Mourning a different kind of loss

childhoodIf you have ever spoken to a therapist or someone who has studied up they will tell you about the five stages of grief.  They’ll tell you that in order to heal after a loss that each person will swing between each of them for an undefined period in time until they reach the final one of Acceptance.

The five stages of grief:

1. Denial

“this can’t be happening to me”, looking for the person that you have lost in familiar places, setting the table for that person.  No crying. Not accepting or even acknowledging the loss.

2. Anger

“why me?”, feelings of wanting to fight back or get even with spouse of divorce, for death, anger at the deceased, blaming them for leaving.

3. Bargaining

Attempting to make deals with the spouse who is leaving, or attempting to make deals with God to stop or change the loss. Begging, wishing, praying for them to come back.

4. Depression

Overwhelming feelings of hopelessness, frustration, bitterness, self pity, mourning loss of person as well as the hopes, dreams and plans for the future. Feeling lack of control, feeling numb. Perhaps feeling suicidal.

5. Acceptance

There is a difference between resignation and acceptance. You have to accept the loss, not just try to bear it quietly. Realization that it takes two to make or break a marriage. Realization that the person is gone (in death) that it is not their fault, they didn’t leave you on purpose. (even in cases of suicide, often the deceased person, was not in their right frame of mind) Finding the good that can come out of the pain of loss, finding comfort and healing. Our goals turn toward personal growth. Stay with fond memories of person.

Most of them will tell you that that undefined period normally lasts about 2 years though each person is different and some get stuck in the first 4 never progressing to the 5th one.

There is one kind of loss that is often over looked.  When we talk of loss our first impulse is to think of the loss of a person to death or broken relationship.  -+

There is another one and in some respects it is a far greater longer lasting loss than all the others.

The loss of a childhood.

imageMourning the loss of the childhood you never had can be far more traumatic than losing another person under any circumstances.  The healing process can be longer, it can take a lifetime of swinging between all of those five stages listed up above and at the end of the day reaching the final stage of acceptance is like the shedding of a skin after years of peeling the layers off.

The four stages of mourning the loss of a childhood:

1. Denial

Nothing bad happened to me, I didn’t miss out on anything.  Sure my parents never showed me love but that is ok, that is normal.  I wasn’t abused it was just a different way of showing me love.  I am not the product of my youth. I am not affected by the things that happened to me.

2. Anger

Feelings of wanting to fight back or get even the ones that took your childhood away. Anger at the fact that you never had the childhood that others seem to have. Questions of why me and who were they to do that to me. Rage at the injustice of the childhood you had

3. Depression

Overwhelming feelings of hopelessness, frustration, bitterness, self pity, mourning the loss of all the hopes and dreams you had as a child. Mourning the loss of not having a loving relationship, a mentor, playing like other kids, all that you should’ve had but didn’t.  Feeling lack of control, feeling numb, feeling like life is pointless, that it will never get better, that you are hopeless and your life is pointless. Perhaps feeling suicidal.

4. Acceptance

There is a difference between resignation and acceptance. You have to accept the loss, not just try to bear it quietly.  The realisation that it isn’t your fault that all the things happened.  Accepting that your childhood was not in your control.  Accepting that you didn’t have all the happy experiences of the other children and understanding that what you make with your adulthood is up to you.  Acceptance of the fact that what happened did happen and that they did have an affect on you.  Finding the good that can come out of the pain of loss, finding comfort and healing, working through each thing and growing from them.  Our goals turn toward personal growth.

The grieving process between losing a person and the loss of a childhood are similar in many ways though bargaining doesn’t play as great a role in the latter.  No matter what anyone says there is still a process that we go through in order to heal from bad childhoods.  Not many of us have perfect youths filled with love, laughter, playing in the sun and dancing in the rain.  Whether we decide to accept it for what it is remains with each of us.

