DID and Grieving: Crying on God’s Shoulder Through Time

DID and Grieving: Crying on God’s Shoulder through Time

 

In this post we’ll talk about:

What is grief?

What are the stages of grieving?

Is grief only about the loss of a person?

What is traumatic grief?

What can happen during grief?

Is grief the same as depression?

How does one deal with grief in DID/SRA?

Permission to grieve

Stockholm Syndrome

Unexpected grief

Breeders

Stacks of grief

Internal help

Demons of grief

Holy Spirit as The Comforter

Grieving with Jesus

Getting help

 

Discussions about Dissociative Identity Disorder are normally couched in terms of the signs of dissociation, such as lost time, derealization, depersonalization, etc. Everyone recognizes the pain of abuse, be it physical, emotional, sexual, or spiritual. PAIN is the ground floor for someone with DID. A  major reason people with DID come to therapy, even decades after the abuse, is pain…..depression, isolation, anxiety, PTSD, etc. Here I want to focus on a specific type of pain: grieving.

What is grief?

Grief is defined as, “Keen mental suffering or distress over affliction or loss; sharp sorrow; painful regret. A cause or occasion of keen distress or sorrow”.  Obviously, everyone goes through times of grief, and learning to grieve well is an essential life skill. Recently, I had a discussion with a family member who commented that allowing her to grieve in childhood over the loss of pets (parakeets, cats, and dogs) prepared her to deal with the death of her grandfather. Having the history of knowing the pain will end someday, and remembering the animal and the fun that they had fondly, allowed them to fully enter into the loss of a beloved grandfather, secure that the pain would not overwhelm them. Nonetheless, in some types of losses, grief can be overwhelming. While grieving may be part of the life history of someone with DID, it comes into full force during the process of healing. Remembering the trauma brings grief, in particular if physical damage resulted. Remembering the seemingly endless losses (a life that could have been, loss of friends through removal or death, loss of dreams, loss of parents, loss of children, loss of a coherent sense of self), brings enormous grief; it may seem like another entire lifetime is insufficient to grieve the losses.

What are the stages of grieving?

The experts say that all people in grief go through these five stages [1. Denial and isolation; 2. Anger; 3. Bargaining; 4. Depression; 5. Acceptance] although not necessarily in that order.  However, in unresolved grief, acceptance may never be reached. Maybe there are those who heal from DID along this normal grief continuum, but I doubt it. That’s certainly not been our experience. It seems like most continuous and all recovered memories involve some sort of regret, loss, or tragic gut-wrenching horror that leads to grief. A consequence of immersion in this maelstrom of hurt – a past too horrible to remember – is hopeless despair. Grief is firmly embedded there, and it’s very difficult to isolate the overlapping waves of grief from a lifetime of harm.

Is grief only about the loss of a person?

For many people, grief is pretty much related to the loss of a person or a pet. But all sorts of difficult or traumatic life experiences can lead to grief. For example, those who work with battered women, and those individuals who are victims of sexual assault, now recognize that the grief involved in this type of healing is as serious, and even potentially more complicated, than the grief of a death. Grieving is not just the loss of a person.  One survivor notes, “… when a survivor of abuse is going through a similar grief process to the one people go through when a loved one has died, we need to support them the same way as we support the people who are missing someone they’ll never get to see again. And maybe then, those of us who grieve the loss of who we used to be will begin to believe we are “survivors” as some choose to call us.” Note this is not a short process. In fact, years after an assault a person may need to go back and grieve the loss of an abused child inside, even in the absence of a dissociative disorder.

What is traumatic grief?

When grief is associated with a traumatic event (rape, car accident, robbery, etc) there is a mixture of emotions that are referred to as traumatic grief. “Traumatic Grief is defined as a concept where a person suffers from grief as a result of a death and also from traumatic distress. If people are grieving and experiencing separation anxiety the symptoms will consist of yearning, searching and loneliness. When there is concurrent traumatic distress the person will also be experiencing numbness, disbelief, distrust, anger and a sense of futility about the future. Traumatic Grief captures both dimensions of a person’s response.”

What can happen during grief?

When trying to understand the symptoms of grief in yourself or another, it’s good to know the breadth of feelings that are included. “While loss affects people in different ways, many people experience the following symptoms when they’re grieving. Just remember that almost anything that you experience in the early stages of grief is normal – including feeling like you’re going crazy, feeling like you’re in a bad dream, or questioning your religious beliefs.

