Navigating the complex journey of “coping with grief and loss” after infidelity is a path less discussed, yet deeply significant for many.

coping with grief and loss

By Linda

Grief is the normal reaction to a loss of any kind.  Often times in affair recovery we hear the word grief used when authors and experts refer to the loss a cheater feels for their affair partner after their affair comes to a sudden end. 

Many experts encourage the betrayed spouse to allow the cheater to feel sad for a period of time as they process their grief. Rarely does it seem that we hear about coping with grief and loss after infidelity from the betrayed spouse’s perspective.

Prior to experiencing infidelity, I venture to guess that most of us only associated grief with death.  Typically, it’s the death of a loved one or perhaps a family pet.  Rarely do we relate grief to other major loss events in our lives. One such loss event is the loss of trust.  Loss of trust events – such as infidelity – can have a major, lifelong negative impact.

For many of us it is difficult to understand why we continue to feel so sad several months – or even years – after our loss.  Often times we beat ourselves up believing that we should be over all of this by now.  What we don’t realize is that we are grieving the loss of our old marriage and the loss of how we perceived our spouses.

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Processing the Five Stages of Grief after Infidelity
Tips for managing each stage as well as important Do’s and Don’ts for each

Processing and moving through the stages of grief is a vital part of surviving and healing the trauma of infidelity. So vital in fact, that we’ve created a program that deals exclusively with this subject to help you effectively deal with the stages of grief after an affair.

Coping with Grief and Loss – Grief Recovery

I tried to do some research on coping with grief and loss as it relates to infidelity, but found very few resources.  A reader mentioned in a comment that her counselor recommended “The Grief Recovery Handbook” by John W. James and Russell Friedman.  So, I decided to check it out from our local library.   The book is an easy read and is only 224 pages.

The book states that most of us are ill-prepared on how to deal with grief of any kind.  We are taught early in life the wrong ways in which to deal with loss.  We need to learn new and better ways.

Following are some of the myths that the authors feel are taught to most of us for dealing with the past and with grief:

  • Bury your feelings and replace the loss
  • Grieve alone
  • Just give it time
  • Regret the past (different, better, or more)
  • Don’t trust

The authors offer a sixteen-step recovery program that I plan on working through after school is out in the hopes that it will take me further in a positive direction.  There are times I still feel sad and am thinking that perhaps I never really grieved properly and/or adequately after Doug’s emotional affair.

What Does Recovery Mean?

In their program “recovery” means many things.  It means feeling better. Recovery also means claiming your circumstances instead of your circumstances claiming you and your happiness.  Recovery is finding a new meaning for living without the fear of being hurt again.  It is being able to enjoy fond memories without having them precipitate painful feelings of regret or remorse. Recovery is acknowledging it is all right to feel sad from time to time and talk about those feelings no matter how those around you react. Recovery is understanding that your ability to talk about the loss you’ve experienced is indeed normal and healthy.

I venture to guess that most betrayed spouses would do anything to claim the feelings I discussed above. I know they just want to feel better and learn to trust again.  We don’t want to forget the past and the good times we had with our spouses. We want to look upon them as fond memories rather than with regret or guilt. Additionally, we would like to stop beating ourselves up for feeling sad once in awhile.  We want to know that it is alright to talk about those feelings without judgment or repercussions.

    33 replies to "Coping With Grief and Loss After Infidelity"

    • E

      If anyone is interested in working through this book together, perhaps the book club section in the higher healing forum would be a good place for thoughts, updates and encouragement? I have worked through some of the book but still have a lot of work to do in this area. Thanks Linda!

      • Doug

        E., I think that is a good idea. If you don’t mind, perhaps you can kick it off by starting a thread in the forum.

      • blueskyabove

        Great idea, E. I purchased the book but haven’t started it yet. I would be interested in working through it with others. This might turn out to be an excellent way to also get through other topics as well.

        • Linda

          Blueskyabove, I was also thinking the same thing as I wrote the post. The first step involves getting a partner to share with, maybe we all could be eachother’s support partners.

    • Broken2

      Exactly what I struggle with…thank you Linda

    • Broken2

      Ok downloaded it to my kindle….hurrying with the evil housework so I can start reading….I would be interested in a book talk as well….anything to help get over this.

    • our journey

      I agree this is a great idea!

