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Why Do We Grieve When Our Abuser Dies?

Updated on October 5, 2013

Have I Lost My Ever-Lovin' Mind?

What do you do when your abuser is a loved-one? How does that complicate matters? It's normal to feel like you've lost your mind when you put your abuser in the ground. Anger, freedom, confusion, a sense of not knowing what to do now, and yes, even loss and a profound, unexpected sadness. Any given one of these emotions is difficult to deal with, but when you combine them it is very easy to feel a desperation and out-of-controlness that may make you literally feel like you can't put a single, rational thought together. You are not alone!

Abuse comes in myriad forms. Physical, Emotional, Religious, Financial, basically any area where a dysfunctional person could think of taking control, that area can then be abused to the point of victimizing someone else. Although we often immediately presume physical abuse when thinking of domestic violence, sadly the facts support the reality that domestic abuse comes in every area your mind can fathom.

As you lay your abuser/loved-one to rest, you may find yourself far from peace and comfort. Along with the normal, yet still overwhelming and often debilitating sadness that comes from the loss of someone close to us, you, the victim of abuse may find yourself thrashing about for a safe zone that simply doesn't seem to exist. One day you may find yourself unable to address the sense of loss due to the overwhelming memories of abuse. The next day you may find yourself unable to deal with the reality of the abuse you suffered because you are overwhelmed by the memories of love and fondness you longed for and caught glimpses of throughout your life together. You likely feel guilty for having either of these thoughts and for having them together while not being able to sort it all out. One day you might actually get the sensation of freedom, while the next you may unconsciously start a fight with a person close to you just so you can re-live the abusive relationship and feel 'normal' again. You want to be free but you don't know how.

There are no simple answers and there is no short-cut to overcoming haunting memories and grief. This is a unique road that one must forge and pave for themselves. That is not to say you are alone, just that you will have to make the rules and work out what is comfortable for you. There are many steps that can help you as you walk this path. Which ones you decide to take will be totally up to you. No one has the same memories as you do. No one else will have the exact same relationship you had with your abuser. No one will have the faith or the lack thereof that you possess. And no one will carry the same pain that you do. Only you will decide how and when you wish to overcome the life you have lived and create a new, more meaningful. and successful one.

Some may believe that giving up the memories of the person's abuse toward them means giving up everything about the person, as if erasing their existence from the universe will solve their problems. That may work for some, it may not work for others. Usually there is a bond between abuser and victim that an outsider just can not comprehend. Especially if that person was a parent, grandparent, spouse, sibling, or some other closely trusted person. Sorting through the entire relationship and deciding what you can keep and what you toss is personal and vital to recovery. Admitting to yourself and others that you loved the person does not mean you accept the abuse. Admitting that the person abused you does not mean you didn't love them. It may be a combination of sorting out the facts, taking the good and carrying that with you, and letting go anything that does not help you move forward. Sounds simple, but I know firsthand that it is not. It will take work on your part. But think of it this way, you are working hard right now at grief, sadness, confusion, and a sense of misplaced identity. You can alter that energy to be more productive for you and bring about an existence that is more comfortable for your future.

In most cases, physical harm is not the intent of the abuser. Complete control over you in any area they can gain access to and hold over you in a crippling manner is what they desire. The abuser manipulates what they see as weakness in you (love, compassion, independence) and thereby is able to control you whether they are standing directly over you or are a thousand miles away. Mental contortion, brainwashing, breaking down one's spirit so that they can speak into your life and make their own wishes come true, that is what the abuser has done, or tried to do to you. Now that person is no longer here and yet you still feel their control over your life. While that person was here they had no desire to break that relationship because it gave them a sense of strength, control, and godlike superiority over you. You are now the only person who can break that bond. In your own mind you have always known that this relationship was not healthy, that love should not hurt. Still, you find yourself thrashing about in your thoughts trying to find the closure, the acceptance, the kindness you sought for however many years your abuse went on. And the truth is, you are not going to find it from that person. That realization is a difficult pill to swallow and may help you further convince yourself that because that person did not give those precious things to you that you are unworthy of having them at all, ever.