  • Shock and disbelief – Right after a loss, it can be hard to accept what happened. You may feel numb, have trouble believing that the loss really happened, or even deny the truth. If someone you love has died, you may keep expecting them to show up, even though you know they’re gone.
  • Sadness – Profound sadness is probably the most universally experienced symptom of grief. You may have feelings of emptiness, despair, yearning, or deep loneliness. You may also cry a lot or feel emotionally unstable.
  • Guilt– You may regret or feel guilty about things you did or didn’t say or do. You may also feel guilty about certain feelings (e.g. feeling relieved when the person died after a long, difficult illness). After a death, you may even feel guilty for not doing something to prevent the death, even if there was nothing more you could have done.
  • Anger – Even if the loss was nobody’s fault, you may feel angry and resentful. If you lost a loved one, you may be angry at yourself, God, the doctors, or even the person who died for abandoning you. You may feel the need to blame someone for the injustice that was done to you.
  • Fear – A significant loss can trigger a host of worries and fears. You may feel anxious, helpless, or insecure. You may even have panic attacks. The death of a loved one can trigger fears about your own mortality, of facing life without that person, or the responsibilities you now face alone.
  • Physical symptoms– We often think of grief as a strictly emotional process, but grief often involves physical problems, including fatigue, nausea, lowered immunity, weight loss or weight gain, aches and pains, and insomnia.

Another source lists physical, mental, and emotional responses to grief that can be extremely debilitating:

Physically, persons affected by grief may experience:

Fatigue and exhaustion alternating with periods of high alertness and energy

Temporary hearing loss or vision impairment (possibly associated with dissociation)

Difficulty sleeping

Disturbed appetite (either increased and decreased)

Muscle tremors

Chills and/or sweating

Difficulty breathing or rapid respiration

Increased heart rate or blood pressure

Stomach and/or intestinal problems

Nausea and/or dizziness

 

Mentally, persons affected by grief may experience:

Confusion (memory, concentration, judgment and comprehension difficulties)

Intrusion (unwanted thoughts, arousal, nightmares)

Dissociation (intense feelings of detachment, unreality and denial)

 

Emotionally, persons affected by grief may experience:

Shock

Fear, anxiety or apprehension

Anger, irritability or agitation

Guilt

Numbness, remoteness, depression”

Is grief the same as depression?

Many people with DID also have PTSD. Anxiety and grief are intertwined tightly in most cases. In addition, people with DID often have diagnosable Major Depression. In the process of healing it’s helpful to know what may be symptoms that could benefit from medication vs. those more appropriately treated by counseling and emotional support. One way to discriminate is that grief has its ups and downs. There are good days and bad days. With major depression the despair is constant. Other identifiers of depression vs. grief include:

  • Intense, pervasive sense of guilt
    • Thoughts of suicide or a preoccupation with dying
    • Feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness
    • Slow speech and body movements
    • Inability to function at work, home, and/or school
    • Seeing or hearing things that aren’t there

How does one deal with grief in DID/SRA?

In an article about treating complicated grief, the authors note that, “With successful mourning, the individual moves from a state of acute grief to integrated grief in which the finality of the loss is acknowledged, the trauma of the loss is resolved, emotions become more positive or bittersweet, the mental representation is revised to encompass the death of the attachment figure, and the exploratory system is reactivated, with life goals revised to integrate the consequences of the loss. This occurs through a ”dual-process model,“ with both loss- and restoration-focused activities.”  Now consider that statement in the context of a person who has multiple Alters and Primaries who may or may not be co-conscious (able to discern and communicate with each other inside). There is denial.  There are usually extremely traumatic memories, flash backs, and often demonic attachments. So where does one start?

Permission to grieve

To me/ to us a huge factor in healing grief has been acknowledging that we should grieve. The tears, the pain, the desperate sense of loss were all there, but since no one had just died, it didn’t seem right that we should have grief. From our counselor and from the Lord, we were given permission to grieve. The weeping was given a name: grief. It wasn’t going to kill us. It wasn’t going to last forever. Yes, our grief was complicated by major depression, but the two are different. As memory after memory after memory came from the depths of our body, soul, and spirit, we could work through the losses that hugely impacted our life.