    • Paula

      Thank you Linda. I will certainly check that out. I have tried to work through the grief, pretty diligently, but, as you know, still struggle with it. The first psychologist I saw, around 6 months post Dday, immediately said I was suffering from complicated grief, after listening to my story, and my reactions. As you state, finding resources on this topic that seem relevant, is difficult. Most seem to directly deal with death as the reason for the grief, and this is a little different. Yes, it is a loss, but there is still the person here, and that is quite different than when they have passed.

    • Greg

      I think I’ll join in on reading it as well. Then I can swap it with my wife to read as she needs to deal with some past grief but keeps it buried away.

      • Paula

        Greg, that is interesting. My ex kept saying this to me, “your grief isn’t about my affair, it’s about your past. You never grieved properly when your Mum died.” Man, that actually REALLY annoyed me, felt like he was shifting the blame. Yes, there is something from my past – the fact that I was raped pretty violently, which he knew about – I dealt with my mother’s early and sudden death fairly quietly, but I feel, thoroughly, the fact of my rape has made the sexual imagery very unpleasant.

        • Greg

          Paula, she has some past issues that have never been fully dealt with the biggest is 20 years ago she had an abortion, which at the time was the right choice, but has destroyed her internally since then. I was only the second person she had ever told in all that time and it took until the affair came out for her to even tell me that it was her ‘love of her life’ boyfriend in collage who was the father. This has colored everything in her life since then and it still brings her to tears to speak of it now. I don’t know if I will get anything out of the book as I tend to deal with things pretty well but I’m willing to read through it so that I can be her partner in it. Who knows it might even do me some good as well.

          • Anita

            I have never had an abortion, but from what I hear, it can
            bring much sorrow and pain to those who have. She made
            a choice years ago that still effects her today. She may have to fully grieve this and forgive herself. God is so
            forgiving, and when we confess our sin he forgives us.
            However it is up to us to let ourselves out of the prison
            of guilt, she needs to open that door and let herself out.
            We can’t change the past, but we no longer have to carry
            that guilt into our future either.
            Greg sounds like your a wonderful compassionate man,
            who loves your wife very much.
            Her affair is another choice she made that was hurtful to
            you, however if you can forgive her, and with much prayer
            maybe your wife can turn her life around.
            Greg I have learned things the hard way in life also, however I have changed and center my life around God.
            My life has improved and now I am able to experience
            peace, love, and joy, therefore I am alot happier because
            I stay in the boundaries that God gives.
            My best to you and your wife.

            • Greg

              Thank you Anita. We’ll make it through everything just takes time and work. The prayer and god portion won’t work for us as I’m an atheist and the closest to religion she goes is buddist, but I appreciate the sentiment.

    • tsd

      Got the book…almost done…love the graphing ideas,,,,Im excited to get mine done …does that mean we will all share and explain, or only divulge one or two ups and down markers. E, what if we all do our graphs, then decide how to discuss as online group….

    • blueskyabove

      I just started reading the book and I have to tell you I’m impressed. I was familiar with most of the losses they listed as factors that affect us, i.e. loss of a pet, but I have had things pop into my mind that happened in the affair that I would have never associated with grief!

      I found the list of griefs that society doesn’t recognize as grief issues particularly interesting. (Paula, one of these “the loss of control of one’s body [physical or sexual abuse]” was one they mentioned. I immediately thought of you.)

      I’m looking forward to this whole process. Thanks E and Linda for bringing this book to my attention.

      • Paula

        Thanks bluesky, I will definitely get to this book, but a little backlogged at the moment! What annoyed me about all of this is that I had dealt with what happened to me, I got examined, stitched up, tested for STIs, and I didn’t ever feel that it was about me, or that “I deserved it” or made it happen in any way. I wasn’t really affected too badly about what happened to me, it happened, I accepted it, and moved on. This event catalyzed a whole bunch of unhealthy feelings for me. I knew there were some hangovers, mostly about people touching or hugging me, all manageable, but the emotional scarring wasn’t an issue, as I dealt with it all really well for over 22 years. This very close to home (in my home, lol!) affair with my friend (yeah, right!) brought my over-active imagination into overdrive, and now all of my waking and sleeping moments are crammed with sexual (often violent) imagery. I never dream or think about the person who violated me, it is always about my ex and his AP, and me, or any permutation of the three of us. The worst is not the violence, but the imagined intimate scenes, where he is soft, loving and caring with her, whilst she has/is ripping shreds of flesh off my prone body with razors, etc. Or much worse. Therein lies one of the factors in my lack of safety, amongst all the usual ones that we BSs feel of “when will he/she do this to me again.”

