Understanding Grief & Complex Grief for Scam Victims

Scam Victim Recovery Psychology

Helping Scam Victim Find and Follow the Yellow Brick Road!

•  Vianey Gonzalez B.Sc(Psych) – Psychologist, Certified Deception Professional, Psychology Advisory Panel & Director of the Society of Citizens Against Relationship Scams Inc.
•  Tim McGuinness, Ph.D. – Anthropologist, Scientist, Director of the Society of Citizens Against Relationship Scams Inc.
•  Portions from multiple sources for accuracy

Article Abstract

Scam victims endure various forms of grief, each impacting their recovery uniquely.

Each grief type adds complexity for scam victims, necessitating tailored recovery addressing betrayal, financial repercussions, legal aspects, online safety, shame, isolation, education, emotional resilience, relationship rebuilding, peer support, and ongoing vigilance.

Normal Grief, marked by immediate distress and repetitive thoughts, applies as victims grapple with the sudden betrayal. Anticipated Grief, occurring before loss, relates to prolonged emotional preparation for inevitable scams. Unresolved Grief persists beyond six months, hindering life reorganization. Chronic Grief, lasting for years, sees victims abandon shared interests, isolating themselves. Absent Mourning is evident as victims deny reality, staying stuck in denial. Delayed Grief emerges later, overwhelming those who suppress emotions. Inhibited Grief, linked to somatic complaints, arises from difficulty expressing loss. Unauthorized Grief unfolds when the environment rejects grieving, adding to victims’ distress. Distorted Grief manifests disproportionately, especially when prior grief compounds new losses.

SCARS Scam Victim Support & Recovery Program

Scam Victims and Grief or Pathological/Complex Grief and How to Process and Recover from it!

What are the types of pathological or complex grief?

This process of grief has many different characteristics that make it possible to classify it into nine types:

  1. Normal Grief
  2. Anticipated Grief
  3. Unresolved Grief
  4. Chronic Grief
  5. Absent Grief
  6. Delayed Grief
  7. Inhibited Grief
  8. Unauthorized Grief
  9. Distorted Grief

Understanding the various forms of grief is complex and seeing a grief counselor or trauma therapist is always wise and recommended. Find counseling or therapy here: counseling.AgainstScams.org


Please understand that we are talking about grief in this article. When trauma is added to the situation that scam victims face it becomes even more complex.

Normal Grief: Understanding the Process and Its Application to Romance Scam Victims

Normal grief is a natural response to loss and typically follows a predictable pattern. This process commences immediately after the loss occurs and is marked by a state of daze, confusion, frequent tears, and repetitive thoughts about actions taken or missed opportunities. Generally, this phase is expected to conclude within about six months.

Application to Romance Scam Victims

Romance scam victims undergo a unique form of loss that extends beyond the conventional realms of grief.

The emotional investment in a fabricated relationship creates a profound sense of loss when the deception is revealed. Initially, victims may experience shock, confusion, and a flood of emotions. The grieving process involves acknowledging the emotional investment, confronting the betrayal, and gradually adapting to the new reality. While the timeline for normal grief is typically six months, the complexity of scam-related trauma may necessitate extended support and recovery efforts for victims to rebuild trust and emotional well-being. Recognizing the distinctive challenges of grief in scam victims is crucial for providing empathetic and tailored support throughout their healing journey.

What Must All Scam Victims Acknowledge or Accept to Begin Processing Grief

  • Accept that they are the victim of a crime
  • Accept that there never was a ‘he’ or ‘she’, that they were defrauded by an unknown and probably unknowable team of scammers
  • Accept that any identity that they have feelings for – was fake and all lies – photos stolen, the name made up, the story all lies
  • Accept that the only mistake they made was talking to a stranger, after that they lost control
  • Accept that they were expertly lured, groomed, manipulated, and controlled
  • Accept that it was not their fault
  • Accept that they did not see the red flags and make bad decisions, this was done to them, it was a violation

Anticipated Grief: Preparing for the Unavoidable

Anticipated grief is a psychological phenomenon where an individual experiences the stages of grief before an actual loss occurs. This prolonged emotional and intellectual preparation aims to ready the person for the inevitable loss, so that when it transpires—be it due to death, job changes, severed friendships, or loss of possessions—it is met with a degree of emotional equanimity.

Application to Scam Victims

Scam victims, despite not experiencing a tangible physical loss, often undergo a form of anticipated grief. The emotional investment in a relationship or the trust in financial dealings can evoke feelings akin to grief even before the scam is fully unraveled. Victims may sense a growing unease, suspicions, or a deepening emotional void caused by both the problematic relationship and also over the money they are sending out.