Some may get stuck in one of the first three stages, they may say things like “Oh well it happened, I am happy now and am not affected, sure I miss it but that is ok” or “Why the hell did I have to be the ONE to get all of that dealt to me, why could they not have just loved me, I am unlovable, no point in even trying”…

There are so many things that we can tell ourselves, the list is eternally endless and ultimately facing our childhoods is one of the scariest and traumatic things that any adult can do.  Old demons and things lurking in closets are not just the stuff of nightmares but rather of all of our waking adult lives… There are no right or wrong ways of dealing with it but can we ever be truly “whole” without facing them? Without going through the grieving process and reaching that end acceptance?

I have gone through the four stages of grieving for the childhood I never had, I still swing sometimes between all of them depending on which chapter I open or what demons return to shake me up.  I am not ashamed of that fact nor do I run from the truth of it.  I used to get so frustrated with myself for not being “whole” fast enough, for not being able to handle things and reach acceptance with lightening speed.  I used to beat myself up and castigate myself in and out for it all but then I reached my own level of acceptance.

For every step backwards I step two forwards.  Acceptance is a continual process not done overnight and all things that are worthwhile take time.  If it were easy then there would be little point because it would mean that I am only skimming the surface of what lurks below.

The loss of a childhood can torment you for as long as you allow it…

My soul is full of whispered song,
My blindness is my sight;
The shadows that I feared so long
Are full of life and light.
   ~~ Dying Hymn

Originally posted Jan 7, 2009.  I have brought this post forward due to the number of people who have found it helpful, many who do not want their comments posted for reasons we can all understand and appreciate.  Thank you for all your kind words, you inspire me and others everyday!  

17 thoughts on “Mourning a different kind of loss

  1. Your on your way hun. You are so special.

    It’s very important to grieve because you’ll never really be happy until you get the monkey off your back. I was raped when I was 15 and didn’t deal with it for 30 years and I wish I’d have told someone right away but I never told a soul. This is the first time I’m saying it to you all but it led me to a life full of problems. I’m way better about it now and hardly ever think about it but you will never get over things you don’t grieve and take care of.

  2. My friend Enola talked about this very thing recently (grieving the loss of her childhood for similiar reasons)

    she is comment # 4 under this post:

    here’s a link to her blog:

    As far as I”m concerned…grieving is such a personal thing, because no one but us knows the details and depth of how a situation touches us, I refuse to put a time table on anyone and their dealing w/ their grief… I appreciate your vulnerability on this one.

    Joy- I appreciate your vulnerability too. DM

  3. Joy, am sending you a big hug also on this one………..

    SF: Your transparency in regard to this loss of yours has always inspired me, and I believe speaks to the kind of person that you have chosen to be, in part because of that loss. You amaze me with your beauty and love most every day, and I feel so lucky, so very lucky, to have you in my family of choice. I can hardly wait for the day to wrap my arms around you and squeeze!!!! I cannot promise that I will let go very easily!

    I love you…..

  4. After taking 5 to wipe the tears away, I’m back. This was hard to read. This is even harder to write. I’m going through something very similar. I was mentally, physically and sexually abused by my step dad from a young age for years. I was “grounded” to my room for a month at a time, coming out to go to school and eat. I couldn’t have a real relationship with my mom because he never allowed me to be with her alone. To this day we are not close. I blamed my real dad for leaving us, I was just a little girl! I went through stage 3, anger, more than any other stage. I’m still working on that. I let it define me for so long, I continued to let him control me. I can’t be left alone in a store, I freak out. If I go alone I’m okay but if I go with Jason and I turn around and he’s not right there I freak out. That’s the main reason he doesn’t shop with me, he can’t handle it, I don’t think he understands it. I can’t blame him. There are certain things and saying I can’t handle because they remind me of him. I’ve gone through the depression and was on meds for years. I’ve been off for about 3 years now. I’d like to think I’m in stage 4 now, acceptance. Jason said something to me just recently…he said this, “if his favorite color was red, I’d paint everything in the world that was red, yellow.” I don’t want to be like that. I don’t want to think about him, that’s still letting him control me. I’ve been told I should forgive him to his face and that will allow me to forgive myself and heal. I just can’t do that, I will forgive him in my heart and I truly believe that will allow me to heal. Thank you Sanity, for your strength has given me the strength.