    • Doug

      FYI…E was kind enough to have started the discussion on this topic in the forum. So please jump in if so inclined!

    • Benny

      I think I’ll join in and read this book as well. Just last night I was talking with my wife about the past several years and all the things that have happened and what I feel I’ve lost.

      And the worst is that with the affairs and all the lying and cheating I feel like I’ve lost her as well. She say not and I know she is here but it feels like something is surely missing.

    • SHAPE

      I will get the book and look forward to joining in as well.

      Also want to comment on Benny’s statement that “it feels like something is surely missing.” That is so in sync with how I feel about my H. I know he loves me, but it seems different now, like something is lost from the way we were, which was not perfect, but I at least felt like I was number one to him. I miss the spontaneity and passion we used to have before his affair, the way he could make me laugh at the silliest things, and most of all the way I could trust him. That’s just not there now, 17 months out from D-Day.

      • Teresa

        SHAPE…I’m 17 mos out also…and I feel the same way..the trust is just not where I expected it to be at this point…My DDay was Jan 1st 2011..when was yours?

    • Jrs

      I may get the book as well. Grief is a huge issue for me. I felt like we had a good life and a good marriage. I came from an ugly childhood, as did he, and I felt we’d both made it out and were making such a better life for our kids. His issues seemed to have been a little less resolved than mine, and he turned outside the marriage to his EA partner bc our life just wasn’t exciting enough. Now, I feel like I grieve what I thought we had that seems to have been a huge illusion and not real at all. He’s still here, swearing he’s sorry, yet I found out this week he set up an additional email account a month ago and never told me. And now I feel like I’m back in grief all over again over what I thought we were rebuilding. This s*** has become so tiresome.

    • SHAPE

      Theresa– My D-Day was Dec 20, 2010 when I discovered a loving email he sent her through an email account I could access. This made for an especially difficult holiday season, although I had suspected something was going on for at least 9 months prior – just had no proof and only his constant lies, which, of course, I believed. I had met her, been to her house once with my H, and she came to ours once (I was the only one home at the time, and we had quite a conversation at that time). I just had very strong vibes that there was more going on than just a “friendship,” which started with her emailing him at the radio station where he is a radio D.J., and she just so fell in love with his “on air” presence. It went on from there. I despise this has left me with so much distrust now whenever he tells me things. I am just never sure I can believe him when I have triggers. And the triggers still happen, although they are less frequent, but they can still be very intense.

    • SHAPE

      I, too, found out about an email account he and she shared (he says she set it up summer of 2010 – and I had my suspicions of their EA/PA during that time). On D-Day, Dec 2010, he gave me all his email account passwords–personal and work–so I could look at them. But he kept this one from me! I only saw it Sep 2011 when he referred to it in his work email, using it for something else. I could not believe he had kept it from me – and, of course, he swore that there was no emails on it after D-Day — but do I really believe that? Probably not. However, he has closed it, and believe me, I check it out from time to time to be sure it is closed. But does that mean he hasn’t opened another one? Again, I don’t think he has, because he has changed in many ways – but I still wonder if he keeps secrets from me. So, like you, in Sep 2011 (almost a year after original D-Day), I felt like I’d been punched in the stomach again. I think this is what I fear and dread–that it isn’t over, that I will find out other things. No just sure how much more I can take.

    • JS

      Well, today I told him enough is enough. I said this whole ‘new email account’ thing that you’ve hidden from me??? well, that doesn’t sit well. It was the proverbial straw. On top of the fact that you continued to work with your OP for 16 months post-EA until she quit a couple of months ago and told me I’d just have to accept it; on top of telling me you will not have me dictate how this marriage goes, etc, etc…..I said today that I have terms, too. After the start of this EA 2 1/2 years ago, the ending of it 18 months ago at my insistence, the humiliation in front of his co-workers that knew, etc, today I said I am strong enough to be alone. I said my terms are my terms and I will not bend any further. I said I realize you may digest this and walk out the door and for the first time, I sincerely do not care. I walked off, cried like a baby by myself, and felt exhilarated. I finally matter enough that I know I cannot take any more of this.. It’s NOW my way or the highway. It’s been his way for 10 years and I don’t need it any more. I finally feel HAPPY.

