Grief Management after the Narcissist

By Kim Saeed | Break-Ups

May 27

The period after the Narcissist leaves (or your implementing No Contact) is a time of not only shock, but of personal disaster, as well.  It feels like you’re floating in the middle of the ocean, with no life preserver and no land in sight.  It’s also when you feel extremely alone and vulnerable, even if you are in the company of your children or well-meaning friends and family.

Along with other dynamics that developed inside the toxic relationship, not being able to manage grief effectively is often a catalyst that sends people crawling back to their abuser–and leaving the door wide open to months or years of further mistreatment.

Following are suggestions that will help you endure the state of disbelief you feel when the Narcissist finally leaves and files for divorce, or after you’ve implemented No Contact (and perhaps filed for divorce yourself).

Let it Sink In

The most common reaction most victims feel after their toxic relationship comes to an end is disbelief that their partner likely never loved them and/or had the capacity to be so cruel.  The inability to grasp that someone you loved and catered to, that played such a large role in your life is now lost to you (and further appears to have no heart about the matter) seems like more than you can handle and accept as true.

Losing a love relationship is difficult enough, but it’s becoming increasingly clear that the severing of ties from an emotional abuser often leaves one completely distraught, as though there’s been a death.  Cognitive dissonance is particularly strong during this time as you experience abuse amnesia, only remembering the Narcissist’s “good side”.

Many victims feel a temporary sense of relief and freedom when the relationship first ends, only to experience a profound sense of loss and doubt shortly after.  This is the very reason it’s critical to maintain No Contact and accept the loss, allowing yourself to grieve instead of engaging in behaviors that will suppress it (or worse, going back to your abuser).

If you need to go on a three-day bender, then go for it (assuming you don’t have children present), but after that you should allow the grief to move through you so you can process it in healthy ways.  Keeping yourself medicated with substances and/or prescription medications for the long-term will later cause your grief to manifest in ways that can be quite destructive, not to mention the damage it can do to you physically.

Don’t fight your emotions

Though you are aware that the relationship was unhealthy, you may still feel bereaved.  Many people coming out of this type of relationship feel “foolish” or “ridiculous” for mourning someone they know is bad for them.  This often leads to their not allowing themselves to process their grief or mourn the loss, pushing their emotions down into their bodies where they become lodged in their organs and cells, which is hazardous to their health and well-being.

It’s important to deal with your emotions safely.  If you’re driving down the road and feel a nuclear meltdown coming on, pull to the side of the road.  If you feel anger rising up inside you, go somewhere where you can vent your rage appropriately and not towards any children who may be innocent bystanders.  They’re already dealing with the loss of one of their parents or long-term caregivers (in the event the Narc wasn’t their biological parent).  The last thing they need is for the remaining parent to lash out at them undeservedly.  If you have a closet in your bedroom, go into your bedroom, lock the door…then go into the closet and let it all out.

Take care of yourself

Though it may seem like a no-brainer, make sure you eat right and get enough sleep.  These two factors are important indicators of how you will fare following the breakup of your relationship.

During this time, people usually take one of two roads.  Either they quit eating, or eat the wrong types of foods.  If your inclination is to skip meals, try to at least eat a few pieces of fruit during the day, especially if you’re not sleeping well.  No sleep + no food = a low immunity and leaves you at risk for all kinds of illnesses.

On the other hand, if you tend to be an emotional eater you should consider bypassing the chips and doughnuts.  The uptake in sugar consumption, along with other FDA-approved poisons, creates a cancer cocktail inside your body.  Allow yourself a little dark chocolate a couple of times a week, as it contains antioxidants and causes your brain to release endorphins.  However, remember not to overdo it.

If you find yourself having trouble falling asleep, consider taking melatonin an hour or so before bedtime.  Ask your local health-food store clerk or Walmart pharmacist which dosage would be appropriate for you.  Try to avoid prescription sleeping pills as many of them are habit-forming.  Sandalwood and lavender essential oils are also wonderful sleep aids, but make sure they’re pure and not the commercial stuff, as those are often contaminated with impurities.