Acknowledging and addressing these anticipatory emotions can aid in resilience and preparedness when the deception is revealed. Offering tailored support and education during this phase can empower individuals to navigate the impending challenges of recovering from a scam, fostering emotional well-being and mitigating the potential long-term impacts of the experience.

Scam victims who experienced Anticipated Grief before the scam came to an end tend to recover more quickly and completely, but this is a generalization and is not applicable in all cases.

Unresolved Grief: Lingering Shadows of Loss

Unresolved grief, extending beyond the typical grieving period of 18 to 24 months, signifies an inability to reorganize life and assimilate the changes resulting from a loss. This type of grief involves persistently holding onto memories, expectations, and behavioral patterns associated with the lost entity.

Application to Scam Victims

For scam victims, especially those ensnared in romance or relationship scams, unresolved grief is a profound challenge.

The emotional investment in a fictitious relationship creates a complex web of memories and expectations that endure beyond the exposure of the scam. Victims may grapple with persistent thoughts, struggles to move forward, and difficulty in redefining personal narratives.

Professional intervention and specialized support groups, like those provided by organizations such as SCARS (Society of Citizens Against Relationship Scams), become crucial in guiding victims through the extended healing process. Addressing the unique aspects of scam-related grief helps individuals gradually disentangle from the emotional complexities and rebuild their lives with resilience.

Chronic Grief: Enduring Shadows Over Time

Chronic grief, a subset of unresolved grief, defies the expectation that time will bring healing. It lingers for years, persisting until the end of life. Individuals grappling with chronic grief often exhibit distinct characteristics, such as abandoning shared interests, renouncing the notion of life as a couple, withdrawing from family participation, and losing interest in celebrations and joys.

Application to Scam Victims

For victims of scams, particularly those ensnared in romance or relationship scams, chronic grief can be a haunting companion.

The fabricated relationship and the very real emotional investment create an intricate and complex web of deceit that intensifies the emotional toll, making it challenging for victims to break free from the perpetual cycle of grief. The erosion of trust, shattered dreams, and the realization of betrayal contribute to a prolonged state of mourning.

Coping mechanisms and support systems become paramount in helping scam victims navigate through these enduring shadows of chronic grief.

Organizations like SCARS (Society of Citizens Against Relationship Scams) offer specialized assistance to guide victims through the complexities of this prolonged grieving process, fostering a gradual shift toward healing and resilience.

Absent Mourning: The Persistent Denial

Absent mourning characterizes a form of grief where individuals adamantly deny the occurrence of events. It aligns with the denial stage discussed earlier, where the person, despite the passage of significant time, remains steadfast in avoiding reality. Stagnating in this phase implies an unwillingness to confront the situation, resulting in a perpetual state of denial.

Application to Scam Victims

For scam victims, particularly those entangled in romance or relationship scams, absent mourning is a perilous pitfall. The fabricated nature of the relationship and the emotional investment can create a profound attachment, making it challenging for victims to accept the harsh reality of being deceived. In this state of denial, victims may continue to cling to the illusion crafted by scammers, resisting the acknowledgment of the scam and the associated emotional trauma. Breaking free from absent mourning requires a delicate approach, combining empathetic support and educational interventions. Support groups like those offered by SCARS (Society of Citizens Against Relationship Scams) play a crucial role in guiding scam victims through the process of acceptance and understanding, fostering a transformative journey toward recovery and resilience.

Delayed or Postponed Grief: The Unseen Resurgence

Delayed or postponed grief mirrors normal grief but distinguishes itself by manifesting after a significant period. This type often emerges in individuals adept at concealing their emotions, projecting an outward appearance of strength. However, a delayed response occurs when a subsequent, seemingly less impactful loss or frustration triggers an exaggerated reaction, fundamentally propelled by the unresolved pain of the initial loss.

Application to Scam Victims

For scam victims, especially those ensnared in romance or relationship scams, delayed grief is an intricate emotional labyrinth. Victims may initially suppress their feelings, coping with the betrayal by appearing resilient. However, the supressed pain resurfaces, often triggered by seemingly unrelated events.

For instance, a victim swiftly entering into another relationship might experience an unexpected and overwhelming depression. The unresolved anguish from the scam, lurking beneath the surface, finds an outlet in this delayed grief response.

Navigating this complex emotional terrain requires comprehensive support, emphasizing the importance of acknowledging and processing the original scam-related trauma.

