Seven Stages of Grief in Recovering from Sexual Addiction

By Wendy Conquest MA, LPC

For spouses living in a relationship with a sex addict, dealing with the grief associated with the situation can seem to be an insurmountable task. Sex addiction frequently leaves broken and dysfunctional relationships in its aftermath. Dealing with this grief requires understanding its many stages in a sexual addiction recovery process. The following seven stages outline a common grief process for individuals dealing with a sex addiction in their relationship.

Denial and Shock Shock is a self defense mechanism. In the initial stages, the sense of loss when combined with the surprise and shock can lead to simple denial of the facts. A person in this stage of grief may not be willing to accept her situation or feel she is dreaming. Simple decisions and tasks may not be well made by an individual the shock stage.

Pain and Guilt Realization of what has taken place in the relationship in cases of sexual addiction can be very painful for all involved. This can also lead to chaos and disruption in what was a relatively normal routine. Use of drugs and alcohol are used by some as coping mechanisms, which only complicates the recovery process.

Anger The next stage is anger. The person may get angry due to the injustice that has happened to her or she may get angry over a person responsible for the loss in his life. Although anger is justifiable, it often is unproductive in the relationship. Finding ways to effectively express your anger and have the addict mirror and take ownership is key.

Bargaining After the painful stage of anger, the person in grief gets frustrated and may try to compensate for the loss. Some people try to regain a sense of control over the addict, their children, their finances, etc. There may be a move to revert back to old relationship dynamics and to try and compensate for what has been lost.

Depression and Sorrow When bargaining or compensation fails to provide rapid healing, depression and sorrow can follow. With little apparent remedy to the loss, a feeling of hopelessness can override other emotions. Some lose hope at finding another partner or finding a relationship in which they can put trust. Depression is always a risk, so professional assistance in managing the healing process can be hugely valuable in this stage.

Reconstruction and Testing Breaking out of depression and sorrow is a challenge. Here a person begins to partake in other activities in order to minimize the pain.

Acceptance This final stage involves simply accepting the reality of the situation and of the facts. Getting to this point can be a difficult path. This reality usually requires recognition that one's partner is in fact a sex addict and that the condition is in fact a disease. Accepting the reality can also lead to stability on the part of the partner as a separate and distinct person apart from the addict. The partner in this stage does not take responsibility for the addict's actions, but accepts the situation's facts as reality and this allows the individual to move forward in her/his life.

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