Stay off the forums, at least at first

Educating yourself about Narcissism is important, but hanging out on forums for weeks on end will often make you feel worse.  The reason is that you will come across a lot of triggering information, which isn’t what you need when your relationship has freshly ended.  Additionally, doing so causes your negative thoughts to feed off of themselves, which only attracts more negativity into your mind.  Besides, there are more incidents of Narcissists infiltrating into closed groups, causing chaos and driving people to feel suicidal.  Admins are usually pretty good at filtering them out, but you never know when you might get hit with a whammy, especially that many FB pages and forums are run by one person who can’t possibly filter out everything.

If you need someone to talk to, go to the one confidante that has always been there for you, whether they be an online friend, your co-worker, or sibling.  Camp out on a trusted blog that focuses on recovery. Go to your therapist, get a massage, and a pedicure.  Take yourself to the local bookstore and read a book about recovery from emotional abuse.

If you can’t get out because you have small children, go to YouTube and try out some guided meditations.  Not only will they help soothe your aching heart, they just might help you fall asleep (assuming the wee ones are already down for the night).

Do you have any helpful suggestions for what to do following the breakup with the Narcissist?  Share your comments below!

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(36) comments

BEVERLY August 31, 2017

I asked my crack addicted narcissist to leave and he did and he is portraying himself as being the happiest he has ever been We have been together 16 month. He is 56 and been on crack since he was 18
He will not speak to me at all. telling me he seeks Gods will only. I am in shock

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Gastona July 22, 2017

There is a point, after the break up, that you realize (don’t last much at the begging) that you don’t miss THEM.
You miss yourself in the relationship and the relationship you thought you had.
Grab that moment to remember things from the narc’s character. You will realize that he/she was nothing like you thought. WRITE THEM DOWN. As much as you can. It will be very helpful when emotions twist and you feel bad again.
It helped me very much.

You will soon become fully aware that they weren’t so clever, so interesting, so caring. YOU WERE. On the contrary, they are very dull and boring.

After that, everything becomes easier.

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sara October 15, 2016

Thanks for this. I’m about six months out of a 14 year marriage that only in hindsight I am realizing how toxic it was. It’s impossibly hard, but reading articles like this and seeing that others have experienced similar and are thriving despit it all, gives me hope. I’m just starting to document my journey for anyone interested. http://www.itiswell.net.

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toomanyfeelings November 21, 2015

Reblogged this on too many feelings.

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Anonymous January 24, 2015

Thanks for this and other posts. I am too deep in my grief right now to say much. Just grateful to hear that these feelings are a normal part of recovery and to know I am not alone in this.

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Marshall January 24, 2015

Write a chronicle of all the bad things they have done. Read it back. Writing gets it out of you, reading it back gives you perspective on just how awful they were. Talk about it with someone you care about. If they’ve (the narcissist) isolated you, find someone any way you can and talk about it with them. The looks of shock when you share the abuse you’ve gone through validate your perspective and help make the lingering doubts about whether you’re the crazy one/at fault (they’re experts at making you feel like the bad guy for justifiable responses to their abuse) disappear.

Don’t be afraid of how you feel. You will miss them, you will be so angry you can’t think, you will spend days in pain. You will compensate for these raw emotions. And that’s ok.

As long as you don’t hurt others, do and feel what you need to, to get better.

This experience will change you. After the initial depression and taking the first steps toward emotional stabilization, you may find yourself more self-interested, more aggressively pursuing new goals and new people. Don’t deny this in yourself. just make sure that along with these new amd atypical feelings, grow healthy boundaries.

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    Kim Saeed January 24, 2015

    Excellent input, Marshall. Thank you 🙂

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    Anonymous March 29, 2015

    I love everything that you said Marshall. This hit very close to home for me as I am going through this as we speak. Thank you so much for sharing ?

