"GOOD GRIEF" Cinderella
... And they lived happily ever after.
Well, you know the part that preceded this, but what about the happily ever
I mean, what happened when Cindi came home after do-gooding, and found the
prince in her gown and tiara, hmmmm?
I am trying to make a point: Cindi was raised with a certain set of
expectations, and happily everaftering did not include the prince
in her ball gown!
Your wife also had a set of expectations, and unless she knew of your
proclivity for a culturally unapproved dress code prior to marriage, she has had
dumped on her a load that you have had a life time to adjust to!
If she did know, prior to marriage, and married you anyway, you have a
The Lambda-Mu chapter had as a guest speaker: Dr. Sandra Cole, the
director of the University of Michigan gender program recently. In a
question and answer session, one of the wives likened the adjustment to finding
out that their husband was a CD, to grieving, because she felt she had lost part
of her husband.
The shock of finding out that your spouse is Transgendered can lead to
grieving. The following is an effort by Sandra Stewart and Winter Star,
with input from a number of others, and material from the Internet, to
help both partners deal with this.
When two people come together, each trusts that the other has represented
learning they have not, is not so far removed from finding the SO is having an
affair. It puts the relationship in jeopardy to compromise trust.
This is very fundamental, and a huge problem to deal with. Healing
requires learning to trust one's spouse again. That trust must be rebuilt
from the roots, up. This means absolutely honesty, if the relationship is
to continue to function and be positive. Without truthfulness, any effort
to build a better understanding about the issues at hand, will lack a crucial
cornerstone for the foundation, trust!
In the past, protecting the second self often meant deception and outright
lying. Many of us have a pseudoself/outer shell, to protect the inner
self. You learn very early on to hide parts of yourself that are deemed
unacceptable: a gesture, a mannerism, a tender heart. We are
conditioned by shame that our inner T* self is not acceptable.
This process is:
* An event of sufficient importance that no
justification is needed.
* Affects not only the person involved but those around
* Happens in no particular order or sequence.
* A "feeling state" (Not a Stage)
What you are feeling is the instinctive, natural, feeling-based process that
moves you to grieve a "reality" you thought you had: a spouse, a
relationship as you knew it and felt safe with.
This begins a search for meaning in the light of that loss, which will
lead eventually to new or renewed attachments. The process is driven by the
interplay of denial, anxiety, depression, guilt, anger, and fear, each of
which serves a specific function.
Denial and anxiety are forces that govern the process of separation from the
lost "reality", and starts the search for new meaning.
Depression, guilt, anger, and fear are the affective states that lead to the
examination and redefinition of core concepts and values, and prepares you to
rebuild a new "reality".
At this point I should discuss "reality", in this case subjective.
A person's "reality" is the sum total of their experiences, feelings,
and reactions, and is not necessarily based on fact, but our perception.
example, I do not remember being hugged by my parents. This does not
mean that they did not, but my "reality" is that they did not.
Feeling states, grieving steps:
Denial helps buy time to find the inner strength and external
resources that are needed to cope with the feeling of loss. Dealing with
the layers of denial, one is eased through an unacceptable, incomprehensible
break from the old reality in manageable steps.
Anxiety first mobilizes energy, and then causes you to examine
personal competency, capability, value, and how such fit in with the world.
Anger causes you to examine assumptions about the nature of fairness
and justice. Ultimately, anger prepares us to maintain boundaries that are
consistent with who we are. Anger is perhaps the most commonly
feeling. Acknowledge the anger and find constructive ways to express
it, which do not hurt others or damage relationships.
Guilt leads to the formation of defensive maneuvers and compensatory
strategies, and prepares you to make commitments, and decisions and to assume
responsibility for them.
Fear causes us to examine the basis of our personal courage, and
prepares us to face the inherent risks in attachment. It is
important to recognize the true source of the fear, to find the most
appropriately way to deal with it.
Transition is the phase shaped by denial and anxiety, and focused on
the discovery and growth into the new "reality".
Transformation is the process where grief is fully dealt with, in a
way that brings the person into a new reality. The outcome may still be in
doubt, as, separation, tolerance, and acceptance are yet to be negotiated.
Acceptance/tolerance is difficult, painful, and curiously, often liberating.
Some of the crud is gone, because you are now down to working it out.
The task is simpler, cleaner, now that you have decided to "Deal with
It is rather like a person having their home, with all their possessions,
burn. It is a terrible loss.
The first reaction is to think that it is impossible to exist, without the
possessions that described who we are, their history, their personality.
But, a new home is found, and it eventually becomes a home that reflects the
personality of those dwelling in it: Soon there are collections of things
that express the personality .
They are not the original things, and the house is different. But, it can
be better, in many ways!