Inhibited Grief: Silenced Suffering

Inhibited grief unfolds when an individual encounters challenges in expressing emotions, leading them to sidestep or outright reject the pain associated with loss. Distinct from absent mourning, inhibited grief doesn’t operate as a defense mechanism but rather arises due to limitations within the individual’s personality. This form of grief often presents with somatic complaints such as migraines or gastrointestinal disorders, underscoring the profound impact of unexpressed sorrow on the individual’s physical well-being.

Application to Scam Victims: For scam victims, particularly those entangled in romance or relationship scams, inhibited grief is a stifling emotional conundrum. The manipulative tactics employed by scammers often result in victims internalizing their anguish, struggling to articulate their pain. This inhibited expression may surface in physical ailments, serving as a silent testament to the concealed emotional turmoil. Understanding this nuanced manifestation of grief is crucial in providing support to scam victims.

Unauthorized Grief: The Lonely Lament

Unauthorized grief emerges when the surrounding environment refuses to acknowledge an individual’s mourning process. In such instances, even when a considerable amount of time has elapsed, external forces, such as family or societal expectations, reproach the grieving person for persisting in their sorrow. Externally, the individual might suppress their feelings, conforming to societal norms, but internally, the grief remains unresolved.

Application to Scam Victims

For scam victims, particularly those victimized in romance or relationship scams, unauthorized grief can compound the emotional burden. Societal skepticism, judgment, or blaming may cast doubt on the legitimacy of their pain, pushing victims to conceal their struggles. The stigma associated with falling prey to a scam might lead to exclusion or misunderstanding, creating an environment where grief is deemed unwarranted. Support groups play a pivotal role in providing validation and understanding to scam victims, countering the isolation imposed by unauthorized grief, and creating an atmosphere of empathy and acceptance.

Distorted Grief: Echoes of Sorrow

Distorted grief surfaces as an intense and disproportionate emotional reaction, often surpassing the magnitude warranted by the current situation. This phenomenon typically arises when an individual, having encountered previous grief, is confronted with a new loss. The unresolved emotions from prior mourning experiences intertwine with the current sorrow, intensifying the overall emotional response.

Application to Scam Victims

For scam victims, particularly those who have suffered from previous losses or traumas, distorted grief can amplify the impact of a romance or relationship scam. Past emotional wounds may resurface, intertwining with the new experience and creating an overwhelming emotional burden. This heightened response can complicate the healing process, requiring additional support and understanding. Recognizing the potential for distorted grief allows for targeted intervention and assistance tailored to the unique challenges faced by scam victims in navigating the complexities of their emotional landscape. Support groups and counseling services, such as those provided by organizations like SCARS, prove valuable in helping individuals untangle the threads of past and present grief, fostering a healthier path toward recovery.

When to Ask for Help?

A professional should be seen regardless of the stage of grief or what type of grief is being experienced.

Additionally, when the grieving process does not follow the expected course, produces alterations in normal functioning, and interferes with a person’s ability to make sense and create future plans, the scam victim should see a professional.

All victims need to act responsibly and diligently about grief because grieving is a natural process and is part of the acceptance and adaptation after a loss, the absence of this response is not normal and can be the manifestation of something more serious. The difference between normal grief and pathological or complicated grief lies in the intensity and duration of the emotional and behavioral reactions. However, between up to 20% of people who experience a loss present pathological/complicated grief, characterized by:

  • Cognitive distortions
  • Anger
  • Refusal to continue with life
  • Avoidant attitudes and,
  • Dysfunctionality

Also, consider these indicators that are important in knowing when to ask for help:

  • If after the first year of the loss, there is no sign of recovery.
  • When 2 or 3 years after the loss there is no clear satisfactory evolution.
  • Lack of response or weak response during the weeks following the loss.
  • After the first weeks, very intense emotions of anger, resentment, sadness, or guilt persist.
  • When some relatively unimportant event triggers an intense emotional reaction.
  • The person does not make the slightest reference to the loss, avoiding any circumstance that could remind them of it.
  • Excessive fear of illness and death, physical discomfort, and frequent visits to the doctor.
  • Destructive and self-destructive impulses with substances and alcohol abuse. In its extreme degree, it can lead to violence against others, suicide attempts, and intoxication with illegal substances.
  • If the person has a history of depression, anxiety, or mental disorder.
  • Or when the person experiences expected reactions to the grieving process but wants psychological support.


There are multiple models and theories to explain Grief and its stages.