Now is the time to dig your fingernails into the side of that cliff you are falling from. Visualize your fingernails holding you on to the truth that you are not guilty, you did not deserve this, and that you ARE going to get through this. Allow yourself to feel what you feel. No one has the right to tell you that you are right or that you are wrong. What you are is hurt and you are working through that hurt in the only way you know how. Causing pain to yourself or to anyone else around you is NOT the answer and will accomplish nothing. But your honest assessment of yourself and to yourself is the first step in moving forward. Once you are honest with yourself about the past and what you want out of your future, the rest is baby steps. One issue at a time, one thought process at a time, one accomplishment at a time. There is not a sole on this planet that can tell you how long that process will take. But always remember that any step forward is a step that you had not made before and is a step further from the turmoil you are feeling right now. There is no 'cure' for abuse. There is no 'cure' for grief. The fact is there is no 'cure' for any of our life's conditions. We all simply learn to live, hopefully happily and successfully, with the hand that has been dealt us.

Whatever you do, be true to yourself throughout your grieving and recovering period, but be the best you possible in the circumstance. Not every thought has to be said, and not every action should be taken. You are smart enough to know that this is a very difficult situation and that you have been wronged. You are capable of distinguishing right from wrong. Be careful not to inflict any further wrong on anyone around you. Your pain does not justify bestowing pain on another, or on yourself. What your pain does give you is a unique perspective on your circumstance and a right to be heard by those whom you trust. It does give you a strength, that if you are willing to grab hold of, will lead you to a fulfilling, productive, successful life and maybe to help others along the way. It does give you a voice, an opinion, and a right to grieve differently than those around you who may have had a different relationship with that person. Look at what you have survived, at what you have already overcome, and know that the rest is just a completion of the cycle you have already started. You were not born to be a victim. You were born to be an overcomer. You have it within you, now is the time to find it.

Abuse is forced  power over any area of life.
Abuse is forced power over any area of life. | Source

YOU know when you have been abused.

Between 4 and 7 children die in the United States every day due to child abuse.

Another 50% to 60% of child related deaths are suspected as child abuse but not reported on death certificates.

Approximately 80% of adults who where abused as children will suffer from at least one psychological disorder.

Victims of Child Abuse are 9 times more likely to become involved in criminal activity.

Someone is sexually assaulted every 2 minutes.

97% of rapists will never spend a day in jail.

1 in 4 women will experience domestic violence in their lifetime.

As many as 6 Million women and 6 Million men will be victims of domestic violence every year.

Approximately 75% of the population of the United States personally knows someone who has been a victim of domestic abuse.

About 3 women and 1 man are murdered every day by their partner.

Approximately 1 out of 5 high school student report being sexually assaulted while on a date.

1 in 5 teenagers report being physically hit, slapped, or pushed by their boy/girlfriend.

Between 3.3 Million and 10 Million children witness abuse annually.

3 out of 4 women who have been raped report that the assault was by a a current or former husband, boyfriend, or date.

Women are just as likely to strike the first blow as men.

On average, 503,485 women are stalked by a current or former partner.

Approximately 6 Million elderly are abused each year (about 10%).

Women are 7 times as likely to be physically abused if their male partner controls the finances.

Financial abuse in a relationship is very rarely reported, however, it is utilized to destroy independence and self worth in the victim.

Financial abuse is one of the top-rated reasons people stay in abusive relationships.

Emotional abuse is less often reported but studies show it is approximately 3 times more likely than physical abuse.


Abuse Hurts EVERYONE!

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Mood Lifters







Subtle Steps to Recovery

As you transition through all of the regular steps of recovery after the loss of a loved-one, and leap over all the exponentially more complicated matters of abuse, you might try a few of the following steps to help you regain control over your life.

