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Grief and Abuse: When abuse is in the mix

grief and abuseEvery so often I get a message from someone who is grieving the death of someone, usually a parent, who was abusive. To say this complicates grief is the understatement of all time.

The mix of grief and abuse is so confusing. So what’s really going on?

This one death is triggering multiple losses.

1. The actual death of someone you love in spite of the abuse. No matter how horrific the abuse this person was still someone you loved and the grief you feel is very real.

2. The hope that you might someday get the relationship you always wanted. No matter how much we know intellectually that we’ll never have the parent we want, there is always a part of us that keeps hoping…and when they die that hope dies too.

3. Not only the hope is lost but also whatever relationship you were able to establish as an adult. These adult relationships tend to be rather tenuous at best, and yet many manage to establish some kind of relationship with the former abuser. This hard won relationship also dies when they die.

There is no easy solution for this kind of grief. It is by definition complicated grief and therapy is what’s called for. The issues involved are just too complex to treat this as a normal grieving process.

What this death can be is an opening to doing the healing work necessary to move forward in life without the brokenness and shame that abuse creates.

If you’re looking for a therapist who can address all these levels of grief, you might find this article helpful. I would ask the same questions about their experience with abuse as I suggest for grief.

I hope this helps,

Susan FullerSusan L. Fuller


Photo Credit: Billy Alexander

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