  5. I believe, and I think you agree with me, SF, that acceptance is also accepting the lapse into the other stages sometimes. Acceptance can never be 100% complete, as you said, it is a process that you undergo and get through, and some days are better and some days are worse.
    However, the fact that you have such perspective on how you deal with this just shows how much you’ve gone through already on the road to healing.
    I admire you so much for being able to come out of all the things you’ve gone through – and become a good person. So many people never manage to get out of the cycle of self-destruction, and you conquered your demons and accepted your past and you’re always and ever trying to be positive and see the world in a good light. You’re incredible, SF.

  6. Joy huns you too are very special, special both in this world and to me. Glad that you told someone, that you offloaded and started the healing process. Your strength gives me such courage, I can’t put into words just how much and I know that others feel the same as me. Wows – know what it took to tell, both back then and now, I’m giving you the biggest hug in the whole wide world. Love ya huns so muches *HUGS*

    DM Thank you for those links I will check them out when I get a mo’ and for your beautiful comment!

    Vanessa I can hardly wait as well, one day hopefully soon huh sis! Thank you for your beautiful words – this is who I am and I can’t be anything else… the only place I am allowed to be, just be, is right here. Love you lots!

    Nikki *hugs* forgiveness is different for each person and dependent on what happened. For you may be different for me… Most of my abusers I have never gone back to forgiveness, that comes through the acceptance for me. From my mother though because she was still very active in my life I did – she came to me when the cards were on the table and asked, begged, for forgiveness which I gave to her. You are a brave soul and I can tell you it DOES get easier, as you put those ghosts to rest there will be less moments like that which you describe in the shops till one day you will stop in your tracks and go “whoa it hasn’t happened for a while!” then you will do the whoohoo’s that I have done… its one of the most incredible feelings realising how far you have come… that is coming promise just hang in there for you are on the right track! Lean on those that love you truly, the more you share what happened the more you realise just how much people love you… another incredible experience. Sending you huge hugs huns!

    SI I am nothing without my friends, honestly, they have helped me push forwards, people who love me with calm souls and with unconditional love… Self destruction I think is a spiral that if you don’t have a bump or two to knock you out of it will just take you downards. Yip I agree, acceptance is in part accepting the journey for what it is and forgiving yourself the lapses. Ah the process of life is an adventure isn’t it! Thank you for your kind words huns, means a lot!

  7. I did not know there were different stages for the loss of childhood, but it brings a lot of things from my past into perspective as well as my siblings behaviors. Thanks for your wonderful posts.

  8. Its so interesting how some of the things in childhood follow us through… Sometimes I wish that we could have a sheet. A sheet to block the pain, the hurt, the humiliation.

    I know I was never abused, or left for wanting of anything in my childhood, and for that, I think my mommy.

    But I was left feeling less than. As if I wasn’t important enough to be in someone’s life. My own father could go for weeks, months without contacting us. My brother got over it. He has his own issues with my mom… but me? I took that into every single relationship I’ve ever had. That fear that they can just walk out. They can just leave.

    I would get so excited when I knew that he was coming to visit… and then he wouldn’t pitch. I would get so excited with presents he bought us that I wouldn’t ever pack them away – because when he bought us stuff it meant he was thinking about us and loving us.

    And now… I’m 29 years old and sometimes he seems to be trying to be a dad. And other times he fails miserably. With me. He is a great dad to my younger sister. Helping her out (in ways that she shouldn’t be helped, but anyways)… and my brother has always just loved him… adored him.

    But I still see the parent who I have never been good enough for. He has never turned around and said “I’m proud of you”. He has never really seen me. He sees my mom. I look a lot like her… and apparently I am a lot like her in many other ways as well… and perhaps he just can’t get past that.