RELATING TO PEOPLE IN CRISIS:
In the process of trying to "help" loved ones and friends as they
struggle to deal with the problems they encounter, "helpers" often
feel at a loss to know what to do, or how to do it. In addition,
knowing when enough is "enough" is an illusive bit of knowledge.
We somehow know that we are supposed to "relate" to the people we are
trying to help, but the definition of "relate" is not always a clear
or consistent concept.
Further more, we are often left with an uneasy feeling that, though we have
"related" to the person's feelings and issues, we have just not done
enough. The concept of ENUF was formulated by Dr. Kenneth
Moses and Dr. Robert Keamey to answer the question, "When is enough ENUF?"
Empathy is the concerted effort to gain an accurate perception of
someone else's experience, and then to share that perception in your own words,
unique style and personal manner. It must be intentional, focused
It is more than " active listening". Empathy and sympathy
differ: with empathy, one can listen to the individual, commiserate with
them, yet remain removed from being sunk into their emotions with them.
This allows the
helper to more effectively assist problem solving in ways the individual cannot,
Sympathy sinks the helper into the mire of the individual's emotions, and both
stay sunk "in the hole" of grief longer than needed, neither of them
able to facilitate effective progress through the stages of grief.
Non-judgment is achieved through the helper maintaining a focus that
removes the element of judgment, positive or negative. It is not
the task of the helper to determine whether the person being helped is
functioning "good" or "bad", rather, the task is to
gain an accurate perception of the person's experience.
This is why effective helpers are often heard to utter phrases like:
"there-there," or just "oh." when initially
approaching to help.
Similarly, helpers cannot afford to comment about anyone or anything being
"good" nor "bad". Helpers need to maintain
neutrality, to allow the individual to find their own opinions about the issues
Unconditionality is the name given for the beliefs that helpers should
hold for the person they are helping. An unconditional posture
basically holds that a person cannot earn respect, value or caring, nor can they
People are respected, valued, and cared for simply because they are!
Unconditionality and nonjudgmental stance are hand-in-hand. Avoid
statements like: "I will help you if...", or, "I was your
friend when____, but not now...."
Feeling-focus is looking at the experience that the person shares.
This focus is contrasted with the content as understood by the helper. To
facilitate or "help" the person who is sharing the experience, the
helper must first focus on that person's feelings, which are the indicator of
the connection between the underlying issues and behavior on the surface.
Only the person sharing the experience knows what it is, until it is shared and
understood by a listener. Often, the individual cannot identify
content effectively, until they identify their feelings, and have them validated
the helper. Denial of what they are feeling, or that they are entitled to
feel it, blocks progress. Focusing first on validating feelings of the
individual, is the first step to helping the individual find their real issues
so they can be dealt with.
DENIAL INTERVENTION: Helping with Stuckness
Although denial is a part of a normal, necessary and healthy process, sometimes
it is advantageous for all concerned to facilitate the process through
When contemplating such an intervention, it is important to remember that
someone does not give up denial unless it is replaced with something that will
work better. For instance, a genuine, meaningful relationship often
outweighs the benefits of denial.
A person who feels they have lost the only meaningful relationship they have
had, or the only one they felt secure in, may NOT recognize this as something
that outweighs staying stuck in 'denial'.
Therefore, intervention is done within the context of ENUF
Level of Denial: Intervention:
Facts: Gather behavioral
observations from the individual and other first hand sources, and restate those
facts without imposing conclusions or judgments. Restating facts, to the
person, helps them see whether you have a good understanding of where they are
coming from... it is a feedback gauge of whether you understand clearly.
This is, in essence, what a good councilor will do. If the individual does
not think you have a grasp of their feelings/facts, they should be encouraged to
tell the you!
Identify resistance to change by the
individual: Identifying behaviors to the person doing, them
without judging, is important. A person is usually unaware of many of the
things they are doing or saying, that are detrimental to healing.
Conclusions: Provide the individual
with impersonal, unbiased exposure to experts through books, films, or,
preferably, in person through support groups, such as: Tri-ess.
Counseling with a councilor experienced in gender issues can be very helpful.
One of the things that keeps individual locked up in grief, is feeling
alone in their struggle, and not having adequate "tools" to get out of
that loop. Reading material, and a network of appropriate people,
can help provide working tools to help get out of a grief-dysfunction loop.
The best support for wives is other wives!
I can not stress this enough: a supportive listener is vital!
Finally, "There is only one way to live with out grief in your life
time; and that is, to exist with out love. There is no schedule for
recovery. While you can generally be expected to experience some emotional
the end of the sixth month and the beginning of the second year, you will have
your own timetable. You will do it in your own way, depending upon your
individual personality, character, and situation." --Carol Staudacher.