with that toxicity and anger within you.
Stage 3 – Bargaining
This can be dangerous because you begin to go into “Maybes” and false hopes. Question if “Maybe this will work out if we go slow? Maybe we can be friends? Maybe we can co-parent the children (or pets)?” or, “I can get them to see my value and how much they miss me!”
The narcissist might reappear and start hovering, playing on fears and anxieties and the positive parts of the relationship at the beginning.
THIS IS NEVER THE CASE – The narcissist does not and cannot reflect on their own behaviour and so will not change. If given the opportunity, they will once again TAKE AND TAKE.
There may even have a very short-lived honeymoon phase but then quickly returns to toxic behaviour and you are left discarded and disappointed with rejection, which then feels even worse than before, because now you can see it!
Stage 4 – Depression
One of the hardest stages, as reality sets in….
Then hope is lost, that the narcissist will ever change.
Lonely, feeling, sad, beating yourself up for not seeing the signs, for staying in the relationship, for going-back, for wasted years…
“Did I waste my life?”, “Did they ever love me?”, “Did I give up too much in the divorce?”
Second guessing self and lawyer costs.
Regret: “I should have left 10 years ago”, I should never have gotten married!”
All the firsts that you will go through, in the initial months and years will be difficult.
It is crucial to develop your new life with your own interests, activities, and new friends.
It is important to build a network and have your own support system in place.
Stage 5 – Acceptance
Freedom from the emotional manipulation and no longer a pull to return to the relationship.
You know you are finally free when you can see your ex-partner and not feel the same level of emotions as you once did.
You are finally able to pursue your own life and be content that your ex-partner has their own new life.
Education and awareness are just the first step on the path to a healthier, happier life and relationships. Get support and guidance from a licensed therapist during these difficult stages as you leave a toxic relationship with a narcissist. Sonya Gandhi and her team have extensive experience in this area and can help individuals prepare for this challenging journey. Four Seasons Counselling can help guide you as you get a good lawyer, deal with triggers, document your story, set boundaries, protect your assets, plan your exit, and learn self-care and coping strategies. Eventually you will gain your independence and happiness and start a new life.
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Blog by: W M Hope