    Whatever his reasons… I’m not sure if forgiveness is what I can give him? I guess I’m only now starting to accept that I am his daughter in name and biology, but other than that… who knows.

    Some day, maybe, I’ll speak to him about it. But for now, this shit is all so old and stale, I’m not sure I could even bring it up.

    Besides… he probably wouldn’t listen anyways.

    Phew. Not sure where that all came from! Guess it wanted to come out hey!! 🙂

    SF. You really are an incredible soul. To have overcome all that you have and to still be so incredibly positive and happy. You never look down on anyone. You’ve been through more in one childhood than an average family would go through in a lifetime! And yet, you are still there, holding out arms and ears for all those around you.

    You truly are an inspiration to me. And whenever I think about you, I smile… knowing that you are back in my life… I am truly blessed.

  9. I understand the process of grieving your childhood, however, what does one do when due to that childhood, you have lost most of your adult life also? I suffered at the hands of 30+ foster homes between 2 & 18. The state dropped me out at 18 & I was unprepared for the world before me. I have struggled severely to get myself together for the next 40+ years & have been in therapy forever. I am now 55 and have no family, no husband and no children and finally am just waking up to life. I also now have a neurodegenerative disease which has limited what I can do to try and create a “life”. I realize I cannot make up the surmountable losses, but where do I go from here? I cannot have children. I do have some general friends but throughout my life I have been alone. I want a chance to live before I die!!!! Where do I do from here?

    1. Betty, I took a break from my blog life for a number of years and I am so sorry that I am only reading this comment now!

      If you are able, travel. Its the one greatest thing that has freed my soul, allowed me to see and feel like nothing else in life. Meeting people who don’t know your history, your past, your faults or your gifts. Live while sitting at a waterfall that just flows over you. Life is for you to live and no one else. If you’re still around respond 🙂

      1. Hello & thank you for your reply as I greatly appreciate it! Something has changed in me after I had posted the above message! I am not able to really travel due to the disability, however, I guess the best way too say this is I finally “fell” metaphorically & while down for a bit, decided to open my eyes whilst down and try and look at things from this flat on your back perspective, again, metaphorically and in doing so realized the different view helped quite a bit. For example, I literally laid on my back, closed my eyes and pretended I was dead – maybe drastic, yet effective – this is when I realized things and people I would miss. For example the birds singing in the morning, the warmth of the sun on my skin, my rabbits extremely soft fur, and so on. That’s when I truly realized what being alive is truly about – like you said, “Life is for you to live” and with that being said, I am ready I guess to get up and start again!

        Thank you again! 🙂

      2. You put tears of happiness in my eyes, I know the metaphoric death and the healing perspective it brings personally as I was there once too. The birds for you and the places I am yet to see and the experiences I am yet to experience.
        You are strong and amazing, it takes great strength to go where you went and to get up again. You are awesome!!! Never stop fighting and always remember that the life you have lived could be lessons for someone else going through something similar. Stay strong my friend.

      3. Thank you Sanity for your kind words! I have read and re-read this post and the comments other and you have left and despite so much sadness, there is such a strength for those folks who have “chosen” to rise up, face and process the pain and hopefully will have some contentment and peace in their lives here and there!

        It is hard and difficult work to sift through, but I finally understand other blogs now where folks have said it was worth going through! It took a long time but once I stopped fighting myself, well that is when things started changing inside. I did not even realize I was fighting with myself until I actually started listening within and heard my own inner voice struggling to come to terms about my life! WOW – talk about a wake up call & yes I had to force myself to sit in a quiet environment and actually listen to my thoughts and feelings.

        At any rate, thank you again for the very kind words and I am truly glad you had checked in on your blog recently!

        Best Regards,

      4. We meet some pretty amazing people on our journey and you are one of them. Luck and positives for the way forward. I hope to blog some more in the near future. Slowly getting my trimmed wings back again.

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