Standard Kubler-Ross Model

The Kübler-Ross Model, also known as the Five Stages of Grief, was proposed by psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross in her 1969 book “On Death and Dying.” This model outlines the emotional stages experienced by individuals facing impending death or dealing with significant loss. Although originally designed for terminally ill patients, it has been widely applied to various forms of grief, including those resulting from scams. The five stages are:

The typical Stages of grief per Elisabeth Kubler-Ross are made up of 5 stages through which each grief suffered must go through to accept a loss or process their grief:

  1. Denial: The initial stage involves disbelief and shock, a defense mechanism to protect individuals from the overwhelming reality of the situation.
  2. Anger: As denial wanes, anger surfaces. Individuals may direct their anger towards themselves, others, or even the source of the loss.
  3. Bargaining/Negotiation: In this stage, individuals seek ways to regain control. They may make promises or negotiate with a higher power in an attempt to reverse or mitigate the loss.
  4. Depression: The profound sadness and realization of the extent of the loss lead to feelings of helplessness and despair.
  5. Acceptance: The final stage involves coming to terms with the reality of the situation. It doesn’t necessarily imply happiness but signifies a degree of emotional resolution and readiness to move forward.

Application to Scam Victims

Scam victims, particularly of romance scams, often navigate a grief process similar to Kübler-Ross’s model. They may initially deny the scam’s reality, then experience anger at themselves, the scammers, law enforcement for now doing more, or even those trying to help them, followed by bargaining, depression, and, eventually, acceptance. Understanding these stages can help victims and those supporting them recognize the normalcy of their emotional responses. Support groups, counseling, and educational resources align with the Kübler-Ross Model, assisting individuals in comprehending and processing their emotions throughout the recovery journey.

Worden Grief Tasks

The Worden Grief Tasks Model, proposed by Dr. J. William Worden, is another framework that helps individuals understand and navigate the grieving process.

It is based on the idea that the mourner must complete a series of tasks in order to correctly conclude their grief, however, failure to complete these tasks could trigger a more serious mental disorder.

This model comprises four tasks that individuals typically undertake while grieving. While initially developed for those dealing with death-related grief, it is adaptable to various types of losses, including those resulting from scams.

The four tasks are:

  • Task 1: Accept the Reality of the Loss: This task involves acknowledging and accepting the concrete reality of the loss. It requires individuals to confront the fact that the person or thing they have lost is no longer present in their lives.
  • Task 2: Process the Pain of Grief: Once the reality is accepted, individuals must engage with the emotional pain associated with the loss. This task encourages the expression and understanding of the intense emotions that grief brings.
  • Task 3: Adjust to a World Without the Deceased: This task involves adapting to the changed circumstances resulting from the loss. Individuals must find ways to live in a world where the person or thing they lost is no longer part of their daily lives.
  • Task 4: Find an Enduring Connection with the Deceased (or Lost Object): The final task centers on creating a lasting connection or memory that allows the individual to move forward while still honoring the significance of what was lost.

Application to Scam Victims

For scam victims, particularly those affected by relationship scams, the Worden Grief Tasks Model can offer a structured approach to their healing journey.

Accepting the reality of the scam, processing the emotional pain, adjusting to a life without the scammer relationship and money lost, and finding enduring connections with supportive communities or individuals are integral components of recovering from the unique challenges posed by scams. This model emphasizes the importance of actively engaging with grief and gradually adapting to a changed reality. Support groups and counseling or therapy resources, align with the principles of the Worden Grief Tasks Model, aiding individuals in navigating their grief and rebuilding their lives.

The Robert A. Neimeyer Challenges of Grief Model

The Robert A. Neimeyer Challenges of Grief Model is a theoretical framework that describes the five main challenges that individuals face when they experience loss.

This model explains the situations that must be addressed and everything that will change after a loss to achieve an adequate resolution where to person’s identity will change.

These challenges are:

  1. Accepting the reality of the loss: This involves coming to terms with the fact that the person or thing you have lost is gone and will not be coming back.
  2. Finding meaning in the loss: This involves making sense of the loss and trying to understand why it happened.
  3. Maintaining the bond with the deceased: This involves finding ways to stay connected to the person you have lost, even though they are gone.
  4. Reshaping your identity: This involves adjusting your sense of self in light of the loss.
  5. Moving on with your life: This involves finding a way to live a meaningful life again, even though you have been hurt by the loss.

Application to Scam Victims

Scam victims can also experience these same challenges of grief, even though they have not lost a loved one in the traditional sense. When someone is scammed, they can lose money, property, and even their sense of trust. This can lead to feelings of shock, anger, sadness, and confusion.

