When I was studying Grief in mortuary college in 2003-5, I remember learning about “Searching” behaviors. This refers to something that happens most often to older people who have lost their husband or wife of many, many years. The surviving spouse imagines that they hear their deceased spouse walking around in the home that they shared together. They actually hear the deceased person’s footsteps in the hallway. Or they imagine that they hear the deceased calling their name. If the deceased had a routine to do certain things every day, the surviving spouse may imagine to continue to hear those daily activities ; for example, they may hear the deceased taking a shower but find that the bathroom is empty or they may smell the deceased making morning coffee but the coffee pot is empty. This behavior of “Searching” for their partner of many years may seem completely insane to an outsider. The adult children may react with fear and think “Mom needs to be put in an institution”. However, these behaviors are so common, they are actually considered a normal and ordinary part of the grieving process.
Or at least they were in 2003. I haven’t been able to find any reliable internet links to support what I learned in college! So you’ll just have to take my word for it and use your own discretion to decide if this post applies to you or not.
For myself, I have 3 main ways that “Searching” Behaviors occur in my life.
#1. Extra Pillows In My Bed.
I have adopted one new behavior that is 100% due to breaking up with the narcissist and that is my pillows. I sleep with enough pillows in the bed that I can fool my mind into thinking there is another person in the bed with me. (Large dogs or a basketful of cats are even better bed-companions than pillows, but my cats are still in Israel.) I used to wake up in the middle of the night and wonder where my bed partner had gone. Was he in the bathroom? Then I would remember that he dumped me and make myself upset again. Putting a bunch of pillows in my bed solved the problem for me. No more searching for the narcissist.
#2. Searching Because I Want to See The Narcissist Again.
I found that when David and I first broke up, I would scan crowds, searching for his face. I realized that the man was still alive and that we might bump into each other. This thought used to disrupt my concentration and agitate me whenever I had to leave my apartment, especially if I were going to an event where he was likely to be. I would imagine that I saw him, react with panic, and then realize it wasn’t him. However, one day, we did go to eat at the same kosher burger joint at the same time. He saw me eating my lunch, scowled, and left without ordering. The amount of time and energy that I had invested in my worry versus the one time we actually did bump into each other proves that I was being self-destructive. I solved the problem by moving away. No more searching for the narcissist.
#3. Searching Because I Do Not Want To See The Narcissist Again.
This is more of a reaction to abuse than a part of the grief process. I would go to great lengths to avoid running into Driftwood in public. I get panicky just thinking about it. This is still a self-destructive behavior because I invest so much time and energy into being afraid of him. I guess this type of healing takes more time.
A note about Online Searching: No Contact means making an effort not to read the narcissist’s Facebook posts or other online activity. You avoid the narcissist online because it is a healthy way to take care of yourself. For example, I blog at WordPress, while David blogs at Blogspot. We have managed to divide even something as vaporous as Cyberspace into “his corner” and “my corner”. (Remember, narcissists don’t share resources and if I were to intrude on his Blogspot, he would lash out at me with Narcissistic Rage. Besides, whatever he is doing over there to victimize more targets, I don’t really want to know.) This is not the same issue as imagining that he was in my apartment when he wasn’t or imagining that I saw his face in a crowd when he wasn’t there.
The purpose of this post is to point out that sometimes your grief process can include very odd behaviors that will make you worry if you are going insane. Hearing things that aren’t there and seeing things that aren’t there are sure to shake your confidence. However, imagining things can be a normal part of the grief process – as long as it stops within a reasonable amount of time. If these “Searching” behaviors continue too long or become disruptive to your ability to function, then you might want to seek professional help.
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