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Nancy's Nard October 30, 2014

Finally threw my narc. out after 45 years. I just discovered about a year ago he was a narc. Our marriage counselor had to tell me. I have had two hospilizations for depression, numerous medications, and therapists. I also have had open heart surgery with no heart disease in family. I realize he was the cause of most of these problems. He has had numerous affairs, therapist says probably since we were first married. I put him through professional school and had four children. He has ruined our family, financials, and retirement. I will never take him back, but will I ever get over this? Never thought I would be faced with getting a job at 63 yr. old. I totally trusted him. He supported his other women with cash, so not to leave a money trail. I know he paid their bills. No wonder he always said we didn’t have any money. He gambled heavily. Selling our home we built 36 years ago. He and his latest have used several rooms for sex. We live In a small town. We have lived here for over forty years. I have many friends in this town. Do you think I can live in this same town, with him still living here too? He has business still, but sure it is suffering to do public knowledge of his transgrections. I don’t think he has a friend left. His girlfriend has been fired and moved to Kansas City. We have owned a house in Kansas City for about ten years. When He bought it I questioned him why, but he said great investment. Do you think they are still together ? She left her school aged kids with her husband. House was just recently rented. I have never seen a rent ck. or lease, or the house. He put $20,000 improvements in it a year ago. I didn’t know this, but name is on the loans. On all the loans for that matter. He told me my name was on all the asserts. Just three. He lies all the time, not sure he even knows the difference. I have lived this nightmare for 17 months knowing this finding out more everyday. Hopefully, the divorce will be final in 36 days. Does anyone’s who has been in this kind of situation for this long have any insight or answers? Please?

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[…] Grief Management after the Narcissist […]

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Chas June 2, 2014

emergingfromthedarknight: I know where you are coming from, and I have done the same thing…leaving posts, then realizing they weren’t very positive. But I think your post is positive in the sense you are really struggling to come out of denial. I have days when I don’t function as well as I like due to not getting quality sleep. I realized that this is when I get hooked into thinking about the past. The main thing is that all this pain became BORING. That’s what coming out of denial means to me. It’s when I refuse to let someone’s actions steal my precious moments. I wish you well, and hope you remember to leave a comment when you’re having a good day, too! All my best to you.

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emergingfromthedarknight June 1, 2014

Even three years following the ending of my Narc relationship I am still not sleeping through the night. I can really relate to going to bed and not falling asleep for at least two hours then falling into a sleep only to awaken a few hours later with your body tense and hypervigilant, spasming, twisting and tearing, sometimes burning.. My sleep problems got very bad during the relationship which should have been a warning sign. The grief at the end was just overwhelming. I went onto dating sites as well where I was scammed twice. It took that to realise I had to look to myself and not to another relationship. I have tried therapy which has failed twice. They could not give me much insight into the symptoms. The first night I spent with the narc my body went into spin and I fell down and hit my head. He had not known me long, charmed me into bed and then picked me up and held me (after I fell down) and told me he would support me and love me and care for me for the rest of my life. That was the lie and I collapsed in the middle of the night two other times when my spine snapped due to him putting pressure on me to support him in every which way. All I can say is it was a nightmare. I also experienced being happy at the very start of the end and feeling freed and then being blindsided by grief, longing and loneliness. I wish I could share from a positive space today but I am struggling again at the moment after some good, happy, positive times…. I know self nurture is the answer. And am very grateful to you and those who share on here too, about their experiences…

