Grieving for someone who is alive

Her smell, her embrace, her laugh, her seriousness, her favourite colour, her jewellery, our jokes, our late night sleep overs.

I remember how much I loved her, how intensely I needed her acceptance, validation and her friendship.

I remember making promises of a life time of friendship and jokes of being an “aunty” to her children.

I remember how afraid I was of losing her…

And then I did.

The memories spear my soul.

In this situation, there is nothing I can do to bring her back.

But she’s not dead. In fact I hope she’s alive, so alive, so healthy and reaching her dreams the one’s we once shared.

But I am not going to lie. That wasn’t my first reaction to losing this friendship. Join me as I reflect on my journey over several posts. The journey of grieving someone who is alive.

BPD is beyond my understanding at times. How am I so capable of loving so deeply and then hating so intensely. But, I do know why. Its one word. It starts with T and leaves you fearful of making friends and fearful of losing them so intensely. Its trauma. Insecure parental attachments and previous co-dependent relationships.

The death of this friendship has been agonizing for me. The loss has intensified my emotions and symptoms of BPD. And due to my ineffective coping mechanisms at times. I tired to end my life, as I thought a life without this person and this pain was not possible. But I am getting there, and so will you.

I know I am not the only one who has experienced this. Interpersonal relationships for people with BPD are hard. Unfortunately, modelling of effective boundaries, emotional regulation and communication are often lacking in our childhood.

So how am I now managing to cope with this loss?

Yes, loss as I discovered it to be. As I am still reflecting, the academic in me is going to use the Stages of Grief and Loss model to explore this. Of course, this process is unique to every individual. But for me it began with anger.

image source: psychcentral

THE ANGER STAGE

  1. My initial reaction was rage. I was at home and my body started trembling. After the rage which resulted in a big mess. I stood still and realised I was dribbling. I look back and realised that rage had been coming for a long time. I had been in denial for a while about some things. This was the iceberg of my anger stage.
  2. My anger stage lasted a while. Not just anger at this person, but anger at myself. My lack of insight into how I had idolised this person, how we struggled to communicate our needs effectively, and anger for the loss of what once was amazing. Anger at having my boundaries not respected. And a lot more anger.

Tips for the Anger stage:

Whether this is one day, week, months or years. These are The tips that are helping me.

  • As frightening as it is, don’t cut yourself off from those you love and who are supporting you. You need them now, more than ever.
  • Spend time with other friends: So…I spent more time with my church friends. Friends that I might have put aside in the past because I was so obsessive about this one person. Simple outtings such as coffee, picnics, walks, dinners. Spend time with people who make you feel safe and are non-judgmental people. As these spaces can help you express your emotions.
  • Emotional expression: I wrote several letters (which I did not send) expressing my anger, my disappointment and a range of emotions. This process helped in identifying what I was feeling and the solution that I was trying to search for. If you are thinking of sending a letter or response. Please have someone read over it for another opinion. They might be able to see further ahead than you can.
  • Leisure occupations: Explore new environments, clubs and interests. My husband and I started playing cricket.
    • Although I cried there too, each week a new player would come up and talk to me. Even to the point where they asked me to fill in for some games. That new acceptance was huge for me. I didn’t talk much around “the boys” but I laughed, enjoyed the sun, and got to become a regular member of the club. It was a new identity for me with a couple of simple responsibilities such as filling and running the drinks out. I found a new community.
    • For my husband and carer this meant he could also have a space where he could relax a little bit and know that I was involved in meaningful activities.
  • I spoke to many, many health clinicians. Their validation, encouragement and support made me think, No, just because I/you have BPD doesn’t make us the “bad guy”. They encouraged me to try and allow the anger to come out rather than suppress my emotions. But do so in a “safe way”.
  • Due to my impulsiveness I disabled my facebook, instagram and snapchat account.
  • With support from my psychiatrist we thought it was a good idea to delete these friends from my profile. As I would spend hours looking at their pictures sobbing and self-harming. Then I would send an angry message saying how much they hurt me – to which no reply – unto which I became more angry, depressed and shameful.
  • If you can, I would encourage you to try and block or disable their posts from showing up, rather than delete the connection. I read many helpful blogs about whether or not this was the right action. I’m still undecided but at that very moment it protected me from self-harming and put in a physical barrier that I tried and couldn’t do emotionally.
  • Try to encourage self-understanding. Anger is a natural human response to when you have been hurt. Holding it in is dangerous, but so is rage. This requires exploration of ways to release the anger in helpful ways. Some activities I have tried include angry art, angry music and angry exercises which can be found here.

The next part in this blog series of “Grieving for someone who is alive” can be found here. More posts on anger and other support strategies can be found on the strategies and intervention page.

If you are struggling please seek help whether this is crisis or more long term support. You will get through this. Xx

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