      • Teresa

        JS…GOOD FOR YOU!!! At some point you HAVE to take control…especially when you’ve tried your hardest!!! We’re here for you…keep us updated//

    • Jrs

      Ps that last comment posted as my old name on the pre-membership site, which was JS. I’m that and JRS

      • Anita

        I also agree good for you, enough is enough. You did the
        very best thing by telling him you are strong enough to be
        alone. When someone cheats on you, and continues to
        hide and lie thats a problem. There should be no reason
        for him the hid a new e-mail account unless he’s up to no
        good on it.
        Jrs, being alone is better than being cheated on. Being alone doesn’t mean you have to be lonely, there is a
        big difference. Staying in a relationship when that person
        continues to cheat is not healthy, you should never stay
        because your afraid of being alone.

    • Lynsey

      SHAPE, I too wonder if I still have the whole picture. There was a secret email account that I eventually found out about and was closed after I found out about it. I still check to see if it is closed, and wonder if there is another one that my CS started, even though there had been what seemed to be a final D-Day. You just never know for sure what is going on and never know when you can really trust again. That’s the awful part of this whole mess. It’s only been about 4 months since the first of 3 D-Days. I still cannot forget all the lies…..There are too many days when I have to work and my H has the day off. In the past, this is when he took advantage of the situation and saw/contacted the OW. I never truly believe that this isn’t happening now, despite what my H says. Learning to trust again is such a difficult task. I hate living with this fear that all is still not well. It all stems from those damn lies. Any advice from anyone?

    • SHAPE

      I wish I had advice – I could use it also. My H and I had a fairly good talk Sunday evening about the trust and lies issue. Usually these don’t end well, but this one was okay. I didn’t get angry at him – just said the hardest part about this whole mess was the dishonesty, rather than the actual affair itself. i reminded him that building trust would simply take time and that he would need to be the one to build it by telling me everything/anything and answering my questions. Of course, asking the questions is hard for me, because I know he does not like to talk about it. I try not to talk for long periods of time – it’s better if I just ask one or two questions at a time, which kind of draws out the process!

      I recently read a quote in the book “The Year of Pleasures” by Elizabeth Berg that said, “Healing hurts, but hurting heals.” This is a delightful fictional book, having nothing to do with affairs. It is one of the first “non-affair” books I have been able read in almost 2 years. The quote was referring to something said at a funeral to the widow. But I thought it was so appropriate to what I seem to be feeling in coping with my H’s deceit and affair. In looking back, I can definitely see that “healing from this affair hurts, but also that the hurting is probably helping me to heal. When I need to cry – I do just that, whether I am in the car, taking a walk, reading, watching TV, or exercising at home. I will just stop and cry my eyes out. And, yes, even on when I talk to my H about it the tears freely flow. Sometimes that really does help.

    • Dave

      Can one grieve for something lost long ago? I’m still trying to figure out what I’m grieving over, but it feels like the loss of a life I thought I knew, despite the fact the actual affair was over 14 years ago this month (even though I just found out about it 6 months ago).

      Maybe it is the loss of trust that I feel now from the years of lies. Maybe it is the knowledge that she loved another man, deeply and passionately, when she is the only woman I have loved since I was 16 years old when we first started dating.

      After catching her, I thought that was the end of it as she promised. Maybe it is the loss of my safe and stable world that I thought I had from then until when she told me in January.

      Maybe it is the loss of identity I have for myself. My identity was always us. With all her lies, I’m definitely not sure who she is, so it makes it hard to know who I am. I think about the things I like or do, and those have all been defined by “us”.

      I’m still not sure, but the further along I get in this process, the less I can see myself with her. It feels as if after 14 years of lies piled onto other lies to cover her love and continued contact, I just cannot go on with her.

      Part of me loves her and always will, but I don’t know if I will ever be able to forgive – much less forget. Worse yet, part of me truly hates her for what she did – the emotional affair and the sex, but mostly for loving him, my former best friend.

      However, I recognize this may not be about her at all, but like I said, I’m grieving for something in my own mind – an image of what I though we were and what I was. Even with the help of my therapist, I still don’t have the tools to cope with that yet.

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