John Bradshaw writes extensively on the need for in grieving over and for the painful losses or absence of what we needed to grow and flourish in children but did not get as part of second order change in recovery and healing from both addictions and relationship attachment trauma that leads us to both co-dependency and narcissistic injury. The different aspects and nature of grief work as well as associated deficits and losses of what we needed but did not get as young ones are also clearly outlined in Complex PTSD therapist Pete Walker’s book on the subject.
Lately as I feel my own tears pouring out of me in the most inopportune of places I try just to surrender fully to the waves and not fear that parental attack. At those times, as Walker’s writing reminds me, re-reading it today, I am most probably in a flashback. The piece I just read a moment ago in his book reminds me that until we get further along in knowing WHEN we are actually in flashback, we cannot even begin to show ourselves the necessary love, understanding, support and encouragement to move through those storms when they occur. Only over times can many of us can stop turning our inner criticism upon the scared, or weaker part of us that was so vulnerable in childhood and instead learn best how to turn toward and fully embrace it, allowing the necessary outflow of old pain that will lead to growth, wisdom and true change.
I am just reading a novel about three characters with loss and grief/inner child issues and one of the characters, Lizzie cannot sit still, she has to be cleaning and organizing her environment at every single moment and someone close to her who cares and sees through her has just been trying to tell her she will never reach the root of her problems by acting out compulsively and yet, that it seems is what we must do, at least until we eventually grow in awareness of those things we use to shut ourselves down in and to turn against our bury the feelings and needs of our true self.
I would like to share this with you today on the issue of grief work the following excerpt from Chapter 11 of his book.. This chapter is devoted entirely to the subject of grieving.
Insight, as crucially important as it is, is never enough to attaiin the deeper levels of recovering. No amount of intention or epiphany can bypass a survivor’s need to lean to lovingly care for herself when she is in an emotional flashback. It is crucial that we respond to ourselves with kindness when we are feeling scared, sad, mad or bad.
Grieving aids the survivor immeasureably to work through the death-like experience of being lost and trapped in an emotional flashback Grieving metabolizes our most painful abandonment feelings, especially if those give rise to suicidal ideation, and at their worst, active suicidality.
Recoverees also need to grieve the death of their early attachment neeeds. We must grieve the awful fact that safety and belonging was scarce or non existant in our own famiiies. We need the myriad heartbreaks of our frustrated attempts to win approval and affection from our parents (and or siblings or caregivers and teachers or peers.)
Grieving also supports recovery from the many painful death like losses caused by childhood traumatization. Key childhood loses (which Walker addresses in is book Complex PTSD : From Surviving to Thriving are all the crucial development arrests that we suffered. The most essential of these are the death of our self compassion and self esteem, as ll as our abilities to protect ourselves and fully express ourselves.
Grieving the Absence of Parental Care
As our capacity to grieve evolves, we typically uncover a great deal of unresolved grief about the deadening absence of the nurturance we needed to develop and thrive. Here are the key types of parental nurturing that all children need in order to flourish. Knowing about these unmet needs can help you to grieve out the unreleased pain that comes from having grown up without this type of support. Moreover this knowledge can guide you to reparent and interact with yourself more nurturingly.
- Verbal Nurturance eager participation in multidimensional conversation. Generous amounts of praise and positive feedback. Willingness to entertain all questions. Teaching, reading stories. providing resources for ongoing verbal development.
- Spiritual Nurturance Seeing and reflecting back to the child his or her essential worth, basic goodness and loving nature. Engendering experiences of joy, fun, and love to maintain the child’s innate sense that life is a gift. Spiritual or philosophical guidance to help the child integrate painful aspects of life. Nurturing the child’s creative self expression. Frequent exposure to nature.
- Emotional Nurturance. Meeting the child consistently with caring, regard and interest. Welcoming and valuing the child’s full emotional expression. Modeling non abusive expression of emotions. Teaching safe ways to release anger that do not hurt the child or others. Generous amounts of love, warmth, tenderness, and compassion. Honoring tears as a way of releasing hurt. Beng a safe refuge. Humor.
- Physical Nurturance. Affection and protection. Healthy diet and sleep schedule. Teaching habits of grooming, discipline, and responsibility. Helping the child develop hobbies, outside interests, and their own personal sense of style. Helping the child balance rest, play and work.
With sufficient grieving the survivor gets that he was innocent and eminently loveable as a child. As he mourns the bad luck of not being born to loving parents he finds within himself a fierce, unshakeable self alliegance. He becomes ready, willing and able to be there for himself no matter what he is experiencing internally and externally.