Originally posted Jan 7, 2009. I have brought this post forward due to the number of people who have found it helpful, many who do not want their comments posted for reasons we can all understand and appreciate. Thank you for all your kind words, you inspire me and others everyday!
If you have ever spoken to a therapist or someone who has studied up they will tell you about the five stages of grief. They’ll tell you that in order to heal after a loss that each person will swing between each of them for an undefined period in time until they reach the final one of Acceptance.
The five stages of grief:
“this can’t be happening to me”, looking for the person that you have lost in familiar places, setting the table for that person. No crying. Not accepting or even acknowledging the loss.
“why me?”, feelings of wanting to fight back or get even with spouse of divorce, for death, anger at the deceased, blaming them for leaving.
Attempting to make deals with the spouse who is leaving, or attempting to make deals with God to stop or change the loss. Begging, wishing, praying for them to come back.
Overwhelming feelings of hopelessness, frustration, bitterness, self pity, mourning loss of person as well as the hopes, dreams and plans for the future. Feeling lack of control, feeling numb. Perhaps feeling suicidal.
There is a difference between resignation and acceptance. You have to accept the loss, not just try to bear it quietly. Realization that it takes two to make or break a marriage. Realization that the person is gone (in death) that it is not their fault, they didn’t leave you on purpose. (even in cases of suicide, often the deceased person, was not in their right frame of mind) Finding the good that can come out of the pain of loss, finding comfort and healing. Our goals turn toward personal growth. Stay with fond memories of person.
Most of them will tell you that that undefined period normally lasts about 2 years though each person is different and some get stuck in the first 4 never progressing to the 5th one.
There is one kind of loss that is often over looked. When we talk of loss our first impulse is to think of the loss of a person to death or broken relationship. -+
There is another one and in some respects it is a far greater longer lasting loss than all the others.
The loss of a childhood.
Mourning the loss of the childhood you never had can be far more traumatic than losing another person under any circumstances. The healing process can be longer, it can take a lifetime of swinging between all of those five stages listed up above and at the end of the day reaching the final stage of acceptance is like the shedding of a skin after years of peeling the layers off.
The four stages of mourning the loss of a childhood:
Nothing bad happened to me, I didn’t miss out on anything. Sure my parents never showed me love but that is ok, that is normal. I wasn’t abused it was just a different way of showing me love. I am not the product of my youth. I am not affected by the things that happened to me.
Feelings of wanting to fight back or get even the ones that took your childhood away. Anger at the fact that you never had the childhood that others seem to have. Questions of why me and who were they to do that to me. Rage at the injustice of the childhood you had
Overwhelming feelings of hopelessness, frustration, bitterness, self pity, mourning the loss of all the hopes and dreams you had as a child. Mourning the loss of not having a loving relationship, a mentor, playing like other kids, all that you should’ve had but didn’t. Feeling lack of control, feeling numb, feeling like life is pointless, that it will never get better, that you are hopeless and your life is pointless. Perhaps feeling suicidal.
There is a difference between resignation and acceptance. You have to accept the loss, not just try to bear it quietly. The realisation that it isn’t your fault that all the things happened. Accepting that your childhood was not in your control. Accepting that you didn’t have all the happy experiences of the other children and understanding that what you make with your adulthood is up to you. Acceptance of the fact that what happened did happen and that they did have an affect on you. Finding the good that can come out of the pain of loss, finding comfort and healing, working through each thing and growing from them. Our goals turn toward personal growth.
The grieving process between losing a person and the loss of a childhood are similar in many ways though bargaining doesn’t play as great a role in the latter. No matter what anyone says there is still a process that we go through in order to heal from bad childhoods. Not many of us have perfect youths filled with love, laughter, playing in the sun and dancing in the rain. Whether we decide to accept it for what it is remains with each of us.
Some may get stuck in one of the first three stages, they may say things like “Oh well it happened, I am happy now and am not affected, sure I miss it but that is ok” or “Why the hell did I have to be the ONE to get all of that dealt to me, why could they not have just loved me, I am unlovable, no point in even trying”…
There are so many things that we can tell ourselves, the list is eternally endless and ultimately facing our childhoods is one of the scariest and traumatic things that any adult can do. Old demons and things lurking in closets are not just the stuff of nightmares but rather of all of our waking adult lives… There are no right or wrong ways of dealing with it but can we ever be truly “whole” without facing them? Without going through the grieving process and reaching that end acceptance?
I have gone through the four stages of grieving for the childhood I never had, I still swing sometimes between all of them depending on which chapter I open or what demons return to shake me up. I am not ashamed of that fact nor do I run from the truth of it. I used to get so frustrated with myself for not being “whole” fast enough, for not being able to handle things and reach acceptance with lightening speed. I used to beat myself up and castigate myself in and out for it all but then I reached my own level of acceptance.
For every step backwards I step two forwards. Acceptance is a continual process not done overnight and all things that are worthwhile take time. If it were easy then there would be little point because it would mean that I am only skimming the surface of what lurks below.
The loss of a childhood can torment you for as long as you allow it…
My soul is full of whispered song,
My blindness is my sight;
The shadows that I feared so long
Are full of life and light.
~~ Dying Hymn