Grief. It’s an emotion we all experience as part of life. If we form attachments to anything, we risk feeling grief if we lose the thing we are attached to.
Regardless if you choose to stay married or not following infidelity, grief is something that has to be processed to be able to move forward with life.
In this episode, you’ll learn various stages you may be in with grief, what to look out for, and how to move forward. You’ll learn how grief can pretend to be other emotions, and why we often avoid stepping fully into grief.
You’ll also learn about PTSD surrounding infidelity and how to know if you may need additional help to heal.
Grief is as common as breathing, yet we can be so afraid of it. Learn to drop the fear, step fully into grief, and come out the other side ready for all the good that is in store for you.
I’m Andrea Giles and you’re listening to the Heal From Infidelity Podcast,
Episode Number 59, Grief.
Hello, and welcome to the Heal From Infidelity Podcast where courageous
women learn not only to heal from their spouse’s betrayal, but to become
the boldest, truest, most decisive, and confident versions of themselves
ever. If you know there’s more for than the life you’re currently living,
but don’t quite know how to get there, you are in the right place. Stick
around to learn how to create a life that will knock your own socks off. Is
it possible? It is and I’m here to show you how. I’m your host, Andrea
Giles. Are you ready? Let’s dive in.
Hello, everybody. Welcome to Episode Number 59. Today, we’re going to be
talking about grief. I’m going to be sharing with you some different
examples and some ways to identify if something that you’re experiencing
and seeing is in fact grief or not. If it’s something else, how to move
through it, all kinds of things about grief.
Before I dive into that, I want to let you know something kind of exciting.
So I have decided to hire somebody who is an amazing coach that I’ve known
for quite a while to fill in for me while I am on maternity leave. So I am
still signing clients, I’m still working with people, and when the time
comes that I have my baby, they can continue on with her. And she’s
amazing, amazing. I’ve been coached by her. I’ve seen her coach other
people, and she’s a really great intuitive coach. Knows all the things she
needs to know to be effective and has experience with all of this as well.
And so she’s also speaks from experience. So just wanted to throw that out
there, that for a while when you decide to work with me, you get two
coaches for the price of one, which is pretty fun. She really is awesome
and I think that it can be so much fun to experience different people’s
styles of coaching. So anyway, her name is Mickey. She is wonderful, and
I’ve been excited to share that. So I just have thought about how I can
best support my clients while I’m away. And I thought it’s time for me to
hire a coach to work with my clients while I can’t be there. So I know
you’ll love her. She’s amazing.
So, anyway, I am going to go ahead and start talking to you about grief. I
start with a little story. So if you follow me on social media at all, I
shared this recently, I was thinking about this, and shared it. And what I
shared is a picture of my daughter when she was five years old, about two
weeks after her dad passed away. And about two weeks after he died, she
said to me, “Mom, I want to go see where Dad died.” And so I left all my
other kids at home and I took my little girl and took her to the tree where
his car crashed and where he died. And I took some pictures of it and I’m
really glad I did, even though in the moment for me, it was a painful
moment to witness my daughter soaking it in. She just stood there for the
longest time just thinking. And she was only five years old, but she wanted
to see, and I let her. I let her stay there for as long as she wanted. She
was just silent.
So I’m going to come back to this. I’m going to come back to why this
example of dealing with grief was healthy and important. I’ll touch on that
later. But I wanted to say that part of the reason why I’m covering this
today is because I’ve told my listeners, you, my wonderful listeners, to
please reach out if there are things in specific that you want me to touch
on, that you want more help with. And one that I’ve been hearing about is
grief. And so I decided to do a whole episode about grief.
So grief is a pretty universal emotion. If we form attachments to anything,
it is normal to grieve a loss. It is not just like when somebody dies or
major things like that. There are lots of different things that we can
experience grief around. Sometimes it is kind of a collective grief and
sometimes it’s very personal and individual. So for example, we recently
came upon the 20 year anniversary of the attack on the Trade Centers, 9/11.
And that was a collective grief that many, many people shared. And we
experienced grief and fear and all kinds of different emotions
And oftentimes with grief, it is very personal. It’s something that only
you experience, that other people might not even know that you’re going
through. Which can make it tricky sometimes. Even if something changes,
just a change, let’s say a kid moves out, that’s a recent thing for me. I
had another kid leave the nest. It can bring up intense feelings of loss
and grief. There’s many opportunities in life where we can feel grief. We
can grieve when our kids starts school in kindergarten because it means
that it’s the end of the space and time when they were not in school. And
we can have some thoughts and feelings and emotions about that.
