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5 Stages of Grief when leaving a narcissist

Updated: Nov 2, 2023

Whether you are still in the relationship with the narcissistic person in your life or if you are in the process of leaving, chances are you are experiencing some intense feelings of grief. You may be grieving what the relationship was in the beginning, what it could have been, how they abused you, or the loss of all of the time and energy you put into making it work.

There are 5 stages of grief we all go through when a special person in our life passes away, but what you may not have known is we go through those five same stages of grief when coming the realization, we are in a relationship with a narcissist or someone who has narcissistic traits.

5 Stages of Grief When Leaving a Narcissist
5 Stages of Grief When Leaving a Narcissist

Let’s take a look at the 5 stages:

Stage 1: Denial. This stage is really tough because you may not be to the point where you accept the fact that the person you are in a relationship with is actually very sick. Try to be gentle with yourself in this stage. The process of coming out of denial can be devastating. It is helpful to have someone who can guide you through this process when you first realize you are in a relationship with a narcissist.

Stage 2: Anger. Feelings of anger are very powerful and can be all consuming. Maybe you have come to a breaking point where the abuse is too much to handle any longer. You have tolerated their behavior, grey rocked, suppressed your emotions, and gave them excuses for far too long. Try to notice where you feel the anger in your body, and use physical activity to express your anger. You can go on brisk walks, break something with a baseball bat, go for a run, or listen to loud music while working out in the gym. Try to release the anger from your body instead of letting it sit and stew. Also try splashing cold water on your face or putting ice cubes on your body to shock your nervous system when you are feeling angry. This can also help distract you and let the feelings pass.

Stage 3: Bargaining. During this stage you may face some indecision around what you want to do. You might remember all of the good times you had with the narcissist in your life or some of the nice things they said and did for you in the beginning. But then on the other side of things you may think about how they made you question reality, refused to allow you to express your emotions, gas lit you, ignored you, or tried to turn your kids against you. When you are in the bargaining stage it is easy to lose it a little bit. Going back and forth is enough to make you question your sanity and your reality. I would recommend counseling to help you stay grounded in your truth and to work through this stage. In this stage you may be ruminating on “shoulda, woulda, coulda” and may be asking yourself “Maybe if I did things differently it would have turned out better.” I am here to tell you it is NOT YOUR FAULT!

Stage 4: Depression. Once the anger has passed, you may begin to feel very sad for everything you have lost in this relationship. You may be experiencing symptoms such as isolating, ignoring phone calls from loved ones, shutting down emotionally, binge eating or eating less, lacking in hygiene, and not cleaning up your space. It is okay if you are experiencing depression. In fact this is NORMAL when you have been enduring so much abuse. In counseling you will get help to process this depression and learn how to put yourself first.

Stage 5: Acceptance. The last and final stage you will accept everything you have been through and begin to make peace with yourself. It can take YEARS to get to this stage however with help from a counselor you will eventually get here. Acceptance is the stage where you can learn how to take better care of yourself and move on. Please note it is essential to go through the first four stages to get to acceptance, so do not rush your process or force yourself to get here before you are ready.

Sometimes you will jump around between stages before you arrive at acceptance. I would be honored to help you process your grief and help you put this in the past. You deserve healing, recovery, and a healthy life. Keep moving forward one step and one day at a time and YOU WILL GET THERE!

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