Don’t share your bereavement with narcissists
Written by listed counsellor/psychotherapist: Noel Bell BA (Hons), MA, PG Dip Psych, UKCP
26th August, 20150 Comments
Just like it is unwise to share the content of your dreams with someone who you do not feel safe with, it is also advisable to be careful about whom you share your emotional pain with particularly when you are vulnerable in the grieving process. Having healthy and strong boundaries means assessing who is safe to share your bereavement, loss and disappointments with.
Sharing your emotional pain with appropriate people will protect your psychic boundaries and ensure that you feel heard. Appropriate people are ones you can trust, who will listen to you without judgement and who will refrain from taking over the conversation with their own personal material.
Who wants to share their bereavement, for example, with someone who proceeds to hijack the conversation with their own stories of bereavement and loss? Or to share your personal pain with someone who will respond with platitudes and cliché statements? When you are grieving the loss of a loved one you can do without statements such as "well they had a good innings".
Narcissists won’t have the emotional capacity to offer you the space to share your pain with them. Instead, they will want to talk about their own pain from their past which can leave you feeling ignored and frustrated. It is far better to keep your counsel and share your pain with a trusted friend, spiritual advisor or professional, who will listen to you without the need for interruption.
It is important for the grieving process that you have the private and confidential space to reflect on the range of emotions which you will experience. This can help you to find the compassion for yourself and others so that you can effectively process your difficult feelings and emotions. A crucial aspect of transforming your feelings is the knowledge that you are truly being listened to.
Stages of grief can include denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. However, there is huge individual variation and there is no neat progression from one stage to another. Personal circumstances will vary enormously too, such as your relationship to the deceased, how sudden the loss was and whether you had any unfinished business with the person. Experiencing loss has the potential to trigger memories of previous loss and this can have the effect of compounding feelings of grief. So, try to be kind to yourself and try not to bottle up your feelings. Accept the help and support from family and friends, when it is offered, provided you feel safe with those offering a listening ear. You could also consider joining a bereavement support group when you are ready. The support and strength which comes from sharing with other bereaved people can help to ease your pain and make your intense feelings easier to bear.
The benefits of speaking to a trained counsellor are that they are able to put aside their need to share their own personal material with you so that you can be afforded the uninterrupted space which you need in order to grieve and to share your pain. A skilled professional will be aware of the stages of bereavement, whether that is about the death of a loved one, the end of a close relationship or the ending of another important life chapter.
About the author
Noel Bell is a counsellor/psychotherapist based in London who has spent the past 20 years exploring and studying personal growth, recovery from addictions and inner transformation. Noel draws upon the most effective tools and techniques from the Psychodynamic, Cognitive Behavioural (CBT), Humanist, Existential and Transpersonal schools.
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