  • Accepting the reality of the loss: Scam victims may have difficulty accepting that they have been deceived and that their money is gone. They may try to deny the loss or blame themselves for what happened.
  • Finding meaning in the loss: Scam victims may struggle to find meaning in their experience. They may wonder why they were targeted and what they could have done differently.
  • Maintaining the bond with the scammer: In some cases, scam victims may develop a strange attachment to the scammer, even though they know they have been deceived. This can make it difficult to move on from the experience.
  • Reshaping your identity: Being scammed can shake your sense of self-worth and confidence. You may start to question your judgment and your ability to make good decisions.
  • Moving on with your life: It can be difficult to move on from being scammed, especially if you have lost a significant amount of money. You may feel embarrassed and ashamed, and you may worry about being scammed again.

The Neimeyer model can be helpful for scam victims in understanding their emotional responses and developing coping mechanisms. By recognizing the challenges that they face, scam victims can start to heal and rebuild their lives.

‘Facets of Grief’ per Atting

Developed by Robert Atting, a renowned psychiatrist and grief expert, the model acknowledges that grief isn’t just a tidal wave of tears. It’s a multifaceted experience of emotions and internal struggles woven into the fabric of loss.

The five facets Atting describes offer a nuanced understanding of this complex process:

  1. Sense of Loss: This goes beyond the tangible; it’s the void that aches for familiarity, security, or a past version of ourselves. Losing a job might mean missing stability, a divorce could steal cherished rituals, and a broken friendship might sever a vital connection.
  2. Pain and Distress: The raw sting of the loss, encompassing sorrow, anger, fear, and even shame. These emotions, often overwhelming, are the body’s natural response to a shattered world.
  3. Meaning-Making: The quest to understand why the loss happened and how it fits into our larger narrative. We grapple with questions like “Was it my fault?” and “What does this mean for my future?” Finding meaning, even in the midst of chaos, helps us restore order and move forward.
  4. Identity Shift: The loss alters our sense of self. We must redefine who we are without the role, relationship, or possession that defined us before. This can be an unsettling process, forcing us to confront vulnerabilities and rewrite our own story.
  5. Restoration and Growth: The gradual journey towards healing, resilience, and eventually, integration. As we navigate the other facets, we pick up the pieces, rebuild trust, and discover unexpected strengths within ourselves.

The beauty of the Atting model lies in its applicability beyond traditional losses. It offers a compassionate lens through which we can understand the grief of a job loss, a broken relationship, or even a lost dream. Scam victims, for example, face a multifaceted assault on their trust, finances, and sense of security. The model allows us to recognize the complex grief they experience, validating their emotional turmoil and offering a roadmap for healing.

Remember, grief is not a linear process. We may revisit facets, get stuck in one for a while, or jump back and forth as we navigate our loss. What matters most is understanding and acknowledging the individual journey, offering support without judgment, and allowing space for the unique constellation of emotions to unfold.

Application to Scam Victims

For scam victims, the sting of loss runs deeper than emptied wallets. The Atting “Facets of Grief” model illuminates the hidden dimensions of sorrow, revealing a constellation of emotional and psychological challenges. Scam victims mourn not just stolen money, but the shattered trust that once anchored them, the security blanket of control ripped away. Painful emotions, a cocktail of shame, anger, and betrayal, swirl within, often laced with the bitter aftertaste of self-blame. The quest for meaning becomes tangled in a desperate search for understanding amidst the wreckage of deception. Their once unwavering sense of self as trustworthy and vigilant crumbles it demands a painful reassessment. The Atting model guides them on a path towards restoration, offering tools to rebuild trust, reclaim control, and ultimately, emerge from the experience with newfound resilience.

Dimensions of the Grief by Alba Payas

This model proposes new perspectives added to the initial model of grief, which describes the first impact of knowing of the loss, to the effect it will have on our ideology and values when we manage to successfully complete the grief process.

  1. Shock from trauma.
  2. Denial.
  3. Relational grief – loss of the relationship.
  4. Growth and transformation.


A loss is undoubtedly very difficult and a great explosion of emotions that will affect all of us, marking a before and after moment in time.

Unfortunately despite the difficulty of the situation, multiple factors can worsen our grief, these risk factors are grouped as follows:

  • Type of relationship or bond: These are the emotions and feelings that we feel towards the person as well as our social situation with them, we can find the following scenarios:
    • The relationship was conflictive or psychologically abusive
    • There was emotional dependence.
  • Accumulated losses: Complicated grief or grief that was not resolved in the past can affect the present, drastically increasing emotions during the recent grief.
  • Personality variables and mental health history: The background that the mourner has will be an important piece when predicting that their grief will become pathological or complex, among the important factors are:
    • Previous psychological history, including past grief and trauma.
    • Physical disability.
    • Unresolved losses.
    • Personality traits with a tendency toward low self-esteem.
    • Difficulty expressing his emotions.
  • Family and social support: If the person’s support network is not adequate or does not allow the expression of negative emotions or is not available due to the loss, it may mean that a very important protective factor is not available, causing greater pathological grief.
  • Economic situation: Especially in the case of scam victims who have had significant (significant for them) financial loss, the loss of money or income has a great influence on the person who is grieving, increasing the difficulty of facing their new reality


General Recovery

Recovery from complex or pathological grief is a challenging and often prolonged process that requires specialized care and support.