Stockholm Syndrome

Unless one has gone through the process of recovery from DID, esp. DID/SRA/MC, yourself or with someone, it’s difficult to think about how various experiences may be related to grief. The question always has to be not what is the sense of loss to the Primary Presenter  (although that’s very important), but what is the sense of loss to the Alter or Primary who experienced the event. The first level of grief is in the experience itself. For example, a child is programmed and handled by an individual to whom there is now a Stockholm relationship. (To understand the Stockholm Syndrome where a person cares for their captor, check out the article here.) By some mechanism (usually violent) that person is killed. The child now is left with probably numerous feelings (fear, guilt, insecurity), but also grief. The one who “cared for” her is gone. The pain of loss is exquisite. While the Primary Presenter may understand that this man who was killed was an evil person who used children, molested children, and made money from their pain, the child Alter involved still needs to work through the loss. There is normally a very strong level of attachment, if not love and affection, there. If there is a strong internal sense of support at this point in time, the grieving may proceed quickly. If not, it may take considerable support from a counselor or family member. Granted some memories are from Alters who integrate (become re-associated with the Primary from whom she was dissociated) as the memories are being discussed, particularly if the Lord is involved in the healing, but in many cases of serious grief, the grieving needs to be worked through before that Alter can integrate.

Unexpected grief

Sometimes during healing, grief can catch you by surprise. For example, after processing what seemed like innumerable memories of childhood porn and prostitution, we thought, “Wow, we should be feeling much better.” But no. There was the sudden realization that all of those Littles were “me”. Even after dealing with the lies that we were evil, dirty, ugly………., grief remained. We lost a childhood. We feared men our entire life. We didn’t have a normal childhood on the inside. It’s OK to grieve. Getting to the point where that past life can be accepted as reality and used as a foundation for a different sort of life in the future, allows everyone in the system to move on.

Breeders

Let me touch here on one of the hardest areas to grieve in DID/SRA recovery. If you are a survivor, this is a very difficult topic, so you may want to just skip to the next paragraph …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….. In many cases of cult activity, young women are used as breeders. Children are bred to be sacrificed. Although the child may not be allowed to go to full term, seeing the demise of your own child, no matter how you feel about how that child came to be, is traumatic and heart-wrenching. Time must be set aside during the healing process to grieve these losses. Fortunately, at this point these children are with the Lord, even if none of the adults were Christian at the time. Jesus always takes human children to Himself. If you are in this circumstance where you lost a child through miscarriage or abortion or “purposeful child bearing”, Jesus can help you grieve by telling you about that child. In all of the cases where we lost a baby, Jesus has given us its name, gender, and some information about his/her personality. We were given a “vision” related to the child, which we were able to paint. Once we were sure that we had identified all of the memories where a child was taken from the womb for sacrifice, we, our husband, and our counselor had a memorial service. It brought closure. We bought a pink or blue bear for each child, which are now on a shelf next to the pictures we painted for each child. We’ll get to know them in heaven. And yes, the pain becomes less. We acknowledge that we are their mother, and we love them, and that alone is healing.

Stacks of grief

Like depression, grief can be incapacitating. No doubt the harder one pushes through the healing process, the more the grief “stacks up”. Some people are able to work through healing for DID/SRA/MC and retain some level of functionality, like caring for a family, maintaining a job, etc. Others cannot. We were in the latter group. The profession, which we had spent the majority of our life building, was lost. All the relationships from our job were lost. Essentially all of our church relationships were lost. This caused enormous grief for our Primaries.

So let’s look at “stacks” of grief. One tenet of healing is that if the pain/lies/grief can be handled at the Primary level, healing will be more efficient. The Primaries need to be found and deal with their issues at this executive level. [If you haven’t read the blog “What does it mean to be a personality”  which talks about Primaries and Alters, looking it over may help make understanding the healing process a bit easier.] In brief, Primaries can process memories at an executive level, that if done properly, often makes processing at the Alter level unnecessary. This includes grief. Unfortunately, the needs of the Alters continue to press in. Flashbacks, triggers, the needs of their life usually bring up more and more deep-seated pain and memories that require attention. When grieving is associated with lies, i.e. the grief is related to some false belief about oneself or the situation, hearing Truth from Jesus can make the grief vanish. But that’s not always the case. Grief seems to have a life of its own in the depth of our soul. In DID/SRA we’re almost always talking about traumatic grief (as noted above), and the survivor needs to know that it’s OK to grieve at all levels.

