Grief is an experience many individuals associate with death or extreme loss. Not everyone may realize that grief plays a role in recovering from childhood sexual abuse (CSA). Survivors of CSA may grieve the loss of their childhood, the loss of their ability to trust or to create and maintain relationships, or even the loss of their old self. Grief is a natural experience, and may include feelings of anger, sadness, loneliness, and other complicated emotions.1
There are many stages of grief
There are common stages of grief that many individuals may experience during the grieving process. It’s important to note, however, that not everyone will experience all stages, nor will they experience any stages in a particular order or time frame. Grieving can vary greatly from person to person, and in the case of grieving after CSA, may include some of the following experiences:
Pretending as though the abuse never happened or trying to repress the memory.
A survivor of CSA may feel angry or helpless that someone took advantage of them and changed their life against their will.
Individuals may try to figure out how they could have prevented the abuse from happening, or may downplay what happened to themselves, in attempts to convince themselves that what happened wasn’t really a trauma.
Coming to the realization that trauma has occurred and that a new normal will need to be established or is currently being established. The letting go of a past trauma may happen during this step, and the path towards healing may pursued.1,2
As mentioned, each individual’s grieving process will be different, and there is no set timeframe or pre-set route to navigate through this experience. It is important to give yourself or a loved one time to work through their grief. However, if you or someone you know is experiencing very prolonged grief or seems to be stuck in a stage of grief to the point where their overall health and well-being seems to be in jeopardy, it may be time to seek professional help. This is especially the case if you or a loved one is experiencing extreme feelings of depression, trouble performing daily tasks and activities, or feelings of hopelessness or like life is not worth living. Therapy, support groups, and medication may be helpful in managing grief in some situations.
- Help For Adult Victims of Child Abuse (HAVOCA). https://www.havoca.org/survivors/grief/. Accessed December 27, 2017.
- Sexual Violence & Grief. Pandora’s Project. http://www.pandys.org/articles/sexualviolenceandgrief.html. Published 2007. Accessed December 27, 2017.