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Chas May 30, 2014

Thank you for affirming that small things do count. Regarding the grieving process…I am (at times) so very angry at the narcissist, other times I am sentimental and sad. I am trying to let all feelings circulate because for me, they are all true, to some extent. I can’t put the narcissist in an all bad or all good category. What I can do is bring what gifts this experience gave me into my future. For instance, I am stronger; and, not so naive, or desperate. I have been making a mental list of things I forgot I liked – so I can reclaim them – such as swimming, reading, salads, journaling (not about drama) but about my hopes, and dreams. I’m trying to come up with a more challenging list of new things I might try in the future. This might include public speaking, horseback riding (I just started to volunteer at a horse ranch that adopts abused horses) and learning a new language and then planning a holiday in the country where I can speak it! Going on online dating sites is not the kind of excitement I crave. Been there, done that. In the end, frankly, it was…boring. It’s bad to be bored…unhealthy men can probably spot a bored woman with too much empty space inside of her. This a great site to visit, and has become my GO TO SITE, when I need it… but not too often. It’s like chocolate! (And I adore chocolate!) Thank you, all. Continue to be kind to yourself, brave, and spirited! Thank you, Kim, what a thrill to read your comment!

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Nancy May 28, 2014

I too met mine online. Yes, I fell hook line and sinker. The classic Narc. “I love you” before we ever even met in person. “I want you to have my baby”,” I can’t have babies anymore.” “It’s okay, I just wish I could have seen our child.” “Will you consider a reverse surgery?” I said no. When I asked why he was so desperately wanting my baby, he said because then I will be forever bonded to him! Thank you God for sparing me that grief!! We lived 300 miles apart. Last time I called him he gave the phone to a female and she said to me they had been “dating” for a couple weeks. Of course in my co-dependent state I called her a liar. I begged like a crybaby. He was cold, hard, and calloused. I sobbed and sobbed. His friend was in the background asking him why he was doing this to me and that you don’t do this to a good woman you love and who loves you enough to give you anything you want. I don’t know what his reply was because they are foreigners and I don’t speak the language. My first day of NC is today. This is my third attempt. I am always the violator. How do I stop this bad behavior?

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    Kim Saeed May 31, 2014

    Nancy,

    Don’t beat yourself up. It’s rare that NC is successful on the first attempt.

    It’s best to block him from your phone, email, and social media. Remove any reminders you may have of him such as pictures or gifts he gave you. I will be posting an article later today that may be helpful.

    It really comes down to realizing this man will never be who you want him to be, nor will you gain closure. Just block him cold turkey and get on with your life. Easier said than done, I know, but the longer you put off No Contact, the longer it will be until you heal and move forward…

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Chas May 28, 2014

I have just started getting these posts. I like that they are short and sweet. Grief is difficult – but the positive side is that grief is a NORMAL reaction to loss. Think of grief as an exquisite reminder that you are okay, and treat this like any other grief process. My Number One Self-Care requirement is getting enough sleep. Focus on one day at a time – and REALLY REALLY PUT EFFORT INTO creating at least one happy moment EVERY SINGLE DAY. For me this may be calling my best gal pal who lives in another state, arranging photos of loved ones, reading spiritual books, drinking my favorite tea…all small but important points of light and love. Go on forums with discretion. Good luck to everyone out there dealing with a truly hard process. But we can get through this. Remember – One Day At A Time.

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    Kim Saeed May 30, 2014

    Chas, I love your comments. Very uplifting. If other readers follow your lead, it would make a huge difference for them 🙂 In fact, I may adopt a few of them myself!

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    Kathy May 30, 2014

    Chas, These are the exact things that I do.. looking at and arranging photos, deciding which one of my favorite 6 🙂 teas I am going to drink, arranging a beautiful place for me to sit outside and enjoy the nice weather.. Bring a good book out there with you.. Even enjoy the rain showers when they come.. Hell, leave your windows open!.. Talking to my best girlfriend and laugh about something ridiculous we have seen on tv or heard about in the news.. Figure out how to make chocolate coffee.. Yum! All of these little things add up to a lot enjoyment and all of a sudden you realize you don’t miss the SOB and your life is a lot happier without them.. Get back to the things that you USED to enjoy and get back to the person that you were BEFORE you met him and sunshine will begin to come BACK into your life.

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Trish Ping May 28, 2014

I agree with staying off of the forums. I found I was spending too much time but I did it when I had anxiety. Since this I’m listening to mediation. But wondering why we feel so lost and alone with such fear..