In infidelity, whether you choose to stay married or not, grief is
something that most likely is coming along, whatever direction you go. And
I’m going to be talking about that. So even though everyone listening to
this, whether you have experienced infidelity or not, all of you have
experienced grief. It is a universal thing. But today, because most of my
listeners, most of you here have experienced some kind of betrayal of trust
in your marriage, that’s the area I’m going to cover is around marriages,
around infidelity. That’s where I’m going to focus today. I’m going to give
you examples of how it can show up in surprising ways, how it can sneak up
on you, how it can be veiled as something else, and how to spot it. I’m
also going to touch on how grief can cross the over PTSD-like symptoms and
what to watch for there.
And I am just hearing myself recording this, and I feel so out of breath
and I have not done anything that would require me to be out of breath,
except for growing this baby that is taking up more and more space in my
body and making it harder to breathe. So bear with me. Bear with me. I’m on
the final stretch now. I have about 13 weeks left and my body’s, it’s
feeling it. Anyway. So my hope in this episode, my desire, is that you will
have a deeper understanding of where you are in relation to grief and have
some solid tools to help you move through it. I want you to be able to
identify where you are and I want to help you know what to do next. If you
get through this episode and you have both of those things accomplished,
check. That’s what I’m going for for you.
So first let’s talk about stages of grief. I’m guessing most of you have
probably heard of the Kubler-Ross stages of grief model. It’s a pretty
popular model. Now, there are some things about it that are very helpful,
and there’s some things about it that I just want you to know. First of
all, even though in the model as it is put out there’s an order, one, two,
three, four, five, it’s actually not that way at all. Grief is very
non-linear. We can hop from four to two, to three to one to five, back to
one. It is not linear. The other thing that I think is important to note is
that the original model was made based on science around people who were
dying, people who had terminal illnesses and were dying, and it studied
them. And it’s been interesting because it has been kind of transplanted as
a general model of grief for everybody when in reality, that was not the
initial way that it was even studied. I still find it helpful, and the way
that I’m teaching it today is actually adapted to infidelity. So the same
five different stages, but it’s adapted around infidelity by the Gottman
Institute. They did something with this. You’ve heard of the Gottman
Institute, it’s great. And yours truly. So I’ve added in some of my own
thoughts, my own ideas around this as well.
So stage number one, denial. Denial. Denial is a stage of grief. Denial is
a defense mechanism to self-protect as it could be too overwhelming to feel
it all at once. Our bodies don’t want us to flood, don’t want us to be so
overwhelmed, that we lose our ability to function. And so this piece of
denial is a self-protection. It helps to minimize pain. In this place of
denial, we can know that there’s something off and know that there’s
something wrong, but still kind of stay in the space of, “It will be set
right. This is going to be okay. It’s okay.”
In this space of denial, we might desire to ask a whole lot of questions in
lots of ways to our partner, because we can’t believe that it’s real. It’s
like, “Did I really see that? No, it can’t be. No, that can’t be.” And so
we start poking holes. We start or asking for more specifics, like, “Wait,
wait. What?” It just feels so unreal. It feels so unreal. So we ask lots of
questions, want more information. And really, there’s almost a little bit
of a numbness in this space. It’s like we put up this protective wall so we
don’t have to feel it quite so intensely.
Stage two is anger. In stage two, you are piecing together information and
it’s becoming more real. You start to become mad that it happened. Mad at a
loss or at of relationship. Mad that you once saw your partner in this way
and now suddenly they look very different. Now with this an interesting
thing to note is that we could feel angry, but we’re also afraid that if we
show all of that anger, we might drive our partner away, which also feels
threatening. So often what this anger looks like is actually suppressing
the anger and then it might erupt at different points as it sinks in.
Looking back on my own situation when I was going through it, I definitely
did that. I definitely kept it down, kept it down, tried to keep calm and
cool. And then every once, boom, out would come some kind of flash of
anger. So just know that that’s normal. Self-doubt can also surface here.
We can feel anger and we can also experience self-doubt here and wonder
what our role was. Self-doubt about our role, self-doubt about what we’re
seeing, and how we helped contribute to it, things like that.
