Grieving Someone You Didn’t Like (because it happens)

Let’s be honest, sometimes people die who you…well…hated. That sounds really harsh, but sometimes it’s true.  Or even if you didn’t hate the person, maybe you really didn’t like them…or you had a love/hate relationship…or you found them very difficult…or your relationship with them was difficult.  There are a number of ways this can play out, but the fact is that everyone dies, even people you weren’t very fond of.

The reasons why you may have had a difficult relationship are endless. Maybe they were mean or hurtful; maybe they were violent or abusive; maybe they were toxic or emotionally manipulative; maybe they betrayed you or someone you love.  I could go on and on and on.  No matter what the specific situation, grieving someone you didn’t like can leave you feeling isolated and confused.

People talk all the time about losing someone they deeply loved and cared for.  As for grieving someone you had negative feelings towards, people don’t talk as much about that.  We get it, it feels weird to sort through feelings about the death of someone you didn’t like and it can feel even weirder to talk about it.  So, today we’re going to talk about some of the circumstances that are unique to grieving someone you didn’t like.  Then we’re going to answer some of the questions that come up in those situations and talk about how to cope.  Ready?  Okay, good.

6 Reasons why the death of someone you didn’t like can cause complicated grief emotions:

  1. You’re not sure if what you’re feeling is grief.  If we understand grief as a natural reaction to loss, you may be thinking that it isn’t a “loss” that this person isn’t in your world anymore. You might think if you didn’t like or want them in your life, it can’t be grief.  This can leave you confused about how to categorize the feelings and isolated in discussing the emotions.
  2. You’re relieved and happy about the death.  Or, you’re at least not sad about it.  In circumstances when your physical or emotional safety (or that of someone you love) was at risk because of the person who died, you may be feeling an immense sense of relief that your safety is no longer in jeopardy.  At the same time, you may also be feeling some guilt that you’re relieved or happy or not sad.  Like we said, it’s complicated!
  3. Other people are not relieved, happy, or not sad.  Sometimes you have a bad or complicated relationship with someone, but other people in your life don’t.  After that person dies, you may be left to sort through complicated negative feelings, while others work through more traditional grief feelings.  This disconnect can leave you feeling isolated and alone, and also ill-equipped to support your grieving family and friends.
  4. You thought your relationship with them might eventually get better. This thought might have been conscious or it might have been subconscious.  Either way, when someone dies who you didn’t like it isn’t uncommon to suddenly feel the weight of the reality that you know will never get an apology, have a chance to apologize, or have a chance for the relationship to change and improve.  Even if those were things you never consciously wanted, knowing they are no longer even an option can be difficult.
  5. Your grief isn’t validated by others.  If people in your life knew you didn’t get along with this person, that you had a strained relationship, or had a falling out, people may minimize the validity of your feelings.  That is a little thing known as disenfranchised grief.  You may still be having intense grief feelings, despite that bitter divorce, painful custody battle, or even history of abuse.  People around you might be saying, what do you have to be upset about?!? You hated him and hadn’t talked to him for years!
  6. Death doesn’t bring closure. You may have imagined that all those complicated feelings would somehow get resolved once the person died or was completely out of your life.  But there is a good chance the complicated emotions are still there, even though the person isn’t.  You wouldn’t be the first or the last.  The reality is the pain of a difficult relationship doesn’t die just because a person has died.

6 ways to understand and cope with these complicated feelings.

