Good Grief
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"GOOD GRIEF" Cinderella

... And they lived happily ever after.
Well, you know the part that preceded this, but what about the happily ever after bit?
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 prize!

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 themselves accurately;
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:
     *  Normal.
     * An event of sufficient importance that no justification is needed.
     * Affects not only the person involved but those around them.
     * 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.   As an
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 identified
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".

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!

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 and accurate.
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, yet.
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 in question.

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 lose them.
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 by
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 intervention.
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 healing between
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.

Last modified: 12/24/13