Ambiguous Loss: Grieving the Sociopath

griefOften associated with losing someone due to death or a debilitating disease/condition like Alzheimer’s, ambiguous loss is, well, ambiguous.

It’s not clear when the feelings of ambiguous loss begin to creep into our psyche in relation to our toxic relationship with the sociopath. These feelings more than likely begin while still in the relationship as we slowly, over time, witness the slipping and transformation of the sociopath from a person we once loved into a person we no longer recognize.

Once outside of the relationship, these feelings become even stronger. We realize that although we accept the sociopath for what he/she is, we fail to quickly release ourselves from and let go of the false person we once believed the sociopath to be.

Although we no longer love, honor or respect the sociopath, we still grieve the loss of the person we thought the sociopath was. We fell in love with a fantasy person, someone who we allowed to affect us deeply. And the pain and overwhelming feelings of desperation of losing this fantasy person may cause us to get stuck in our healing and recovery, paralyzing us from moving forward.

So what can we do about it? How can we overcome this loss? I’ll leave that to the experts at The Wendt Center for Loss and Healing to provide possible solutions. The following is taken from their site:

1. Seek out support from others. Surrounding yourself with people who care about you and who understand what you are going through can help validate your feelings.

2. Look for support groups that address the type of loss you are experiencing.

3. Allow yourself to take time to feel and express whatever emotions come up for you. Ignoring your feelings can prolong your feeling of being stuck.

4. Try to create a structure in aspects of your life that you can control, such as dinner and bedtime at the same time they usually occur, regular exercise, and family meetings as necessary.

5. Continue to strive to find meaning in your life that includes and acknowledges the loss you are experiencing.

6. Seek professional help if you find that the loss controlling your thoughts and behaviors and/or causing marked distress for an extended period of time.


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I will always think of him and cry because I love him

Today is the one-year anniversary of my stepfather’s death. I created the embedded slideshow for his memorial service last December. I have been too afraid to view it today. It’s true what they say: everyone grieves differently; there is no right way.

John was much more than JUST my mom’s second husband. When he married my mother, he also “married” her four daughters. We were 11, 12, 19, and 20 at the time. Not easy ages for a biological parent to handle let alone a step parent!

I grew to love him. He loved me. He loved us all. He took care of me and my sisters and treated my mother as she was always meant to be treated: with love, thoughtfulness, and care. I miss him. A lot. And think of him nearly every day.

The following is his obituary:

CUMBERLAND —John P. Fanelli Jr., 74, of Cumberland, Md., passed away peacefully on Tuesday, Dec. 20, 2011, to be with God, after a brief illness.

Born Sept. 14, 1937, in Altoona, Pa., he was the son of the late John P. and Mary N. Fanelli, Sr. He was also preceded in death by his only sibling, Robert L. Fanelli.

Catholic by faith, John was a student and alter boy at St. Mary’s Grade School and graduated from Altoona Catholic High School in 1956. John received his Bachelor of Science in Education from Shippensburg University, Shippensburg, Pennsylvania in 1960. While studying, John worked as a road inspector for the State of Pennsylvania.  After graduation, John earned his first job as a high school science teacher. His next job as a chemist for Seagram’s Co. took him to Baltimore. He soon found his niche as a pharmaceutical sales representative for Pfizer later moving to Allegany County, Maryland in 1969 where he called on physicians and pharmacists for Merck as a drug representative until his retirement in 1999.

John enjoyed many hobbies during his life on earth. He was an amateur radio operator (HAM) and had friends across the globe. He often spent many early Sunday mornings contacting and speaking with other HAMs. His call sign was WA3WSW (W3JPF). As a HAM, he was a member of the Mountain Amateur Radio Club (MARC) in Cumberland, Md. and helped in emergencies and trained future HAM enthusiasts. John also enjoyed flying and was an active member of the Mexico Farms Experimental Aircraft Association (MFEAA) and the Cumberland Soaring Group (CSG). His passion to pilot his own plane became a reality in 1994 after building an Ultralite aircraft, making his first solo flight. John also enjoyed traveling across country in his Motorcoach RV with his wife Mary Kay. They traveled up and down the east coast from Maryland to Florida. Accompanying them over the years on their trips were their loving dogs, Cinnamon, Gus, Gabby, and Maddie. Maddie, a little Shitzu John and Mary Kay saved from the shelter in May 2011, died just a few weeks before John on November 26, 2011.

John is survived by his wife, Mary Caroline (Mary Kay). Also surviving are his two sons, John V. “John Victor”, of Gerradstown, W.Va., and James “Jimmy” R. and wife Maureen, of Poughkeepsie, N.Y.; his six daughters, Jeena M. Tyler and husband Richard, of Hagerstown, Joanna Murray and husband Glenn, of Roanoke, Va., Rebecca Tufano and husband Joseph, of Stewartstown, Pa., Caroline Reeves-Novotny, of New Market, Md., Paula Carrasquillo and husband Jorge, of Rockville, Md., and Rachael Reeves and long-time partner Mark Wigfield, of Frostburg, Md. He is also survived by his fifteen grandchildren, Connor, J.T., Elizabeth, Tim, Jessica, Mary, Claire, Paige, Fallon, Brian, Will, Andrew, Amanda, Anthony, and Armando and seven great-grandchildren.

John and Mary Kay would have celebrated their 27th wedding anniversary on December 29, 2011.

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