Trauma Informed Recovery

Grief Healing and Recovery

The Silent Grief of Attachment Wounds

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If you experienced attachment wounds growing up, then you have become close friends with grief. You have had to slog through life facing many losses and injustices, often without any clear way to make sense of why some things are just that much harder, or more painful for you than others. 

We know grief is what comes with loss. Grief can be very “clean” when we’ve had things like closure after a relationship, the ability to say goodbye when someone is dying, or acknowledgement of the unfairness or harm caused to us. In situations like this we can mourn knowing that there is justice and that we can overcome the pain (though we may never overcome the loss itself). But those with attachment wounds often face repeated losses without any closure or acknowledment. 

Complicated grief happens when we lose something without this closure, without justice, or without clearly defined “edges”. Losses such as the loss of a dream, the loss of an identity, the loss of who we thought we would be or what we thought we would achieve before trauma kept is locked in place. Complicated grief also happens when we lose a person, but that person is still there, such as a parent you no longer have contact with. Complicated grief is harder to navigate because on top of the pain of the loss, we are also navigating questions of “Am I entitled to grieve this?”, “Am I deserving of receiving support for this pain?” “Is there anyone who truly understands and can go through this as a guide or comrade?”, “Do others think this pain is valid or has merit?”, “Am I overreacting?”

When we don’t give ourselves permission to grieve the things that have caused us deep pain, we can end up with unhealable wounds that keep breaking open, oozing their painful memories and anxieties over our lives that we are just desperately trying to survive and get on with. 

Complicated Grief Might Be The Pain You Have Been Carrying Around Silently Unaware

Attachment wounding is a loss in and of itself. You lose your right to growing up unharmed. You lose your confidence. You lose your sense of trust and safety in yourself and others. You lose your hope for the future. You may even lose things like your ability to make decisions, or have boundaries, or focus and follow through on tasks. You may literally be stuck in a holding pattern in life where you are alive, but in no way living. So deep were the emotional scars, that you literally may not have received any guidance whatsoever to develop critical adulting 101 skills. 

Believe me, there is no shame in this. If your wounding happened at a very young developmental age, it is as if you are stuck at that age (not cognitively, but in terms of some processing skills). You may be inhabiting the world as an adult – and exhausting yourself trying to put on a mask of social and professional competence – but walking around with an empty emotional tool box. Imagine being told as a 4 year old you were annoying. Then crying alone and having no one come to comfort you. This “root” memory will show up in your life over and over whenever you worry you may be bugging someone (whether you are bugging them or not). And because no one helped you through that emotional experience and gave you the opportunity to process the challenging emotion, go through the emotional life cycle, and build resilience or autonomy, you are still holding on to it decades later. In fact, it may have taken up residence as one of your core beliefs about yourself; that everyone finds you annoying, and so you need to construct yourself very carefuly to be safe and accepted in this world. 

Remember: You aren’t broken or incompetent. You were denied tools. And now you’re expected to fix things. 

You have a right to be exceptionally sad and angry about this. 

Then, there are the unique losses and griefs that come with attachment wounds. Things like:

  • Family Estrangement
  • Mental Health Professionals Who Don’t Get it 
  • Friends and/or Partners Who Don’t Know How to Help
  • Stigma and Societal Messages About Relationships
  • Limited support systems due to all of the above

In addition to trying to survive with few resources and tools, you are now also trying to stand tall against a barrage of unhelpful messages like “but it’s your family, can’t you just make it work?” or “family is the basis of health and happiness”, or “I’m sure they did the best they knew how”, or “You’re an adult now! Stop blaming them and take charge”, or “They seem like lovely people! I can’t believe they would do x,y,z…” or “Sweetie, you always were a bit dramatic” or “I’d rather not get involved or be in the middle so let’s agree not to talk about _______”. 

Attachment Wounds Often Means You Face The Grief Alone

Imagine a) Growing up without adequate love and support (or worse, being actively harmed or rejected) then b) Having the people you go to for help not sure how to support you, or making it worse by essentially telling you it wasn’t that bad, or to just get over it then c) Having to first explain the pain and injustice to people in order to hopefully receive the support you need to fill the toolbox 

Not only will you be completely exhausted before you even get on the right healing path. But you open yourself up to the vulnerability of having someone else be the gatekeeper of your pain; someone else gets to tell you whether they think your grief has merit, and whether you have a right to be in the pain you are in. 

Of course if you are reading this, you know it doesn’t have to be that way and that there is hope and healing ahead. Today, do one small act of kindness for yourself by acknowledging that the pain you endured was real and give yourself full permission to feel it. 

Even if you feel you don’t have anyone, you still have yourself. And you can reverse course by ensuring you don’t let yourself down too. 

With genuine love, 


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