The impact of Betrayal Trauma

Tracey Maxfield wrote an excellent short post some time ago now about Betrayal Trauma on her LinkedIn page, which I then shared in a short post on Facebook.

It was too important and relevant to so many of us living with (and without) dementia not to start a blog about it and quote her here, It has taken me some time however, to write it. Tracey wrote:

“A lot of us have talked about betrayal in the past few days. I still feel pain whenever I am reminded of those, who I considered friends, supporters, co workers, betrayed me in order to win favor with my workplace bully. To those who do not understand what betrayal does to a person’s emotional health, read this…”

Thanks Tracey, for your words and for the image/quote, which have both inspired me to think and write about this topic.

From my personal experience, betrayal trauma is a pain so great, it took my breath away. Furthermore, I now believe it is like alcohol ‘recovery’. We never ever lose the pain and every single day, we are needing to find ways to deal with and live with it, even at a subconscious level.

We are in ‘recovery’ from betrayal trauma, permanently. 

Dealing with betrayal, which is 100% a form of bullying, and the betrayal trauma that lives with us for the rest of our lives, alongside dementia (either diagnosed with it, or supporting someone with dementia) definitely makes it more difficult to manage.

A young man who is very close to me, and was ‘abandoned’ by his biological mother when he was very young appears to have a lot of baggage from this experience, including betrayal trauma. He’s not yet accepted he will be in permanent ‘recovery from it, and although has had a ‘on and off’ relationship with her most of his life, is really struggling to understand it is up to him to do the work to heal, to move on, and to forgive her. It is difficult to accept and to understand it is never going to go away. I grew up in a very dysfunctional family, and it continues to be a constant process of ‘recovery’, even now.

When relationships are toxic, even when there at times they seem to be going well, they can ‘become actively toxic’ again, at any moment. Living with an abusive partner is like that too, and both cause forms of betrayal trauma.

One does not expect a parent to betray them, nor a person they once loved enough to marry or have a child with.

Personally, I have also been betrayed by those who claimed to be friends, and also by family, and have realised too I will never ‘recover’ from this, even though I have learned to get back on and live my life positively again.

A woman who I had thought to be a friend, Sally P, warned me a few years ago some of my ‘friends’ were saying I was faking medical conditions. She even met with me over coffee to tell me to my face, even telling me I’d be shocked to know who they were, but then refused to tell me who they were.

Sometime later, a very harmful public defamation (betrayal) probably by the same people she was referring to happened; this hurt my sons and husband perhaps even more than me . It also further damaged relationships with other family members, which were already troubled.

If she’d had the decency to tell me who was lying about me, I could have resolved it, and then perhaps it would never have happened…

But no, she refused to, and therefore I feel she metaphorically fed me to the ‘wolves’. Her lack of honesty then was as harmful to me as the lies told by those who defamed and betrayed me. In fact it is like knowing that someone is being bullied, or knowing about a paedophile, and doing nothing; it makes you as bad as the perpetrators. Perhaps I am being too judgemental, and they were not the same cohort she was referring to… difficult to know, when a ‘friend’ won’t be honest with you, but I have to suspect some of them were in the group she was referring to.

Many of my friends diagnosed with dementia have not only been deserted by many of their family and friends, some have been similarly betrayed and publicly defamed, including by those who had publicly promised to support them…

This really does my head in… if only all care partners were as amazing and loyal as my husband, my sons, and my friend Shibley, who supports his mum 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

To these very special men, and my other very loyal family and friends, I LOVE YOU ALL.

Loyalty and unconditional love is all that really matters.


15 thoughts on “The impact of Betrayal Trauma

  1. Kate, This one really hitting home. Please trust there are people who unconditionally love ❤️ you but for reasons beyond their control, they cannot reach out to you to express that. They are wounded too. They are afraid of rejection. They are weary travelers. They Love you. It’s bullies who attract attention. Write about them then give them as little energy as possible for a human to give. I’ll send you a virtual hug 🤗 Unconditionally 😎🙏🏼


    • Dear Mary… I’m lucky as I do have many who love me unconditionally. Just not my parents or siblings, which say still hurts. But I’m ok. Many don’t have anyone. I really feel their pain and loss. And thanks for the wonderful virtual hug xx

      Liked by 1 person

    • This really reasonated with me. I was raped and then publically shamed by my family and rejected by my mother. Many years i blamed myself and then publically shamed and called a liar. My family took the side of my abuser and shamed me. They spread rumours and lies that damaged my life. I feel i will never be able to recover from it.


      • Dear Betty, it’s sad this resonates with anyone, but at least we are here and sharing, and virtually supporting each other. For me the pain never goes away, the heartache of being abused and rejected by my parents has damaged me. Hopefully not irreparably, as we must move on. I’m sure the experience gives us a strength like no other too. For me it’s highlighted how not to parent, in a positive way for my sons. Sending hugs 🤗 xxxxx


  2. Betrayal is literally ‘heart breaking!’….It is a feeling unlike any other and it digs deep into our soul and it seems to metastasize throughout our being., gripping onto us for dear life. It’s hard to rid oneself of that feeling as it destroys trust and makes us always on guard going forward. It ripples throughout our being into any small crevice where it can hide. I know what you have encountered both here on your blog Kate as well as in the Dementia community. But thankfully Kate you are still with us. We may not ever be able to sweep the feelings away completely, but we manage to dust ourselves off and keep going. It’s time we humans stop for a few moments and think about the huge impact our words and actions can make on others. We tend to throw words around without thinking of the repercussions. It’s time humanity woke up and paid attention and maybe we wouldn’t be hurting so many people. Thanks for sharing Kate. I hope all is well as winter approaches for you and spring for me! Yay!!! Hugs to you…VK ❤


  3. Thanks for your honest blog Kate. What does my head in is when so called friends or even family say I have your back to your face then then behind your back they say or their actions tell a different truth. I can’t even be bothered breathing their same air. When the shit hits the fan that’s when you find out who your true friends are. The last week with my Dad has proven this. Trust takes years to build, seconds to destroy and lifetime to repair. X Ness


  4. Kate, I know about betrayal as well and it is not a good thing to have to experience. You have voiced what many probably think, and once again you need to be applauded. Sending you love and hugs xx 😊


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