When the person who has been abusing you dies, it can be a very difficult and confusing time. Emotions will run all over the place, and you may feel like you are going insane. Grieving the death of an abuser is much more complicated than grieving the death of someone you loved, and who loved you in return. There are additional emotions involved that you might not expect to have to face.
I first got a glimpse of this “complicated grief” when my maternal grandmother died. A little background- Christmas day of 1998, my step-grandfather had a stroke. My grandmother put him into a nursing home, as she was frail, and unable to care for herself, let alone him too. I lived about one mile from her at the time, so I helped her out very often. During that time, I learned first hand what my mother grew up with. My grandmother was a cold, cruel, selfish, narcissistic and devious woman. She also pitted one of my cousins and I against each other exactly as she had done with our mothers their entire lives. Then suddenly, just after the new year in 2000, my grandmother no longer spoke to me, and never told me why. She died in February, 2001. When she died, I was a mess emotionally. Mostly because I felt guilty for being glad she was dead. That is a terrible way to feel about your own grandmother! Yet, I felt it. I also was so relieved I never would have to deal with her again.
I also was grieving because our relationship was so terrible. In all the time I was caring for her, we had two days that were almost pleasant. The rest of the time, she was criticizing how I cleaned her house, my driving when I was taking her to the doctor, my car, how I washed her car, my parents and how they did things for her, etc. When she died, all of the hurt came to the surface, along with a lot of frustration. What a waste! Why did things have to be this way? Why couldn’t she have been nice? Even just civil would have sufficed! Thankfully I had another grandmother who was loving and kind, at least, but why was this one so hateful?
It was a dark, confusing time to say the least.
However, I have come to realize that this is normal to feel when an abusive person dies. I also believe some of it is even Biblical, as shocking as that may be to you.
Let’s look at Proverbs 11:10- “When it goeth well with the righteous, the city rejoiceth: and when the wicked perish, there is shouting.” (KJV) I did not shout for joy when my grandmother died, but I was incredibly glad she was gone. No more fake emergencies, no more nastiness, no more rushing over to her house to wash what she referred to as “a sink full of dishes” (it was a single spoon, and yes, this actually happened). It reminds me of Psalm 129:4- “The Lord is righteous: he hath cut asunder the cords of the wicked.” (KJV)
A part of me missed my grandmother too, briefly. I realized though that I was not missing her, per se – I was missing the relationship I wished we would have had. It was hard to accept that for whatever reasons, I was a terrible disappointment to her as a granddaughter, and someone she did not even like. That hurt a great deal, but time helped me to accept those truths about her. It may sound trite, but really grasping the fact that God loves me as I am helped me tremendously in that area. If He loves me for who I am, and in fact made me to be who I am, if she does not like me, well, that was her problem.
When my father died in October, 2017, it was similar yet different. The relief was there, but this time I knew it was normal. The guilt naturally was not as strong. I also have barely cried since he died, because I realized I grieved my father while he was alive. I grieved not having the father I needed and him not loving me beyond what I could do for him. By the time he died, I already had grieved a great deal. His death also seemed surreal for a long time. I felt as if I never would be free of his abuse, yet I was. That was a strange thing to accept. And, unlike when my grandmother died, I knew my father was going to Heaven. That was a relief!
When your abuser dies, you may experience similar emotions to what I have been through. Please learn from my experience – do not beat yourself up for feeling relief that he or she is gone, and cannot hurt you any longer! Your feelings are normal, and yes, Biblical. There is nothing wrong with you for being glad that this person can no longer abuse you or wishing things would have been healthier. Be gentle and understanding with yourself during this painful time. Talk to a counselor or understanding and supportive friend or relative. Pamper yourself, however you like – bubble baths, manicures, treating yourself to a new book or clothing. Write your feelings out. I actually wrote my grandmother a letter, and that helped me feel much better – it was the start of an upward trend in my emotional healing. If you prefer, write in a journal. Or, write the story of your relationship. Not necessarily for publishing, but of course that would be up to you. I learned in 2012 when I wrote my autobiography how healing it can be to write things out. Most of all, talk to your Heavenly Father. He will help you through this healing process, and comfort you when you need comforting. He loves you, and is glad to do this for you.