  1. Remind yourself you have the right to grieve.  When someone is removed physically from our lives there is an impact, no matter how we felt about them.  It changes the relationship, and it can impact our understanding of the past and the future.  Even if the hole left in your life is a hole you believed you always wanted, that doesn’t change its emotional impact. You can deeply miss someone you had a really complicated relationship with, so give yourself permission.  The human heart is funny that way.
  2. Remember that it is okay to feel relief. If you feel guilty that you’re relieved, happy, or not sad about a death, let’s think through the feelings.  What you are relieved or happy about is that you are now safe and no longer fearful.  This is different than being glad someone has died.  If there had been another possible way for you to feel safe, you would likely have wished that to be the outcome.  For more on this, check out our post about relief.
  3. For better or worse, relationships continue after someone dies.  If you had a good relationship with someone, that can often continue through good memories and carrying on their legacy.  If you had a complicated relationship it often remains, well, complicated!  You may have imagined a person’s death would make you feel better or resolve some of the feelings you were having.  In some cases that’s true, but in some cases it isn’t.  You may find you still need to carry on efforts to explore your own feelings about the person or find ways to forgive (keeping in mind that foregiveness is not about saying someone’s behavior was okay!).  You can read more about forgiveness here.
  4. Communicate about the entire relationship, the good and the bad.  The old saying “don’t speak ill of the dead” can, unfortunately, make people feel like they have to keep their mouths shut about the problems in a relationship after the person has died.  We’re here to say, it’s okay to keep processing and talking about these issues if you need to, you may just want to choose your audience wisely.  Depending on your situation, friends or family may not be the best people to support these types of conversations.  If that is the case, a grief counselor or support group might be helpful.  What isn’t helpful is avoiding, stuffing, or ignoring the complicated emotions and memories.
  5. Realize you may be grieving the relationship you wished you had.  We all have ideas about what a mom or dad or friend or spouse or child is “supposed” to be.  Unfortunately, what we want a relationship to be is not always what it is.  Who we want a person to be is not always who they are.  If you are struggling to understand your own complicated emotions about the death, consider that you may be feeling grief around not having had the [mom/dad/husband/wife/friend/child] you wanted or needed.
  6. You can still finish ‘business’.  When grieving someone you didn’t like, or with whom you had a complicated relationship, there can be a feeling that any “unfinished business” will now have to be left unfinished.  It may not get finished in the way you had imagined when that person was alive (if you had been planning for a direct conversation, obviously that just isn’t going to happen).  You can still find ways to say the things you wanted to say.  That could be in the form of a journal, letter to the person who died, artistic expression, or with a therapist.
  7. Consider all the ways the relationship has impacted you.  Though many of these may be negative and painful, you may also see ways you grew from the strains in the relationship.  It may be in your own commitment to not being like that person or it may be in your growth and avoidance of other negative or toxic relationships. It may even be in your ability to find forgiveness or empathy in an impossible situation.  Whatever it is, take some time to appreciate yourself and your own growth.  This is not being grateful to the person or for the hurt or problems they caused, but taking the time to give yourself credit for the growth that can come from adversity.

What are your thoughts on grieving someone you didn’t like, or who you had a difficult relationship with?  Leave a comment to let us know! 

March 28, 2017

30 responses on "Grieving Someone You Didn't Like (because it happens)"

  1. My husband’s son’s mother died recently, and I do not feel bad about it. Not at all. But I don’t feel happy either. I am indifferent. We had no contact with each other for the past several years, so nothing has changed in my world in that regard, and, hence, I do not feel any sense of loss—or relief, even. I really just feel nothing. She tortured us for years. YEARS. She did a lot of irreparable damage to our marriage. Left me traumatized. And she drove a wedge between her son and I which has made it difficult for us to ever really bond, even now that he’s grown. And that’s exactly what she wanted. But somehow I’m the one with the problem right now for NOT feeling bad that she’s gone? Nope. It doesn’t work that way. I had nothing to do with her & my husband’s breakup (we met a year after they were done), but despite that, she always treated me like I did. I put my best foot forward with her son from day 1 because I knew what it was like to be a stepchild, but she sabotaged it all. Fast forward many years, I finally got smart and, after a nasty argument with her, I decided she was a cancer I needed to cut out of my life. And so I refused to deal with her from that day forward and left it all to my husband—which I should’ve done from day 1. I swear the stress she caused me took 10 years off my life. Now that she’s gone, everyone is singing her praises, everyone (many of whom talked so badly about her for years) is so sad, etc. Including my husband. It’s surreal. My motto is if you didn’t love someone in life, don’t pretend to love them in death. And he didn’t love her. But he has issues with death in general, so I’m trying to be understanding and just let it run its course with him (not that he is able to reciprocate this to me, however). But I think people do a lot of what they think they’re “supposed” to do in these situations, like “oh, someone died, I’m SUPPOSED to feel sad—or at least act the part.” Yeah, NO. It is totally unrealistic to expect people to grieve the death of someone who hurt them, tortured them, disrespected them, and the list goes on. I think THOSE people are the ones with problems, NOT the person who is being real and honest and saying what they feel (or the fact that they DON’T “feel” anything, if that’s the case). Don’t ever let anyone make you think you’re wrong for “feeling” a certain way, especially about death. Only YOU went through whatever it is you went through with that person. When my husband’s ex was dying in the hospital, I did go to church and pray for her. Did I tell anyone that? Nope. I didn’t feel the need to have to defend myself or justify or rationalize my feelings by saying “see, I went and prayed for her, so I’m not some horrible person just because I don’t feel bad she’s gone.” That’s private and nobody needs to know that. Just because I didn’t want her in my life doesn’t mean I wanted her dead or in pain. There’s a huge difference. And even people who MAY want someone dead—hey, maybe they have their reasons. Maybe the person was physically or sexually abusive. Maybe the person permanently and adversely altered their life in some way, shape, or form. People need to stop judging and start putting themselves in others’ shoes.

