Complex Grief and Trauma In Toxic Relationships

We can’t talk about narcissistic emotional abuse without talking about grief and trauma. Both of these will come up in your recovery. Each individual has their own unique losses to assess and to grieve if it becomes necessary to leave the relationship. Some of these may include:

  • loss of a dream
  • loss of an intact family
  • loss of a home, or finances
  • loss in standard of living
  • loss of connection to someone you thought loved you
  • loss or change in relationships
  • loss of self

These changes are very difficult and will take time and a healthy grief process to come to an acceptance of — and it takes as long as it takes. Professional support can be extremely helpful here as well as a strong support system.

Problems arise however if the grief becomes complicated. Research tells us that 16-20%  of grief is complicated. This often has to do with unresolved past losses or difficult past relationships. In this case, professional help is often not optional. Help is needed to make sense of all that is coming up in you with the powerful current grief.  

A breakup with someone with narcissism or pathology is not a normal breakup. Dealing with all of the possible manipulations, silent treatments, parental alienation, and getting no rational closure is more than enough by itself. If the current grief brings up, which it often does, other dormant past grief on top of it, a person can feel overwhelmed.

The good news is that a powerful grief journey often has the energy to heal layers of pain that have been residing below the surface. You need someone who is trained and experienced to guide you through it.


Depending on the individual circumstance in your relationship, there is a high probability that you will experience trauma from emotional abuse. 95% of survivors have some symptoms of trauma while 50- 70% will have full-blown PTSD or C-PTSD. Being shamed,  blamed, gaslighted, manipulated, lied to, and dismissed changes you. The longer you stay in the relationship, the more damaging it becomes. Slowly, your beliefs about yourself erode and change the self you knew. Some of the damage may cause:

  • self-doubt
  • shame
  • confusion
  • low self-esteem
  • mental health conditions
  • physical health challenges
  • attachment problems
  • disconnection from self

As you can see, the ability to recover from an emotionally abusive relationship and get past any complications or stuckness is heroic; it takes tremendous courage and support to navigate.

Extricating yourself takes education and careful discernment to maintain your sanity and safety. Your body and brain adapt to keep you safe. Listen to your body and your intuition if something or someone feels off to you.

Peeling away a layer of childhood trauma or neglect is often necessary when recovering from a  pathological partner. Although difficult, it can help you understand why you became involved with such a person. This is not always true but looking at yourself, and possible blind spots or vulnerabilities, is wise.

Better to take the dedicated time and season to do this important work so as not to repeat the pattern in the next relationship. With the new growth, awareness, and transformation that comes, you will be able to move mountains.


Donna always offers us valuable topics that she makes so relatable. Thank you, Donna!


Donna’s calling is to help spiritual women understand if they are involved in the confusion and trauma of a toxic emotionally abusive relationship and to guide them to heal transform and transcend the pain into a meaningful new beginning.  She has been a clinical therapist for over 20 years and is a certified holistic wellness coach who specializes in grief and loss, trauma (Brainspotting certified), and emotional narcissistic abuse recovery.

Donna Shin MS, LCPC

Print Friendly, PDF & Email