Stages of Grief, Abuse and PTSD

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As always people, particularly psychologists, can categorise everything that happens to us in our lives. For example it has been suggested that there are four phases of response to being violated. The first reaction is disbelief and shock (in some cases where adults have only just realised they were abused as children, this initial phase can be delayed). This is then followed by a ‘frozen fright’, a sort of detached pseudo calm during which the victim is compliant and appeasing. (It is this appearance of cooperation that will be confused with consent when the victim looks back on the experience). The third phase is a delayed but chronic traumatic depression combined with ’bouts of apathy, anger, resignation, resentment, constipated rage, insomnia,’ and repeated replaying of events. The final phase is characterised by resolving the traumatic experience and integrating it into the victimised person’s behaviour and life-style.

Before this fourth phase can occur, a grief process must take place. ‘Grief!!…’ I hear you cry, ‘…isn’t that when somebody dies?’ Well actually whenever something is taken away from somebody he or she will experience a grief response. In the case of victims of child abuse you have probably lost your innocence, your childhood, the ability to trust, etc. Everyone grieves in their own way but they all tend to follow a pattern. This pattern is known as the five stages of grief.

People move between the different stages at different rates and can jump around between each phase. Recovery is more of a process than an event. Is important that although talk of phases and stages seems very cold and clinical you must remember that you are suffering inside and any discussion of recovery must be done slowly and methodically. Take your time and treat yourself gently.

Five Stages of Grief

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DENIAL
“Nothing happened”

BARGAINING
“Something happened, but….”

ANGER
“Something bad happened, and I don’t like it!!”

SADNESS
“Something happened, and it cost me a lot”

ACCEPTANCE/FORGIVENESS
“Something happened, and I have healed from it”

I would like to deal with the Anger Stage as that is the stage I am going through right now. I am angry at my mother and father for organising the paedophile ring and putting me through years of hell and I am angry at the men who abused me. I am also angry at also all the villagers and my family for not noticing what was going on. How could they not have known? Oh am I angry.

The third stage is commonly anger. Anger comes when the person acknowledges not only that something happened but that it was abusive and harmed them. It is the beginning of the phase that what has been done to them matters. For many this stage is a welcome relief. The anger gives them a sense of power and energy over the abuse. Becoming angry is the first stage to accepting what has happened and it is also the start of becoming a survivor and not a victim. Anger has been titaled ‘the back bone of healing’.

When you have trouble getting in touch with your anger think of someone you care about who is at the age you were when you were abused, such as a son, daughter, niece or nephew, and imagine that child being abused. Sometimes just saying ‘I am angry’ over and over again can help with the process of finding your anger.

Anger doesn’t have to be confused with violence. some people are afraid of showing anger for fear of becoming aggressive or violent. Some people are afraid that if they get angry they may hurt themselves or others. When these people experience anger for the first time they are surprised that no one got hurt and realise that the two do not necessarily come hand in hand.

To get in touch with your anger try writing a letter to someone stating what you have to be angry about, write how it has effected you and how you have been mistreated. If you have a revenge fantasy, write about it. you will get relief and at the same time no one will get hurt or frightened by your anger or thoughts.

The dangerous thing to do to anger is suppress it. Release it any way you know how, for example smashing glasses, tearing paper, working out, punching a pillow/punch bag etc.

Some victims become angry with everyone except the abuser. this is whilst they are coming to terms with feeling anger and testing it out. It is important for that person to rationally work through their feelings and direct their anger in the right place.

 

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I would love to hear from you so please leave a comment. All feedback is much appreciated. Thank you. Erin