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).
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