Stage three, bargaining. This is an interesting one. This is where we go
back in time. We ask what ifs. “What if, what if?” So, for example, if you
saw one time something that just kind of seemed off on your spouse’s phone
and you just ignored it thinking, “Hmm. No, that’s probably nothing.”
Bargaining is where we go and we’re like, “Huh. What if I would’ve just
called it out then? What if I would’ve asked? Maybe none of this wouldn’t
have happened. Maybe if I would’ve gone with him to this thing instead of
sent him on his own, this wouldn’t have happened.”
Oftentimes in bargaining, we blame ourselves. We take a lot of the blame.
As I was preparing this, I was thinking about my husband, and I know he
wouldn’t mind me sharing this, but I’ve mentioned before, his first wife
had colon cancer for years, almost seven years. She got diagnosed right
around her 30th birthday, died on Valentine’s Day a month before her 37th
birthday. And after several treatments, he took her to the Mayo Clinic,
which is very well known for being one of the best hospitals, clinics, in
the world. And by the time he took her there, they basically told him and
her that there was not much they can do and that it should have been dealt
with in different ways and on and on. And so one of the things that my
husband grappled with was in this stage three of bargaining, of “What if I
would’ve just taken her there first instead of messing with these other
hospitals?” And of course it’s not helpful because it doesn’t change
anything, but just know that it’s an normal thing that we do.
The reason we do this is because we want to heal the pain quicker, and we
are very logical. We’re logical, we want a logical explanation for why this
happened. And so we’re looking for it, even if it means blaming ourselves.
We’re trying to intellectualize our feelings. Like, “I feel this way,” like
we’re trying to make it very math-like. Like, “Well, if I only would’ve
done this, if I only would’ve done this, then I wouldn’t feel this way.
This wouldn’t have happened.” And like I said, we take a lot of blame on
ourselves going through scenarios. Another thing that happens here in stage
four, I mean, excuse me, stage three, is that the hurt partner may try
premature closure as a way to get out of pain. Close it on off. Like, “I
don’t want to look at this anymore. I don’t want to look at all the
details. And so I’m just going to close it off and tell myself this nice
little story so I don’t actually have to feel it.”
Stage four is depression. In stage four you feel the full impact of losing
the relationship that you thought you had. You are truly seeing it was not
what you thought it was and you’re allowing yourself to feel. In this space
it can mess with your version of reality because you start to wonder what
else is not real that you thought was real. I remember in this stage,
remembering some of the good things that happened our marriage, some of the
good memories, and he could be very thoughtful at times and thinking about
some of those thoughtful things that he did, thoughtful gestures, and
going, “Was any of it real? Was anything real or was it in an attempt to
keep me quiet?” And that surely felt very depressing.
And so in this stage, there can be a lot of confusion and deep painful
questions. “How could he or she? Does he or she love me at all? What do I
do? Will I always feel this way. What if I never move past this? How can I
really move forward with him or her? How can I move forward with or without
him or her? I should have been better in this way.” Now a warning I want to
give here is it’s very normal, but it can become a trap of sorts. There can
be a false safety in staying here. It can absolve you temporarily of
leaning in to tough conversations or really answering hard questions for
yourself. It can keep you in kind of a victim or self-pity mode where
you’re like, “Well, I guess this is just what it is and I’m just going to
feel bad and this is where I stay.” And you are avoiding kind of moving
past the stage, really rolling up your sleeves, and moving forward. It is
normal to go to this place, 100% normal, but it can be dangerous and
unhealthy to stay here for too long.
Stage number five is acceptance. Stage number five does not mean that
there’s a permanent resolution, because guess what? Whether you’re still
married to the person or not, there are still interpersonal and emotional
realities that can come up from day to day, things that come up that need
to be dealt with in the moment. But it can feel transformational in that
you can resolve in this space how you will move forward. You are answering
the questions. “I recognize how this happened. I see what happened. I see
some things that I missed. I see where he thought this and this and this,
why he chose this and this and this.” And now I’m not saying that we’re
absolving responsibility of our spouse. I’m not saying that we’re just
like, “Oh, I understand and it’s not a big deal.” That’s not what I mean at
It’s more like we are looking as honestly as we can at the situation,
looking at ourself, looking at them, and in this space is where we are
forgiving, whether we choose to stay or leave. If we are choosing to stay,
this is where hope is renewed, a renewed hope that you guys can build
something better. This is where your future outlook changes for yourself,
and whether you stay married or not. Acceptance means, like I said, telling
a story, telling the story in a way that feels the most truthful, the most
honest, and giving you the ability to move forward. And I know a while
back, I did a whole episode on acceptance that you can look for.
