Mental Health: Grief, Loss, and Dissociative Identity Disorder

According to the National Institute of Health, the sudden death of a family member is one of the most painful emotional experiences a person can face. “Shock, anguish, loss, anger, guilt, regret, anxiety, fear, loneliness, unhappiness, depression, intrusive images, depersonalization, and the feeling of being overwhelmed are but a few of the sentient states grieving people often describe….Healthy, generally adaptive people likely have not experienced such an emotional roller coaster, and typically find the intense, uncontrollable emotionalism of acute grief disconcerting or even shameful or frightening.

The National Institute of Health

It’s almost six weeks since the sudden death of my Sister.

I went to Richmond for her funeral and quickly returned to San Francisco.

For a few days, I was fine and resumed blogging.

Then came grief, identity confusion, immobilizing depression, anxiety,
and despair.

People with chronic mental illnesses must learn to cope with the normal stress of everyday life while managing symptoms that range from chronic pain to chronic psychosis.

Some of the everyday symptoms of Dissociative Identity Disorder are the same as normal symptoms of grief: they are dissociation, de-realization, and depersonalization.

Because I have DID I grieve on multiple levels of consciousness.

For most of our lives, my Sister was a confusing source of comfort
and pain.

Within days of her birth, our Mother grew more erratic and violent.

The history of our shared abuse made us afraid of each other.

My Sister pretended the abuse never happened.

As her Brother, I knew too much.

Photograph of a graffiti mural depicting a male with a halo of faces around his head
Dissociation, De-realization, and Depersonalization

The grief response following sudden loss is often intensified since there is little to no opportunity to prepare for the loss, say good-bye, finish unfinished business or prepare for bereavement. Families and friends are suddenly forced to face the loss of a loved one instantaneously and without warning. This type of loss can generate intense grief responses such as shock, anger, guilt, sudden depression, despair, and hopelessness.

Journey of Hearts

My alternates knew and loved my Sister in different ways.

Each grieves a different version of Sandy.

To Robby, she was a playmate.

To Bobby she was the little Sister he had to protect.

To Sara my Sister is the model for how she as an ‘inner’ sister should protect her family of brothers.

Each alternate grieves a different Sandy.

Alters also process grief and loss in age appropriate ways. Even though the main person is an adult, younger parts can grieve in ways a child would. They may not have an adult understanding of death and loss because they are, essentially, children. It’s important to acknowledge these differences and work with alters in age-appropriate ways, as you would for any other person grieving a loss.

The most agonizing and crippling grief is the child’s, Robby.

He’s lost his first and only friend.

Robby and His Grandfather
Robby and His Grandfather

(c) Rob Goldstein 2017 All Rights Reserved