  2. Thank you for this, my cousin died a few days ago and I’ve been struggling with the guilt that I’m relieved he’s gone. He’s never liked me because he thinks I’ve been spoiled by everyone, something he never got himself. We never talked except for one word yes or no. And he was always a dark cloud looming over me whenever we were in proximity.

    It just saddens me because we’re family, and he thought so terribly of me. When we could’ve had a good relationship.

  3. I just lost my father yesterday and have chosen not to speak to him since Sept 2017. I always felt that he was displeased with me for not being the son ge wanted. I am the youngest of theee daughters. He loved me but his way of showing that love was through being verbally abusive. I had started feeling indifferent towards him and then he passed. As long as I focus on the adult me (I am 55), I am ok. The wounded child in me wants to create havoc and I know I need to journal and write about those feelings. I chose to not see him while he was in hospice for less than 5 days but I am going out for the funeral. Wish me luck as part of me feels I am entering the lion’s den in dealing with the rest of my family.

  4. When I started going out with my first boyfriend 3 years ago we were both virgins and I thought he really liked me, unfortunately after a mere 8 days in our new relationship he had gotten drunk at a party with his ex girlfriend and had sex with her that night. Whats even more crazy was earlier that day I was on my way to my job when I passed them up the street from my house talking with her and her sister, I didn’t think nothing of it at first because I trusted him, but I was wrong. I was too late at my chance because after I left my cousin said that my boyfriend and another girl showed up at my house looking for me and he introduced her as his ‘homegirl’ I I never found that he cheated on me until after 5 months when I had already gotten feelings and it was heartbreaking.
    She committed suicide last year and I didn’t feel sad for her, honestly. I felt that she wasn’t a problem anymore because my boyfriend tried running after her saying he missed her and she was his first.
    It just messed with my confidence and made me feel so ugly and worthless and second best at everything. Still does, even though she’s gone. She was younger than me, still in highschool after him and I both graduated. I still get mad and curse her name.
    I’m not with him anymore but we do have one child together.

  5. My alcoholic, narcissistic, hoarder mother recently died of end-stage liver disease and complications. She was a pathological liar who lied about anything and everything, but also told big, nasty whoppers about me to a lot of other people (including her priest and the healthcare staff at the hospital where she died). She spent most of her adult life heavily abusing opioids and alcohol, yet insisted she’d never had a drink. She was certainly mentally ill as well.
    Any contact with her stressed me out, and she ruined any family events she attended. She spent years threatening to sue me and have me thrown in jail over my handling of her mother’s estate, even though I hired an expert law firm to make sure we got things right. No one, other than her equally toxic cousin, is sorry she passed.
    I just feel relief and a kind of freedom that she can’t wreak havoc on my life anymore. I’m having a hard time finding any support resources online for this kind of situation, though.

  6. Thank you for this ! most notably the section on relief. I just found out the woman my husband cheated on me with over half a decade ago has died of breast cancer actually going on one year ago.

    The first feeling i experienced was total shock and the second was pure happiness. It’s not that i wanted her to die, i could never be that selfish or creepy. I am just so RELIEVED that i no longer have to worry about running into her or her contacting my husband anymore.

