The impact of grieving someone who hurt you differs from one person to the next, depending on the relationship with the person who died and the type of harm they caused. There are different types of grief you might experience as a result. However, one specific type of grief you might experience is complicated grief that may not ever fully resolve.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- How You Might Feel After Someone Who Hurt You Dies
- Tips for Dealing With Grief and Mourning After Someone Who Hurt You Dies
Understanding your grief reactions may take some time. The grieving process is an essential step for victims of abuse to come to terms with their experiences. Mistreatment comes in many forms and is sometimes difficult to identify for some victims of abuse.
Often the abuse that comes in small doses isn't characterized until looking back at relationships many years later. Recognizing that a close loved one hurt you is typical when an estranged parent dies, for example. Not all abuse is blatant or physical.
How You Might Feel After Someone Who Hurt You Dies
The grief experienced after an abuser dies is different for everyone who’s undergone this type of trauma. When an abuser dies, it’s normal to feel numbness after their death, among other grief reactions that complicate the mourning process. Grieving may take longer for victims of abuse due to the delay in processing and understanding their grief.
Confusion plays a significant role in the grieving process when dealing with the death of a person who’s hurt you. You might have thought all along that one day you’d get the opportunity to talk to your abuser to ask them why they chose to hurt you. Then, suddenly, their death takes that opportunity away from you. You wonder how this could be that they died without you having that chance to say your peace. Allowing this confusion to take over your thoughts may delay the grieving process for you.
The death of someone who’s hurt you might leave you feeling angry and resentful. These feelings arise for many different reasons, some directly related to the pain your abuser has caused you. Sometimes, you might feel aggrieved that you didn’t have the opportunity to confront the person who hurt you or gain closure from the past. Carrying this resentment with you for years following their death isn’t uncommon. You’ll need to slowly learn to let go of these feelings as you work on healing.
Profound pain and sorrow typically manifest after an abuser dies, leaving the victim without recourse to mend the relationship or find the closure needed to heal. Mourning the loss of an abuser and feeling hurt over their death is expected. This emotion can mimic the type of mourning you’d otherwise feel when someone you love and care for dies.
There’s nothing wrong with feeling this way. The person who has died is typically someone you know and may be close to. You may need to take some time to figure out your feelings to reconcile their death.
Tips for Dealing With Grief and Mourning After Someone Who Hurt You Dies
Relationships fall apart for many reasons. Sometimes, the people closest to you are the ones who cause you the most harm. When someone you love who’s hurt you dies, it creates a mixed bag of emotions that’s difficult to sort out. You’re left wondering if you should be feeling sad, mournful, or anything at all now that they’re dead. The tips below will help you better understand your feelings regarding grieving for someone who’s hurt you.
1. Acknowledge your pain
There’s nothing shameful with admitting that your abuser’s death has negatively impacted you and that you’re mourning their loss. You may suffer from the mixed emotions of not knowing how you’re supposed to react after hearing the news of their death.
Are you supposed to feel happy, joy, or elation? The chances are, you’ll feel confused and not know how to process what you’re feeling. Your abuser's death is an excellent time to remind yourself that your pain is real and valid. You have a right to feel whatever you feel after learning of their death.
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2. Figure out your feelings
Grieving someone you don't like is a bit different than suffering someone who's hurt you. Although the person who hurt you can and often is the same person you don't like, there are subtle differences in handling your grief after they die.
The loss of someone you don't like may make you feel empowered now that they're no longer here to interfere in your life or thoughts. However, an abusive person that's hurt you might elicit a completely different reaction within you. Take the time to discover why you feel the way you do and if the person truly deserves you to walk away from them for good.
3. Process your emotions
Many abuse victims have a challenging time processing how they feel after their abuser dies. Their grief reactions can become so painful that it’s easier to shut out their feelings. When dealing with the death of someone who’s hurt you, it’s essential to allow your grief to manifest without trying to suppress or judge your reactions.
Allow these feelings to take place for as long as needed. Some people will be able to move on fairly quickly from this type of grief, while others will have a more difficult time doing so because of the complexities and conflicts in their reactions.
4. Validate your experiences
Talking about and admitting to others that the person who died hurt or abused you is a way of processing your grief. Often, abuse victims hide the trauma experienced at the deceased's hands because of the stigma attached as a result.
You may find that other family members will discourage you from speaking up and owning your truth. But acknowledging the abuse is a necessary part of your healing journey. Discounting your experiences not only stagnates the healing process, but it invalidates what you've gone through, further delaying or complicating the process of becoming whole once again.
5. Look for closure
Your grief experiences after the death of your abuser are unique to you. You’ll need to look for ways to heal from your pain and suffering. Once your abuser dies, it becomes impossible to confront them to get the closure you need. However, there are other ways to achieve a similar result that requires you to resolve your grief.
Some ways to work toward closure are by confronting your abuser in a letter and detailing everything you’ve wanted to say to them but couldn’t. Letter writing and journaling, in general, are both therapeutic in gaining closure and healing.
6. Take care of yourself
When dealing with grief, it’s easy to forget even the basics of self-care. Some common grief reactions occurring within the first few days following a death include disruptions to sleep and eating patterns. Forgetting to eat for the first few days is normal and shouldn’t cause any initial concern.
However, when these disruptions last beyond the initial onset of grief, you may need to pay particular attention to why you’re unable to get the sleep your body needs. The same holds for eating. Getting proper nutrition is as vital as getting enough rest following a traumatic loss. Try setting an eating and bedtime schedule to help keep you on track.
7. Connect with your spiritual side
Many grieving individuals benefit from getting in touch with their spirituality following the death of their abuser. Connecting to your higher power or getting in tune with your higher self allows for spiritual growth that helps bring peace and calm to an otherwise chaotic situation.
Spirituality helps you accept and understand that not all experiences in life have a specific meaning and can happen to even the most undeserving individuals. Prayer, meditation, and yoga all help you accept your experiences without looking for blame within yourself or others.
8. Get moving
Daily exercise helps get your endorphins flowing for healing after loss while providing a distraction from your grief. Exercising in the aftermath of loss helps you find solace and hope when everything else seems to be falling apart.
The physical movement accompanying exercise pumps up the feel-good chemicals in your brain. These chemical reactions help stabilize your mood and awaken your mind for approximately four hours following thirty minutes of continuous movement. While exercise won’t heal your pain and suffering, physical activity is part of an overall plan to heal from past trauma.
9. Find a support group
Grief support groups are an excellent way of connecting with others having shared grief experiences. Your existing support group may not know how to relate to your grief following an abusive relationship with the deceased. Even worse, they may discourage you from talking about your experiences because of the stigma attached to abuse. Your loved ones may ask you to keep the details to yourself because of what others in the family or community might think of the deceased.
10. Get professional help
Professional grief counselors and therapists can help you make sense of your pain and suffering as well as your traumatic experiences. Within a few short weeks, they can guide you along a clear path to healing that otherwise may take you years to discover on your own.
The purpose of grief counseling is to get you the needed help with coping after experiencing loss. In trauma situations, counselors can break things down to help you understand why you’re experiencing specific grief reactions.
Processing Your Grief After Your Abuser Dies
When your abuser dies, it opens up a floodgate of emotions and memories within you that you might’ve spent a lifetime suppressing. Whether their death caught you off guard or you expected it, your reactions may stir up feelings and emotions within you that leave you confused. Take all the time you need to take in and process your grief.