PTSD and Ambiguous Loss 6

In When Someone You Love Suffers From Posttraumatic Stress, by Claudia Zayfert, PhD and Jason C. DeViva, PhD , they define ambiguous loss as a “term used to describe any situation in which a loved one is absent in some ways but present in others.” They further explain that this can be when a person is present physically, but is not participating in family life. This describes my family.

The thing is we are still a family and at times we still act like one. However, there are other times, we are not. This may sound like a typical family with a teenager to some of you. It is not.

I am not talking about typical teenage rebellion or pulling away. I am talking about a talented, kindhearted child, who wants to be alone, yet still wants me to be present. The two are contradictory I know, still there it is. She needs me to be present, yet invisible. She needs control of the boundaries she establishes, while at the same time she cannot accept that I too need boundaries. I frequently walk on eggshells as I try to help her.

The more I learn, the more I understand and believe me I understand more than most. Yet, I am at risk. I am at risk for what the book describes as “secondary trauma.” Many family members of those with PTSD have signs of anxiety, depression and PTSD themselves. This is why I get angry when I see people related to the year my daughter experienced bullying. They are all moving forward; this includes the bullies and their families.

We have done many things right to help my daughter. She still talks to me, she still has goals. We take baby-steps in positive directions. She has relived the events too many times already, and does not want to talk about it anymore. She received counseling after the event and was doing better until the school that previously had been supportive let her down completely.

She knows in her heart that it is not her fault, but in some ways the school’s failure caused her to start over at square one and to lose the years of progress. All of the professionals who let her down previously make it hard to trust any of them, and I understand this.

Today I found a wonderful book to help her,The PTSD Workbook. I am also trying to take care of myself, so I can continue to help her. My husband gave me a better camera for Christmas and I am taking pictures of nature as I take my walks. Like the faint rainbow above, there is a glimmer of hope.


  1. I’m really glad you are taking care of yourself and your daughter, I have PTSD caused by bulling and other traumatic experiences and I know how hard it is, it seems common for people on the autistic spectrum to have PTSD because of the way others treat us.
    The professionals that were supposed to help me were abusive and/or paternalistic and school never cared, so I don’t trust anymore and fear them, I hope that your daughter and you found help in your path and can heal from the betrayal of the school and from the past bullying.
    I wish I could convince my mother to take care of herself, I worry about her and it would relieve my guilty if she felt a little better or care about herself but so far she ignores her well being, that’s one of the reasons I think that the fact that you know that you need to care of yourself will help your daughter and your family too.

    • Alicia,
      I hate that you, M., and others went through so much that should never have happened. Too many times to count I have wished for a magic wand to undo the damage. Since I don’t have one, I am doing the best I can to help her slowly move forward.

      I am doing a better job of taking care of myself because I know this helps me to be more positive and more patient. I know it is what she needs from me.

      I hope your mom will take better care of herself too and you will stop feeling guilty.

  2. I know that of which you write. PTSD is a difficult wound to heal. All of us strive to fulfill or basic need for safey, without safety none of the other pieces fall into place. Evolutionary biology has taught us and passed down from our ancestors that the responses to a fear of the absence of safety are flight or fight and sometimes we rapidly and aimlessly fluctuate between the two looking to feel safe. Unfortunately, an offshoot of PTSD is catastrophic thinking (if something can go wrong it will) and this is not controlled or rational but comes from a feeling of a lack of safety and control. A tough situation, I’m still there…you road is right and the sun is coming up.

    • Phil,
      I hate that you are still there, but I do understand.

      I do think I am on the right path. Still, I wish it were easier. I think having an excellent rote memory to the point that she can remember conversations that occured on certain days is making it harder to move forward. Baby steps is all we can handle right now, but at least we are moving forward.

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