    Six years ago her husband reached out to me that he found some horrible emails between her and my husband. Little did he know i was in the middle of taking care of my father in hospice & eventually did lose him to terminal liver cancer. This ripped my life into pieces , i went insane for a bit . I had not one ounce of positivity or optimism for 3 years afterward.

    I eventually dug up her email address by searching endlessly through our computers and his phone for an unhealthy 48 hrs so i could confront her. I hoped to gain closure but she put the entire affair on my head and said that i obviously couldn’t truly please him and that it was on me. I have never been able to fully reach closure until just now and im still very guilty about it .

    I feel like its bad karma to be so cheerful at someone’s passing and she was truely in pain if cancer took her life, so i know she suffered which isn’t something i would ever wish . Also i do feel terrible about her young son & all of the family she left behind. Her husbands facebook is filled with lamenting and prayers. Its really interesting to find out that she was a super christian woman seeing as how the email i contacted her by was [email protected]… (smh) . One FB commenter told a heart warming story of her reading bible passages to her sick aunt everyday . Its weird to see this woman 3 dimensionally for the first time and i feel like i do fully forgive her and my husband for all that transpired against me.

    lastly her husband posted her last written words that she wanted to share with the world. Ironically / Eerily one of the comments that she made was forgive all that have done you wrong . Letting anger stew can manifest in physical ailment. Not sure if i subscribe but i feel like it has officially marked a place of renewal and growth for me and I’m just so thankful to have this off my shoulders now.

  7. Thanks for the article, my dad, who I had a bad relationship with, died a month ago and I needed to read this.

    For Debbie or anyone who is in a similar situation, I hope what happend to my may be usefull for you. I had a bad relationship with my father we only talked to eachother from time to time. He spent a week in a hospital before I came to visit him without knowing that he only had a few hours to live, I stood about 10 feet away from him but I did not talk to him at all, I turned around and left. I think he didnt even saw me. A few hours later I got the call that he had just died.

    Now I wish I talked to him. I often wonder what he wouldve said. He said goodbye to a lot of people. I wish I had that chance, even if he said something bad I could deal with it now but I like to think he woudve said something nice but now I´ll never know.

    Had he said something mean like he did most of the times, I´d probably feel the same as I do now, since I´m already angry at him. But maybe just maybe he wouldve say goodbye to me or that he loved me or that he was sorry.

    I wish that you came to your father and talked to him, if he is still alive I hope you go and talk to him one last time.

  8. I just found out that a woman died who cheated with my now ex boyfriend. It was a little shocking but I must say she was not as nice to me as she could have been. She got my number 5 mos ago from my ex’s phone and called to tell me she was the other woman.
    We ran into one another and this woman called me all kinds of b-i-t-c-h-es, and laughed at me. I cried so much that night she called me again to continue to harass me because my boyfriend was trying to reconcile with me. Five months later she is dead of cancer. I did ray for her and have asked god to forgive me for any thoughts I had that were not good. To be honest, I was shocked that she died. She knew completely about me and my ex and still decided to be the side chick. I told her she could have him, then she got mad that he didn’t want her, this must have made her extremely angry; therefore I got the cussing out of my life. I have never experienced such vial hatred. She was on my mind all week and I asked God to take her off my mind and send His ministering spirits so her for salvation. Then I find out she past just days after I asked God to take her off my mind and help her. I want not bother. I pray she accepted Jesus,
    she was not as kind as she seemed on her facebook pictures. I experienced that first hand. God bless her soul

  9. I haven’t had someone who has died whom I’ve had a negative relationship with but my partner has and although I am now beginning to understand her grief I am still sure that if I were in a similar position I would be stubborn enough to have let it go and said that they are not going to upset my life again and therefore wouldn’t allow they passing to affect my life. Would this be a valid coping method for some or is it just my ignorance on the whole thing because I won’t ever experience it?

  10. My father that I haven’t spoke to for almost 25 years has two weeks to live. He is full of cancer. His siblings reached out to my brother to tell him about what is going on. I am not sure how I feel about all of this. He was a horrible husband and a horrible father. He has yet to meet my children which my oldest is 22. Not sure if i should go and see him before he passes or just continue on with my life like nothing.