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This is great advice for people like me. I’m still in the mourning stage after leaving my abusive ex. And that’s exactly how it feels.

When I feel low, I do whatever I need to do in order to remember why I decided to leave. Instead of dwelling on the good times (there were a few!) I get out my memory list – which reminds me of the horrific things he did, the reason I had no choice but to leave.

Kim, you continually advocate for No Contact. I just want to say that, for me, this was the single most important thing I did to keep myself free and safe – and it gave me the space I needed to begin the recovery process too.

This is a really relevant read.

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Ginger May 28, 2014

Wow Kim, you really hit home on this one, thank you so much for this post, you are a godsend to us who really need the reminder to keep our heads up and focus on OUR recovery. I’m still going through the motions, enjoying the good days where I don’t miss him at all and I know those days will increase with time as I heal. But it is difficult for those who don’t understand to know what we are going through. They say “just get over it, he was a jerk, a bad guy, you’ll find someone else. They don’t understand the magnitude of the emotional abuse that went on, and they never will. I refer to the song “Mama’s broken heart” by Miranda Lambert- go and fix your makeup It’s just a breakup… it’s not just a breakup, it’s a total breakdown and it’s going to take time to heal. No contact is the ONLY way to go, these snakes are well skilled in knowing what to say and do to get back into your life. Thank you again Kim 🙂

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    Kim Saeed May 31, 2014

    Ginger, thank you for following my blog and for your insightful comment.

    You’re correct, most people aren’t very understanding about what you’ve been through. You may want to consider choosing one person who’s been supportive and cease discussing your situation with the others.

    As far as your breakdown, it will one day be your breakthrough. It seems you are well on your way. 🙂

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Proud Mother May 28, 2014

Kim, for the last 3 weeks you’ve written about things that I struggle with.Things I find difficult to handle, then 1-2 days later you write a post about it. It’s like your reading my mind. This is one of them. I do not feel the same amount of grief like I did the first 5-6 months. The first 2-3 months I was in shock..I could’nt sleep nor eat much. I was a walking dead. Now the overwhelming sense of grief seems to come less then it used to.
It’s been 9 months now and yesterday and felt this huge amount of grief again.
It was this feeling of disbelief, just literally shaking my head of that someone who was a huge part of my life and a person I loved so much has the capacity to be so cruel and now treats me like his worst enemy, the father of my child. I sometimes still find this hard to belive. This made me cry yesterday..I totally broke down. I have’nt cried so much in months like I did yesterday.Sometimes I still find myself so depressed missing the “good times” and missing him and when these feelings occur is when I start blaming myself.
“maybe I should have let him move in, maybe I should have given/helped him with more money, maybe I should have trusted him again, belived he was really to be trusted” ..and so on.
So this again reminds me Kim that all of these struggeling feelings lately are normal.
Thank you 🙂

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    Anonymous June 8, 2015

    Hang in there hugs

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silkred May 28, 2014

my abuse was among a group – so I am mourning not a person but social connectedness – now there is some glimmers of a recovery I do feel good at times but others not so great… recently the narcissist talked with a mutual friend and had that friend ask me to delete posts where I had written about him – I was furious – mad – but in the end I not only deleted the posts I deleted everything that even had a hint of a connection with the narcissist – it helped me feel ok for a bit but you crash later feeling utter rubbish… you do forget – you think – what was it that felt so bad – it makes you feel absurd that you would be depressed and for what – in my case – I made a piss taking joke youtube video – for a laugh – in good faith – that was what pricked the losers bubble – I think to this now and cannot believe I sit here with none of those I would think of as peers even coming close to being in touch – when I see them out there its like I look on strangers… but if I have learned one thing it is that no contact is something not to be trifled with – respect it – fight for it – dont ever lose faith in it – it is the one thing that will get you through this nightmare… thanks Kim – this was a great peace at exactly the right time…

