Blog 102. Endings and Grief: Finding Yourself Unable To Change A Situation (Like A Child Forced To Grow Up With An Abusive Parent) Can Lead To A Form Of Grief.
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Although I will address death and bereavement extensively in the next section, Elizabeth Kübler-Ross, the Swiss-American Psychiatrist suggested that there are 5 stages of grief that we go through when losing someone we love. She wrote about this in her book called, “On Death and Dying”.
These 5 stages are: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Often these stages are not always felt in that order. They can be felt in any order and sometimes all at once. But interestingly, it is not only during bereavement or loss that these stages can be felt.
Feelings of loss can also be experienced in certain everyday circumstances too.
It can happen when we realise that a situation or indeed someone we know, is never going to change and that nothing we do will ever alter this fact. However, once we realise this, it can lead to a flood of emotions ranging from shock and surprise, then frustration and even anger – turning into grief and sadness for what might have been, as we begin to accept that which we cannot possibly change.
These intense feelings can start as early as childhood. And in order to understand this concept better, it is often a good idea to start with how a child might feel, if they find themselves in a situation without being able to change it.
A good example of these feelings is when say a child is forced to grow up with an abusive parent:
- As a result, a child may land up blaming the other parent for letting the abuse happen, or indeed for also not leaving the marital home to seek refuge and safety elsewhere.
- This can cause a child to feel utterly helpless as they watch a parent being abused by another.
- This can lead to attempts of bargaining with either parent, to stop the situation from re-occurring.
- But if the abuse continues, a child could start feeling further helplessness and anxiety.
- They can also start feeling very frustrated, watching a parent collude or even in their eyes, accept the abuse.
- They may even feel angry with a parent for initiating the abuse too – possibly by their very presence of staying and accepting the abuse.
- Consequently, they may feel that parents should separate so that the abuse can stop.
- But if this does not happen, and if the abuse continues to occur month after month, year after year, a child could start feeling depressed – as they realise that nothing will change.
- This could also leave a child feeling very angry filled with blame and questions as they try to find reasons why anyone would accept and expose their children to the abuse.
- On the other hand, a child could also feel enormous amounts of guilt, feeling it was their fault or that they were the reason a parent stayed. For some parents this is true. Some stay because having lost their self-confidence after years of abuse, many may feel unworthy of a better life. Leaving can then become very hard, especially if they’re unable to support their families financially, or if they fear recriminations from their extended family, friends and so on.
Sadly, this cycle of events, can lead to much blame and anger later on in life too, as a child blames a parent for allowing a situation to continue, resulting in their miserable upbringing. This can be very hard for parents to deal with, especially if they were only trying to do their best. They may also have decided that it was better to have two parents than just one, irrespective of the abuse. But also sometimes confronting abuse can be very hard to deal with, and some parents prefer to ignore it, hoping it will go away.
Sadly however, this can be hard on kids who may feel they would have thrived better without the abusive parent.
And sadly too, this can be very hard if a child carries a fantasy or expectation of what they hoped their home life could have consisted of – especially when they see other families leading happy lives.
Unfortunately some prefer to hold on to blame and anger right into adulthood, and this can become emotionally crippling, also for the families involved.
These feelings could then lead to many years of struggle and grief, unless acceptance is reached and a child finally learns to let go and move on.
But besides experiencing this range of feelings in childhood, these emotions can occur in adulthood, irrespective or BECAUSE of what happened in childhood. Often this is when adults feel disempowered by situations that they too cannot change.
Sometimes it’s important to recognise that adults can get just as frustrated, if they feel their voice is not being heard, or if external circumstances have dictated or created certain events which they have no control over. And if their hopes or expectations get dashed, this can lead to anger and resentment, and possibly also loss and grief.
But adults should also remember that unlike children we DO have a voice and we can also make choices that as children we were probably unable to make. And also, adults are far better placed to voice their annoyance or their concerns, or they can make different choices that circumvent problems we encounter.
But adults do and can also grieve, if what they wanted seems lost or unattainable.
When these feelings arise, it often occurs via the 5 stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance, felt either separately or all at once.
And it should be remembered that when human beings feel out of control, this often masks an inner feeling of vulnerability and fear. Sometimes these feelings can come from old childhood memories and sometimes they can come from knowledge and wisdom about the repercussions of a current situation.
But vulnerability and fear can turn into extreme feelings of loss which may lead to depression. Joyce Meyer wisely wrote that, “Sometimes depression can emerge as a result of disappointment, allowed to fester in the soul – leading to discouragement”. And depression is often thought of as depressed or repressed anger experienced when people feel out of control and when things look very dark, bleak and dismal.
Sadly however, in order to counter balance fear, some may choose to hold on to the anger or blame – as this can seem easier than letting go and grieving what happened or what could not be changed. On the other hand, others may let go easier and quicker. But how everyone deals with situations they cannot control – varies from person to person.
And life certainly doesn’t always offer us everything we hoped for. Sometimes when we look back – this can be a great blessing in disguise. But this should not stop us from living as best we can.
Martin Luther King, Jr once wrote, ” We must learn to accept finite disappointment – but we must never lose infinite hope”. He was obviously a man with great wisdom and insight.
© 2018 Deidré Wallace All rights reserved.
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