WHAT SHOULD YOU EXPECT WITH GRIEF WHEN BETRAYED?
1) Denial/Shock. The first stage of shock or denial is when you are initially confronted with the betrayal. You may feel numb or feel like someone just punched you in the gut. There might be a tendency to disbelieve the betrayal. For instance, if you hear it from a third party, you might tend to ignore it or even get mad at them for making things up. This stage, however, is usually fairly short especially if the individual acknowledges the betrayal and the loss. It may be longer if someone has an issue with feeling anger; then they might want to try and dismiss the seriousness of the transgression or try to focus too quickly on forgiving the transgressor.
2) Anger. Once the betrayal and loss are fully acknowledged, the individual is likely to feel intense anger. This is a very delicate stage because this is when many things can go wrong in the process. Primarily, it is critical to recognize that the emotion of anger is perfectly okay, but our actions that are influenced by anger may not be okay. For many people, when they are first hurt and react with anger, their inclination is to retaliate, to hurt the person who hurt them. There is nothing wrong with feeling this way, but it is best to not react during this stage. It is better to work fully through the stages of grief and then decide how you are going to react. Even if it takes a number of months to work through the grief, it is better to wait than to regret rash actions. Now, this doesn’t mean you have to be completely passive about your anger. In fact, it is okay to tell the person, “I am so angry right now that I can’t think straight. Before I do anything I will regret later, I need some space to process this.”
Venting Emotions. During the time of anger, the betrayed person needs to vent. The tendency is to want to vent with the person who hurt you as a form of retribution. However, it isn’t really a safe way for you to vent. The transgressor is going to be dealing with his/her own issues and is most likely to respond defensively. Therefore, it is only likely to lead to escalating anger. You need to vent to someone who will listen and validate your anger without feeding your anger. For example, you want someone who will say, “I can understand why you are angry” but not someone who says “He’s really scum. You should throw him out.” Therefore, it is often best to talk with a trusted but unbiased friend. If that’s not possible, a minister or a therapist can help you through this process.
Write Grief Letters. Another way to vent is to write out your feelings. You can even write a letter to the person who hurt you. However, it’s not usually a good idea to send these initial letters to the transgressor because it may not reflect the final outcome for you. A letter format is frequently helpful in working through the anger stage of grief because it feels as if you are talking to the person and able to vent
without having to regret it later. This is also a good method for people who have trouble getting in touch with their anger. Also, you need to recognize that especially if you aren’t venting the anger, you are likely to misplace it, feel generally irritable and angry, and are likely to take it out on people who haven’t really done anything to you. Finally, with anger, recognize that it is okay and necessary to release the anger physically. However, it is not okay to physically violate someone else. Therefore, find a physical release such as hitting a punching bag or breaking old pickle jars (in a safe way so as not to get hurt).
3) Sadness. As you work through the anger, you should begin to come to a point of sadness. The sadness is experienced when you begin to recognize the full extent of what you have lost. You begin to think about the good things in the relationship that you miss. You think about the shattered trust and knowing that you can never get complete trust back. Once someone has violated our trust, we can get to a point where we can continue the relationship with them, but we will forever know that they have the capacity to betray us. During the time of sadness, you need to release those emotions just as you needed to release the anger. Again, you can write how you feel. Or you can imagine telling the person the hurt you have experienced and the loss of the relationship that grieves you. And, of course, it is okay to cry.
4) Acceptance. The grief process is a healing process. It was built into our systems to help us cope with the numerous losses we experience in life. If we trust the process fully, we will heal. Trusting the process means allowing the feelings to be what they are, whatever they are. Feelings are never wrong or bad. What we do because of feelings can be wrong or bad, but that is a choice. The feelings themselves are not bad. Therefore, they won’t hurt us. They help us in healing. If you trust this healing process, you will finally get to a point of acceptance. This is the point where decisions can be made and action can be taken. At this point, you are able to think clearly about the situation and decide what is the best course of action to take. And, of course, that action will vary depending on the person and the situation. You may decide that a continued relationship with this person can only lead to more hurt and is not worth the effort of trying to sustain a relationship. Or you may decide that there are too many good things in the relationship to give it up.
Sir Godfrey Gregg D.Div
Co-Founder of The Mystical Order