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Grieving the one who hurt you

by Leanne Billiau

When the person who died was abusive toward you, be it physically, verbally, emotionally, or sexually, it is common to feel a great sense of relief that the abuse has come to an end, once and for all. That feeling of relief, however, is often followed by feelings of guilt. You may feel guilty that you could not, somehow, repair the relationship.

Often those that are abusive also hold a charm that others fondly remember. You may hear stories of how “sweet”, “kind”, “funny”, or “helpful” your loved one was to others. While you may be glad they saw the good in your loved one, your experience may have been very different. This can intensify feelings of guilt, and even shame, as you grieve the type of relationship you wish you were able to have had with your loved one. You may also need to grieve the loss of the dream that someday, somehow, the relationship would be repaired.

Although the death can bring painful feelings to the surface and make memories replay like broken records, it can also be a time of great personal growth. If you are willing to take a close look at your relationship with the person who died and process your feelings as they arise, it can yield great benefit. You may also want to take inventory of your loved one’s qualities and identify which qualities you want to carry with you into the future and which qualities you would like to leave in the past. If you do this important work of grief, it can be a transformative experience.

“Man cannot remake himself without suffering, for he is both the marble and the sculptor.”

Alexis Carre

As you are able, perhaps with the assistance of a bereavement professional, do your grief work by chipping away at the feelings that rise to the surface, welcoming their presence, turning them over in your hand, sorting and categorizing them each as precious pebbles falling from the mother stone, to be held and cherished, then set down respectfully as your new form emerges, beautifully seasoned and brightly illuminated.

3 Comments Post a comment
  1. ronking #

    Performing a ritual that affirms the end of an abusive relationship and acknowledges a new freedom may help not only in saying goodbye and finding release from someone who has held control and caused hurt, but also from the “ghost” of that person or the continued pain we sometimes feel.

    May 25, 2012
  2. roger #

    What if the deceased was not abusive in that way. But instead was a long planned out and deceptive suicide, leaving no note. But leaving the Ghost and the grief. Is it the same? Is wife’s solution the same?

    May 30, 2012
    • Roger,  Grief following a suicide is unique.  It can also be quite complex due to the sudden, unexpected, traumatic nature of the death, the social stigma that can surround suicide, and in this case the “deceptive” aspect you mention.  A personal search for meaning is important as survivors of suicide struggle to understand the death.  They may also deal with explosive emotions, fear, guilt and shame often beyond the scope of what other types of losses bring.  Sharing feelings with others who have also experienced this type of loss can be helpful in the healing process.  For more information on suicide loss, go to  This is an important topic, and one that warrants a blog post in the future.  Thank you for your comment and for following Caring with Confidence at     Leanne    

      May 31, 2012

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