Internal help

When Alters and Primaries are all grieving one or more events at the same time, we’ve found that internal communication about the grief, when possible, is extremely helpful. Yes, sometimes internal personalities are at odds with each other (carrying anger, hatred, jealously, etc.), but during the healing process, as that internal love and appreciation for each other grows, all of the parts can gather around and comfort each other. It can even be helpful to look at the stages of grief and talk that through internally, esp. at the Primary level. Since denial is a given in DID), are there some insiders who believe what happened? Can they encourage others to look at the evidence? If there is anger, against whom? When there is profound sadness and weeping, we’ve found that holding each other inside can be a great help. Words of comfort and understanding can be spoken within. Obviously, this is more complex when there are layers, different Alters or Primaries grieving different memories, but for those who are able, filling the interior with a sense of love and understanding can be a huge help for everyone.

Demons of grief

It may seem odd to many to bring up the issue of demons here, but the reality is that demons normally inhabit traumatic memories, and they love to exacerbate grief to an almost unbearable level. Demons of grief are rampant in DID. I talked a bit about demons on my page “What is Ritual Abuse (RA) and Satanic Ritual Abuse (SRA)?” Often the time and intensity of grieving can be considerably shortened by getting rid of any associated demons. If you are a born again Christian, you have the power by Holy Spirit to just tell them to go in the Name of Jesus. Having a knowledgeable Christian to help you is good (as long as they understand that internal parts are not demons. They are YOU.). How do you know you have demons? Clues can be incredibly intense, unremitting grief, voices speaking to you from outside, seeing scary, ugly creatures in your mind or even in reality, and having Jesus tell you that they are there. By all means if you believe you have demons and you have no one to help you, CONTACT ME    – even if you come to this post years after it was written.

Holy Spirit as The Comforter

The ultimate comfort in grieving comes from God. Holy Spirit is called “The Comforter”. When Jesus was raised from the dead, and went back to heaven, He sent Holy Spirit to dwell inside all who believe and accept Jesus Christ as Lord. You can read about the power that came upon Jesus’ disciples when Holy Spirit came in the Bible (Acts chapter 2). Jesus died on the cross to defeat the works of Satan in our lives. If we accept His sacrifice, He fills us with Holy Spirit. Having Holy Spirit during the process of grieving is amazing. He speaks comforting words. He “holds” each part. He fills us with love. He never leaves us – ever. If you’ve never accepted Jesus as your Lord and Savior check out my page here. So one the huge part of processing grief should be getting to know and getting more in tune with Holy Spirit. Many Christians have not explored the depth of “knowing” God that is the heritage of every Christian. Nothing pulls on this right of being filled by Holy Spirit more than grieving with Him/ being held by Him over the long haul of healing.

Grieving with Jesus

Finally, one of the sweetest aspects of being in communion with Jesus Christ is that He grieves with you. One way that Jesus enters into the healing process is being with you in the memories. If you’re in a memory, ask Him where He is. Look around. He is there. As part of healing the memory, ask Jesus to tell you what lies you’re believing, and then ask Him to give you His Truth. Whether it’s at the Primary or Alter level, where there is great grief and despair, you’ll find that Jesus is grieving/ crying/ surrounding you with His love. Is 53:4, “Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.” By pressing into Him, seeking Him in prayer daily, allowing Him to comfort you and grieve with you, His great love and capacity to heal moves the process forward much faster than could happen otherwise. In addition, one develops the tremendous, deep friendship with Jesus that is one of the most fabulous aspects of being Christian.

Grieving in DID is probably one of the most difficult aspects of healing. Sometimes it’s so overwhelming, you don’t think you can survive. Even if as a Primary you’re doing OK, the depth of grief inside, in places you can’t even identify, can weigh you down. Fortunately, even if you don’t know who inside is grieving, Jesus does. He can lead you to that Alter or other Primary and bring the grieving out into the open to be healed. Is it all complicated with lies, trauma, and demons? Yes. But Jesus is the Great Healer. Nothing is too hard for Him. We can say now – at the other side of weeping and weeping and weeping – losing all that we thought was important, even our identity – Jesus was there and He was walking with us through it all.

Getting help

If you need help with grieving, find a pastor or counselor or Contact Me . If you have a comment, advice, or anything else you want to talk about, please leave a Comment below. I’d love to hear from you. Remember, I’m praying for you.

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