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Carrie Reimer May 28, 2014

Many people tell me they can’t sleep, I had the same problem. I would feel tired but the minute I got ready for bed and laid my head on the pillow I would be wide awake again or I would fall asleep for an hour and wake up unable to sleep. Sometimes I would have a night mare about him and wake up in tears or in a cold sweat. (many of my dreams were of him trying to kill me so I was nervous as well as heart broken).
I found I was getting so upset about not sleeping I couldn’t sleep. I gave up the notion that I had to sleep in bed and long before bed time I would get into my PJ’s and wash my makeup off and get myself snuggled down on the sofa so when I did doze off I was warm and comfy and I just slept on the couch with the TV down low. I found I could get a full nights sleep sometimes and on the nights I woke up I just watched some tv until I fell asleep again. The sound of the TV kept the house from being SO quiet, and I didn’t jump at every little bump in the night. On the sofa you do not have an empty expanse of bed beside you, your back is up against the back of the sofa so you don’t feel quite so alone. Eventually I started going to bed again but I didn’t rush myself, who cares if you sleep in bed or on the sofa as long as you get some sleep.
When I found out JC had moved in with a woman I was devastated, could not stop crying, could not breath. I called his sister and she said she would come stay with me for the weekend, I only had to get through one night. I was dead tired the next night but still could not sleep, as soon as I closed my eyes I started to cry, my mind was racing a hundred miles an hour. It may sound silly but the only way I could fall asleep was if she was reciting everything horrible he ever did. She had lived with us for a period of time and witnessed a lot of the craziness. .The poor woman just kept rambling off crazy shit he had done, I would doze off, then she would stop talking and I would wake up, she would start talking, I would doze off. Eventually I fell asleep and stayed asleep for about 5 hours. She stayed with me for two days, she was a God send, don’t know what I would have done without her.

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aveline07 May 28, 2014

This is all really good, thank you…timely reminder. I do positive affirmations and a record happy moments with my kids on a journal…more recently I’ve started to do that for myself… Getting outside for a walk or a run on more difficult days always helps.

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Kathy May 28, 2014

I met mine on an online dating site also. I think those sites are more dangerous than people realize, as they are FULL of narcissists. What is a better place for them to hide out?? I am very leery of those sites and won’t ever get on again , I believe.
His new “victim” he met on the same site we met and it looks like they are “in love”. HA, is she in for a fall! I will be able to see it all play out, and even though I know she won’t deserve what she will get in the long run, it will give me some satisfaction knowing I was not crazy. I hope that is not mean. I saw the red flags, ignored them for awhile, but had the sense to get out before he annihilated me. I saw it coming. It looks as if she ignoring every red flag and is going full steam ahead. I know what her objective is(money).. I am thankful that was not my motive and I could get out.

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    healingfuture October 30, 2014

    You will get a chance to see it unfold…yes they will look so in love but it is a smoke screen. My ex-N left with a married friend. I was devastated. But in time, it too fell apart and I learned that everything he put me through he was doing to her. In fact he plead guilty to assaulting me and she later pressed charges for the same. He has harassed her the same way he has harassed me and still tries to. It’s been over for more than a year and he still tries the love and discard cycle all the time! He too has recently put himself up on a free dating website…I feel sorry for the next victim for sure!

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Hug. Important post.

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Teela Hart May 27, 2014

Another great post.
Thank you.

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betternotbroken May 27, 2014

I like the new look Kim but I cannot find the like button. I had no idea that the period of no contact following my divorce would cause mayhem and a meltdown like it did but you hit the nail on the head, it was a time of personal disaster and I am still cleaning up the mess. I went to forums and while I was there I discovered that like you say, there are many disordered people there. In the end it did help me in that I will NEVER (never say never well I just did) go on an online dating site after everything I have had to sacrifice and rebuild. Thank you again for another insightful article.

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    Anonymous April 16, 2015

    I will never go in a bar, well I met my last narc at my church…. well the thing I love about this site is the open eyes it gives you.. you can go about your life using the skills they teach you. There should be a course in every high school in the u.s.

    Reply
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