Unlike normal grief, complex grief involves persistent and intense symptoms that significantly impede the individual’s ability to function.

The recovery process involves comprehensive intervention and therapeutic strategies:

  1. Professional Counseling: Seeking the assistance of mental health professionals, such as psychologists, psychiatrists, or grief counselors, is crucial. These professionals specialize in addressing complex grief and can provide therapeutic interventions tailored to the individual’s needs. Find counseling here: counseling.AgainstScams.org
  2. Therapeutic Modalities: Various therapeutic approaches, including cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), and eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR), may be employed. These aim to address maladaptive thought patterns, manage distressing emotions, and process traumatic experiences.
  3. Medication Management: In some cases, medication may be prescribed to alleviate symptoms such as depression, anxiety, or sleep disturbances. Psychotropic medications, including antidepressants or anxiolytics, may be considered under the guidance of a qualified healthcare professional.
  4. Support Groups: Engaging in support groups or group therapy with individuals who have experienced similar forms of grief can foster a sense of understanding and shared experiences. These settings offer a supportive environment for expressing emotions and gaining insights into coping mechanisms. Find support services here: support.AgainstScams.org
  5. Grief Education: Understanding the complexities of grief and its impact on mental health is integral to the recovery process. Education about the grieving process, coping strategies, and resilience-building helps individuals navigate their emotions and challenges. Our SCARS websites offer significant education about grief and related psychological issues that scam victims face.
  6. Self-Care Practices: Encouraging self-care activities is essential. This includes maintaining a healthy lifestyle, ensuring adequate sleep, engaging in physical activity, and adopting relaxation techniques. These practices contribute to overall well-being during the recovery journey. These include mindfulness and journaling.
  7. Addressing Trauma: Complex grief often involves underlying trauma. Therapeutic approaches that specifically address trauma, such as trauma-focused CBT or EMDR, may be incorporated into the recovery plan to help individuals process and integrate these traumatic experiences.
  8. Family Therapy: In cases where family dynamics contribute to the complexity of grief, family therapy can be beneficial. It helps improve communication, understanding, and support within the family unit, fostering a more conducive environment for healing.
  9. Coping Strategies: Developing healthy coping mechanisms is central to recovery. This may involve identifying and challenging negative thought patterns, learning effective problem-solving skills, and building resilience to manage ongoing life stressors.
  10. Long-Term Support: Complex grief recovery is often a long-term process and ongoing support is crucial. Regular check-ins with mental health professionals, participation in support groups, and maintaining a network of supportive relationships contribute to sustained well-being.

It’s important to note that the recovery journey is unique for each individual, and a personalized, multidimensional approach is essential for addressing the complexities of pathological grief. Seeking professional guidance and maintaining a commitment to the recovery process are key components in achieving improved mental health and well-being.

Additional Recovery Issues for Scam Victims

Scam victims, particularly those who have experienced romance or relationship scams (which is really any scam where there was substantial trust,) face unique challenges in the recovery process.

In addition to the general considerations for complex grief, there are specific factors that need attention for scam victims:

