In this episode, I revisit a blog post I wrote two years ago about abusive parents passing away. It was inspired by my friend S who lost her toxic mother, and I wondered how I’d respond when it would inevitably happen to me. Well, a few months ago, it did. I lost my father. So in this episode, I compare how I expected to feel with how I’ve actually experienced this phase of my healing journey. Click the link below to listen, and find the blog post I mentioned below it.
- Emotions around an abusive parent’s death are complicated. You’ll probably feel grief, fear, sadness, joy, and love
- When they pass, it will likely trigger memories surrounding the abuse, and shine a light on that which still needs to be healed within you
- They most likely have their own trauma and reasons for why they are the way they are. Even so, it’s no justification for their abuse
- It’s sad that they’re gone (and you can have compassion for their personal pain), but the choices they made when they were alive can’t be erased because you wish things were different
- If their passing is imminent, and you have the opportunity to meet with them, take time to consider the potential negative and positive consequences of doing so. Will it open the door to other toxic family members to come back into your life?
- You can get through your toxic parent’s death by leaning on your Family Of Choice for support
Pondering Grief and Death
Publish on: Aug 26, 2016
Recently, a dear friend and fellow-survivor, S, lost her toxic mother. And it got us to talking about grief. I sometimes wonder how I’ll respond when I find out that my parents have passed away. Losing people is hard enough under the best of circumstances. But when we add the complicating factor of strained and toxic family relationships, all bets are off.
Grief Kicks Us Into Emotional Overdrive
The first time I really thought about this was when my sister, whom I was still in contact with at the time, asked me if I’d attend my parents’ funerals when the time came.
“No”, I answered confidently.
And I still stand by that answer.
“That’s harsh!” she replied.
To this day, I don’t see how. I feel like it’d be hypocritical would it be for me to go to their funerals when I don’t wish anything to do with them while they are alive?
When an abuser passes, the pain and trauma do not just magically disappear. In fact, I think that (at least for a little while) the grief will kick all those emotions into the next gear.
“When other people have died, I took the good they had brought me in my life. With your death I can’t take the good from it, as your bad, the negative stuff overshadows some of the good” – S
In the process of dealing with the death of a parent, we’re also dealing (again) with the trauma of an abusive childhood.
Our Day-To-Day Coping Routine Breaks
In our day-to-day life, we’ve developed a certain emotional register that helps us deal. It helps us think and talk about our past without pulling us right back into a destabilizing whirlpool. When this routine is broken up by grief ( and also by whatever other things we have going on in our lives), we find ourselves, once again, in a place where coping is difficult.
On top of this, in the circumstance of a death in the family, all the players from the whole toxic family game tend to come out of the woodwork.
“This week has been hard for me, not just because of your death, but also dealing with the family drama once again” – S
Every single one of my survivor friends who has been in this situation tell me similar stories. Siblings informing them through social media platforms, not sharing critical details about funeral arrangements, etc. It seems a perfect situation for the toxic family to resume the games they love to play.
It makes me wonder how I’ll respond when the day comes. Even if I’m not sure how right now, I know it’ll impact me. But something else I know is that I’ll manage with the help of my Family Of Choice!
Do you need support processing the passing of your abusive parent? Join us in our FREE Facebook group here. Or if you want an in-depth resource, sign up for the Coping Skills section of The Healing Academy here.