So now I want to talk a little bit about PTSD. PTSD is when it goes a
little bit deeper. And I am a coach, not a therapist, so I cannot diagnose
or treat PTSD, but I do want you to know what to look for. I want you to
know kind of to be familiar with some of the symptoms of PTSD, and this
might be something that you could go talk to somebody who specializes in
that. I myself was diagnosed at one point with PTSD. So I have a lot of
empathy and understanding for what PTSD feels like. It can feel very out of
control, very scary, and over years I have grown a lot and I rarely have
PTSD symptoms. Every once in a while they pop up, every once in a while,
but I have a much better grip and understanding of how to work through
So here are some of the things to look for around PTSD. It says that, “The
hurt partner often suffers from PTSD following an affairs recovery.”
According to doctors John and Julie Gottman if the below symptoms persist,
then the chances are that the hurt partner is experiencing PTSD. Number
one, recurrent recollections and intrusive visualizations, deja vu type
things. Events, days, locations tend to trigger flashbacks of affair
specifics. For example, recurring dates of when the hurt partner had out
about the affair trigger memories and related emotions that can induce
flooding and panic attacks.
Number two, oscillating moods, confusion, irritability, and outbursts. As
the hurt partner struggles between feelings of betrayal and acceptance
there are periods of emotional numbing followed by explosions.
Number three, intense emotions of anger, hurt, shame, grief, and
frustration. These are ambivalent fears of anger, guilt, self-doubts that
can overwhelm the hurt partner. Empathetic listening goes a long way in
Number four, hypergilance and startling. Hurt partners can become startled
and vigilant about mundane things like message notifications, phone rings,
delay in replies, and may seem to make impossible demands. Compassion and
assurance will help, including self-compassion.
Number five, avoidance, detachment, and seclusion. The overwhelming
feelings appear challenging and isolation may seem like the only option.
The betraying partner often misunderstands it as distancing and tends to
stay away. It may enhance the feelings of rejection in the hurt partner
when what is needed is emotional support.
Number six, loss of focus and interest. The depression symptoms of
demotivation, loss of interest, lack of energy, irregular sleep, no
appetite, low feelings, et cetera, can persist.
And number seven, hopelessness about the future. As the world they know
collapses there may be hopelessness and helplessness about the
Now, I want to point out that not everybody is going to develop PTSD. A lot
of people will experience grief and depression, but many people will not
have PTSD. Hurt partners may become obsessed with the affairs details. They
might need help moving through these things. But also is part of those
earlier steps, one through five, in the grieving process and so some of
those reactions are totally normal and can just be processed through in
some of the steps that I’m going to tell you next.
And with of those things that I said about PTSD, it is unlikely that you’ll
experience all of those things. For me, as I was preparing for this
podcast, I can look at that and there are about three of them that would
show up for me when I was having a PTSD response. Not all of them. So
you’re probably not going to experience them all, but just pay attention.
Did any of those stand out?
Now let’s talk about what gets in the way of moving forward that mascarades
as grief. Grief in and up itself is a feeling. It’s an emotion. If we are
telling ourselves stories about how we can never have what we want, how we
can never trust our partner again, how we can never trust ourself again,
how we can never have what I dreamed of when we first got together, how
it’s ruined forever, you are going to feel some things. The things you’re
going to feel are going to come from the thoughts that you are having.
Grief in and of itself is positive. It helps you to move forward. It helps
you to heal. When we create grief for our ourselves over and over and over
again by the stories that we’re telling, we’re going to keep in those loops
until we decide to think something else. We can replay scenarios over and
over. We can look at our relationship and tell ourselves the same story
over and over and over. This will keep you stuck. It will keep you stuck.
Now here’s an example to play with. What if somebody has the thought that’s
staying, “It will never be the same. It will always be a part of our
story.” Guess what? That is correct. It will always be a part of your story
and it will never be the same. So how do you want to spin that? You get to
tell the story however you want. You can decide that before the infidelity,
there were some dynamics that you were blind to, that you just didn’t see.