  1. Dealing with Betrayal: Scam victims often experience a profound sense of betrayal as scammers manipulate emotions, trust, and vulnerability. Addressing feelings of betrayal and rebuilding trust becomes a crucial aspect of the recovery process.
  2. Financial Implications: Romance scams frequently involve financial exploitation. Scam victims may experience significant financial losses, leading to additional stressors. Financial counseling and assistance may be required to navigate these challenges and regain financial stability. Bankruptcy attorneys are especially good at this.
  3. Legal Implications: Understanding any potential legal ramifications and taking appropriate actions, such as reporting the scam to law enforcement agencies, is essential. Legal professionals specializing in fraud cases can provide guidance on potential legal recourse.
  4. Online Safety Education: Many scams originate online, and victims may need education on online safety practices to prevent future victimization. Learning to recognize red flags, secure personal information, and navigate online platforms safely is crucial.
  5. Coping with Shame and Stigma: Scam victims often experience shame and may fear judgment from others. Overcoming these emotions and recognizing that scams can happen to anyone is vital for rebuilding self-esteem and seeking support.
  6. Addressing Isolation: Victims of scams, especially romance scams, may withdraw from social interactions due to embarrassment or a fear of judgment. Encouraging social reconnection and participation in support groups can help alleviate feelings of isolation.
  7. Educational Support: Providing scam victims with information about common scam tactics, warning signs, and prevention strategies can empower them to protect themselves and others. Education contributes to a sense of control and reduces vulnerability.
  8. Building Emotional Resilience: Scam victims may struggle with heightened anxiety, depression, or post-traumatic stress. Developing emotional resilience through therapeutic interventions can assist in coping with these mental health challenges.
  9. Rebuilding Confidence in Relationships: Romance scams can erode trust in relationships. Supporting victims in rebuilding confidence in their judgment and fostering healthy relationships is a crucial component of recovery.
  10. Community and Peer Support: Establishing connections with other scam victims through support groups or online communities can provide a sense of understanding and validation. Peer support is invaluable in the recovery journey from SCARS – sign up here: support.AgainstScams.org
  11. Continued Vigilance: Scam victims should remain vigilant against potential re-victimization, especially since the average currently is that scam victims will be scammed more than 5 times (some will be one and done, while others scammed dozens of times.) Education on ongoing scam trends and staying informed about cybersecurity measures help prevent falling prey to scams in the future.

Recovery for scam victims is a complex process that requires a comprehensive and tailored approach but that often requires more than a year. Recognizing the specific challenges faced by scam victims and addressing these considerations in the recovery plan enhances the likelihood of successful healing and rebuilding.

A Final Question: Why Grief?

Why do we grieve? What evolutionary purpose does it serve?

Clearly, humans grieve, and so do many other animals!

Whether grief has a clear evolutionary purpose in humans (or other animals) is a complex and debated topic. While it may not directly enhance our immediate survival, researchers propose several theories suggesting its potential indirect benefits:

  • Maintaining social bonds: Grief can serve as a signal of our attachment to deceased or lost individuals, prompting others to offer support and care. This strengthened social bonds, which were crucial for survival in pre-modern societies where cooperation and community support were essential.
  • Learning from Loss: Experiencing grief allows individuals to learn from the circumstances surrounding the loss. It promotes an understanding of potential threats or dangers, contributing to improved decision-making and adaptive behaviors in the face of similar situations.
  • Attachment and Bond Maintenance: Grief reinforces the importance of emotional attachments and relationships. In evolutionary terms, maintaining strong social bonds, especially within family units, was crucial for protection, resource-sharing, and child-rearing.
  • Adaptation to Change: Grieving helps individuals adapt to changes in their environment. Whether it’s the loss of a loved one or a significant life change, grief prompts psychological adjustments, enhancing an individual’s ability to navigate new circumstances.
  • Signaling Need for Support: Expressing grief signals to others that an individual is in distress and requires support. In a communal setting, this signaling helps ensure that those facing challenges receive assistance, reinforcing the collective resilience of the group.
  • Protecting against risky behavior: The intense emotional pain of grief can motivate individuals to avoid situations or behaviors that led to the loss, promoting cautious and risk-averse behavior. This could have been advantageous in environments where danger lurked.
  • Facilitating reflection and learning: Grief can prompt reflection on the circumstances surrounding the loss, potentially leading to insights and learning experiences. This introspection may help individuals avoid similar situations in the future, ultimately enhancing their long-term survival.
  • Transmission of cultural knowledge: Grieving rituals and traditions can serve as a means of transmitting cultural knowledge about death and loss to future generations. This knowledge and understanding could offer psychological comfort and guidance for future individuals confronting similar situations.
  • Not all adaptations have a clear purpose: Evolutionary processes don’t always have clear, pre-determined goals. Grief could be a consequence of other adaptations, like complex emotions and social connections, without necessarily having a specific survival benefit itself.

However, it’s important to acknowledge counterarguments:

  • Some argue that grief can be debilitating and detrimental to survival, diverting resources and energy from vital tasks.
  • Others point out that many species don’t exhibit clear signs of grief, suggesting it may not be universally advantageous.
  • The cultural diversity of grieving practices further complicates the identification of a singular evolutionary purpose.

Ultimately, the question of grief’s evolutionary purpose remains open for debate. While its potential benefits for social cohesion, learning, and risk reduction are intriguing, more research is needed to conclusively establish its adaptive value.

It’s important to remember that grief is a complex and deeply personal experience, and any attempts to understand its function should be approached with sensitivity and nuance.