Listen to music that uplifts you (not sad songs that make you remember).

Watch comedies on TV. Stay away from the heavy stuff for awhile. You are already thinking too much. Right now you need something that will occupy your mind with simplicity and humor.

Go see a comedy at the theater with a friend.

Spend time with your pet (people with pets are less likely to develop depression).

Convene with nature. Watching the sun rise or set, gazing at the stars, sitting under a tree, planting a garden, all of these things help us remember that there are certain things that are beyond our control. Not everything that is beyond our control is bad and some things are actually spiritually uplifting and mood enhancing. There is a certain peace that being alone with nature can provide that nothing else on the planet can touch.

Read books on recovery. There are many self-help books on the market. You will have to open the cover to get any benefit from them. I looked at my books for a long time before I realized the answers were not going to jump out and permeate my mind.

Read books written by people who have overcome difficult situations. It doesn't really matter what they have overcome. Find a topic that interests you and you will still be inspired by real people who have overcome some pretty bad stuff.

Go to church. Church is anywhere people gather to uplift each other. Find a place that is comfortable for you and attend. There will be times you do not want to get out of bed. If you commit to doing anything, besides just breathing and getting through the day, it should be this.

Surround yourself with people who understand. They may not completely understand all of your thoughts and everything you are going through, but they should understand that it is difficult for you and you are trying your best. These are not the people who are telling you to get over it, these are the people who are holding your hand when you cry.

Limit your time and conversation with people who do not understand. Family member, close friends, co-workers, some of these people will simply not get it. It is not their fault, you don't get them either. But spending much time with them will only exacerbate both of you.

Find a grief recovery group nearby so you will not have an excuse not to go. A few weeks after your loss you may feel even worse than when the person passed. You should definitely attend because there will be tips and tricks you will not even consider without help. You just might make a new friend.

Find a support group for abuse victims. Same as above but slightly different.

Work toward forgiving your abuser. As you have heard many times in the past, forgiveness is not for the other person - it is not a gift you give them. Forgiving simply means you give yourself the freedom not to dwell on what has been done to you by any person, including yourself. The weight you are carrying can only be completely lifted when you forgive. It's a bummer of a thought, I know, but only when you forgive will you be totally free. Forgiveness does not say it is okay. Forgiveness does not say that what you did to me doesn't matter. Forgiveness does not say that all is well with the world and we should all sing kumbaya. It does say I am moving forward and leaving the past behind. My life, my emotions, my actions, my future depends on me, and not you or what has been done to me. Let them go.

Talk with a licensed Therapist or Counselor. Some people believe in counseling, some don't. I get it. It will never be the Therapist who makes you better. That is not their job. Their job is to listen to you work out your issue with guidance and encouragement when you feel like you can't do it by yourself. You will make yourself better with the right tools which you simply may not have right now. Home Depot doesn't build your shelving, or mow your lawn, or change your lightbulb, but they provide you the tools to get the job done.

Journal your thoughts. Writing releases the pent-up energy rumbling throughout your veins. You can cheat and use a computer if you like, but if you pick up the pen, get out the paper, and pour your soul through the ink, you may find a great release. Write whatever you want to write. Don't hold back your thoughts because someone else may think they are inappropriate. You are already thinking these things in your mind. Get them out of there and put them on paper and release them from inside you. Keep them or throw them away. I keep mine so that I will be able to look back and see that I have overcome this certain thing or that. But many people find it more comforting to throw them in a trashcan and light a match. Do whatever you want to do, just write, write, write. And for God's sake, put the fire out before you walk away!

Read your Bible with the intention of finding answers...they are in there if you seek them. I guarantee it.

Go for a long walk. Releasing the endorphins helps you think, release, and relax.

Break some dishes. A friend of mine started throwing her plates when she was having a moment. From there, she decided to break them all and make a mosaic, which she hangs on her wall today.

Tell yourself everyday that you are worthy, because you are!



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