You can see where your partner was and some of the decisions that they were
making based on what they were dealing with that you could not see, and you
can decide what to make it mean.
Infidelity is the thing that sounds the alarm that says our relationship is
on fire and urgent care is needed. It needs urgent care, right now, 911.
When we are experiencing infidelity, we are not as much getting sucked into
some of the diversions and distractions of life because suddenly this thing
becomes front and center. That can be a really positive thing. It can be
something that brings attention to our marriage that nothing else could
have. It might be the thing that ultimately in the end saves your marriage,
which is hard to believe. It’s hard to wrap your head around. But what if
your relationship being on fire is what is going to bring the needed
desperate attention to it that is going to save your marriage, if partners
are willing. If you’re both willing.
What if it’s just to save you? What if your growth, the growth required
through infidelity is so great, that it’s worth it just for that, whether
you stay with your partner or not, that you become such a stronger version
of you, that’s so much more in tune with who you are and what you want out
of life that you can even say, “I can’t imagine that not happening because
of how much it has served me in becoming the person that I actually want to
be. And even in being in relationships I actually want to be in.” We don’t
necessarily want crisis to come upon us, but the opportunity for growth is
there and there’s so much potential for buildings something way more solid
and long-lasting. There is an opportunity, again, if both partners are
willing to become unified in a way that you never were before and at a much
So how do we actually move through grief in a healthy way? Number one, it
begins with self-compassion, recognizing that you’re hurting, that it’s
okay for you to be hurting, and offering yourself compassion in that space
is a huge step in really processing grief. Last week, I recorded an episode
about self-compassion so if you haven’t listened to it yet, go back and
listen to it. This gives you space to allow yourself to feel.
Number two, look at it, touch it, feel it. Don’t be dismissive of it, or
put a time limit on it. No time limits. It’s going to be different for
everybody. Pick it up, hold it, see it, make contact with it. Trying to do
this part way will lengthen the process, trying to skip over certain things
and not look at them. So back to the story I told at the very beginning
about my girl, who was five. She was so brave that day and she just wanted
to go and look straight at it. She literally stood in front of the tree and
just looked. I wonder what was going on in her brain. But in the picture
that I shared on social media, you can go find it on my Instagram,
Andrea_Giles_Coaching. I shared this picture of her and she’s just looking.
She was willing to move directly into the grief.
The thing about walking into the grief, right into the belly of it, is it’s
only there that you see the doorway out. You have to be willing to walk in
to get back out. You can go from the parts that feel really familiar into
parts that you might avoid. And this is really crucial. Look at the parts
that you avoid. You will come out of it. It’s not going to swallow you
whole. It will actually introduce to you the doorway. Avoiding this extends
our pain. It keeps us in there longer than we need to be. Going straight
into it also makes this beautiful doorway for post-traumatic growth, which
is a real thing. Go listen to my Episode 24, even if you’ve already
listened to it, go listen to it again. It’s with Krista St. Germain. It’s
all about post-traumatic growth. She is a widow, and she talks about her
experience. This is all about growing out of grief and turning it into a
beautiful, powerful thing that really is the jumping off point for the rest
of your life.
To wrap this up, grief is love’s shadow. To grieve means that you loved. To
grieve means that you cared. Grief is a price that we pay for love, for
relationships, for life. In a way, grief can be a very beautiful thing. So
my friends, this is going to sound like strange advice, but I invite you to
grieve. I invite you to go feel it, process it, and let it go. It does not
have to be your constant companion, but really going into it deeply will be
your way out. Allow it. Open yourself to the beauty that comes from the
pain. Don’t put a time limit on it. I still on occasion will have things
that pop up that take me back, that open up a new level of grief, and I
have learned to just be open to it. I’ve learned that I can trust that this
must be my body saying, “Andrea, it’s time for this. It’s time for you to
look here.” And that it will never suck me, that it will never last
forever, and that actually helps me to move forward. Sending you all so
much love as you process your own grief. If you have questions, comments,
anything, you can always reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I love hearing
from you. Sending you so much love. I will see you again next week. Take
Thank you for listening to the Heal From Infidelity Podcast. If you would
like to be kept in the know about upcoming free classes, new podcast
episodes, and other ways of working with me, go subscribe to my weekly
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it’s andreagiles.com/lies-about-infidelity/. I will see you next time.