Important Information for New Scam Victims

If you are looking for local trauma counselors please visit counseling.AgainstScams.org or join SCARS for our counseling/therapy benefit: membership.AgainstScams.org

If you need to speak with someone now, you can dial 988 or find phone numbers for crisis hotlines all around the world here: www.opencounseling.com/suicide-hotlines

SCARS Resources:

PLEASE NOTE: Psychology Clarification

The following specific modalities within the practice of psychology are restricted to psychologists appropriately trained in the use of such modalities:

  • Diagnosis: The diagnosis of mental, emotional, or brain disorders and related behaviors.
  • Psychoanalysis: Psychoanalysis is a type of therapy that focuses on helping individuals to understand and resolve unconscious conflicts.
  • Hypnosis: Hypnosis is a state of trance in which individuals are more susceptible to suggestion. It can be used to treat a variety of conditions, including anxiety, depression, and pain.
  • Biofeedback: Biofeedback is a type of therapy that teaches individuals to control their bodily functions, such as heart rate and blood pressure. It can be used to treat a variety of conditions, including stress, anxiety, and pain.
  • Behavioral analysis: Behavioral analysis is a type of therapy that focuses on changing individuals’ behaviors. It is often used to treat conditions such as autism and ADHD.
    Neuropsychology: Neuropsychology is a type of psychology that focuses on the relationship between the brain and behavior. It is often used to assess and treat cognitive impairments caused by brain injuries or diseases.

SCARS and the members of the SCARS Team do not engage in any of the above modalities in relationship to scam victims. SCARS is not a mental healthcare provider and recognizes the importance of professionalism and separation between its work and that of the licensed practice of psychology.

SCARS is an educational provider of generalized self-help information that individuals can use for their own benefit to achieve their own goals related to emotional trauma. SCARS recommends that all scam victims see professional counselors or therapists to help them determine the suitability of any specific information or practices that may help them.

SCARS cannot diagnose or treat any individuals, nor can it state the effectiveness of any educational information that it may provide, regardless of its experience in interacting with traumatized scam victims over time. All information that SCARS provides is purely for general educational purposes to help scam victims become aware of and better understand the topics and to be able to dialog with their counselors or therapists.

It is important that all readers understand these distinctions and that they apply the information that SCARS may publish at their own risk, and should do so only after consulting a licensed psychologist or mental healthcare provider.


The opinions of the author are not necessarily those of the Society of Citizens Against Rleationship Scams Inc. The author is solely responsible for the content of their work. SCARS is protected under the Communications Decency Act (CDA) section 230 from liability.







This content and other material contained on the website, apps, newsletter, and products (“Content”), is general in nature and for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical, legal, or financial advice; the Content is not intended to be a substitute for licensed or regulated professional advice. Always consult your doctor or other qualified healthcare provider, lawyer, financial, or tax professional with any questions you may have regarding the educational information contained herein. SCARS makes no guarantees about the efficacy of information described on or in SCARS’ Content. The information contained is subject to change and is not intended to cover all possible situations or effects. SCARS does not recommend or endorse any specific professional or care provider, product, service, or other information that may be mentioned in SCARS’ websites, apps, and Content unless explicitly identified as such.

The disclaimers herein are provided on this page for ease of reference. These disclaimers supplement and are a part of SCARS’ website’s Terms of Use

Legal Notices: 

All original content is Copyright © 1991 – 2023 Society of Citizens Against Relationship Scams Inc. (Registered D.B.A SCARS) All Rights Reserved Worldwide & Webwide. Third-party copyrights acknowledge.

U.S. State of Florida Registration Nonprofit (Not for Profit) #N20000011978 [SCARS DBA Registered #G20000137918] – Learn more at www.AgainstScams.org

SCARS, SCARS|INTERNATIONAL, SCARS, SCARS|SUPPORT, SCARS, RSN, Romance Scams Now, SCARS|INTERNATION, SCARS|WORLDWIDE, SCARS|GLOBAL, SCARS, Society of Citizens Against Relationship Scams, Society of Citizens Against Romance Scams, SCARS|ANYSCAM, Project Anyscam, Anyscam, SCARS|GOFCH, GOFCH, SCARS|CHINA, SCARS|CDN, SCARS|UK, SCARS|LATINOAMERICA, SCARS|MEMBER, SCARS|VOLUNTEER, SCARS Cybercriminal Data Network, Cobalt Alert, Scam Victims Support Group, SCARS ANGELS, SCARS RANGERS, SCARS MARSHALLS, SCARS PARTNERS, are all trademarks of Society of Citizens Against Relationship Scams Inc., All Rights Reserved Worldwide

Contact the legal department for the Society of Citizens Against Relationship Scams Incorporated by email at legal@AgainstScams.org