  11. I had a very toxic friend who passed away just recently.we knew each other for overv25 year,we also work together just as long.she made my life unbearable.very demanding,manipulative,used threat tactics,belittled me,it goes on and on.i made it to retirement,and told myself that this would put space between us to help me end this frienship,but we still would talk on the phone,but not as much,because I felt I no longer had to check in.well one day she called and screamed in the phone and said”oh,u can’t call,well don’t come to my motherfucking funeral either”abd hung up on me as I was trying to explain that I’ve been working at another job,but she hung up before I could get the words out.after that I told myself I’m tired of this,I never called her back,and she never called me back.i remember one time we got into a conversation about one time I had called her out her name,because she was being mean,underhanded and plain rude.i apologized to her after it had happened, but she kept bringing it up months and years later,and I told her.i apologized for that and will not continue to do so”,she said but u hurt me,we was friends,that’s when I told her,yes we were friends,I was a friend,but for 25 years you’ve treated me very unkindly,you belittled me,make rude underhanded remarks,everything i did i say was always wrong.and u know what she said”i made u stronger didn’t it”,never apologizing,never saying I’m sorry.that hurt me because if I could apologize for 1 mistake,she wouldn’t for 25 years of making me hurt,cry and wanting to quit my job.i don’t know how to sad for her,her family,but I just don’t know about attending her funeral and she may have instructed the family to not let me attend(She was like that)PLEASE HELP

  12. I got one who was emotionally abusive towards me from the time I was 5. He was the father of a friend I made in 1st grade . He thought it was funny to, among other things, scare me by chasing me whenever I came to her house. He did it for years. The family always made sure to tell me that he was “only joking.” It was my fault, of course, because I would run when he tried to chase after me. If only I would stop running. Right. After I was in my teens he would find other ways to harass me verbally. In my 30’s I made the decision to avoid his presence, thereby avoiding all family functions at my friend’s house. I have never said anything, because it would hurt my friend tremendously and she was also 5 when this started and there was nothing she could have done either.

    My issue is that this man will die soon and I will not be the least bit sorry. That’s not the problem. The problem is the funeral, which I think I can handle without having to say anything good about this creep, but am at a loss as to how to handle it when, inevitably because it always does, the issue of his “joking” behavior towards me will come up. This all started happening in the ’60’s, but times have changed and just exactly how egregious this behavior is has now become obvious (as it should have been then, who gets their kicks scaring a skinny little 5 year old). I don’t want to start something, god knows especially at a funeral, but I am not inclined to completely wave this off much longer when the subject is raised in order to elicit my ongoing understanding that it was all a big joke. Maybe the best response is, “Look, the less said about that history the better. I’m willing to let it go if you are.” Which is pretty much the way I feel.

  13. Great to read this as my father died just two weeks ago we hadn’t spoke for 6yrs after he sided with my abuser who happens to be my brother in law, I still don’t know just what it is that I feel, due to the brother in law still being alive and still refusing to take responsibility for his actions. I did go to the police with this but as it is my word against his they can’t do anything. He say’s “I don’t really know”?

  14. I was estranged from my older brother for nearly 20 years. I had cut ties with my abusive mother, and he saw this as a personal rejection and would have nothing to do with me. I never got to see his kids grow up, and I don’t know his grandchildren. Likewise, he never got to know my kids or shared in my life.

    My memories of him are good and bad. I remember him being the protective big brother who would never let anyone do anything harmful to me. I remember his generosity. But he also hurt me physically a couple of times in my youth. One time, he shot me with a BB gun and another time, when I was 13, he punched me in the face.

    Now, he’s in a nursing home in the late stage of death. I went to see him two days ago. He wasn’t conscious, and I don’t know if he could hear me, but I told him I love him and that I was sorry for all he has gone through. It may sound silly, but I felt some “excited” energy from him. It seemed like he wanted to communicate with me, but I’m not sure that what he had to say would be positive or negative.

    And despite everything that has come between us, I’m grieving. It’s a very confusing grief. I guess, more than anything, I grieve for what could have been, and I grieve for him for all of the suffering he has experienced.

  15. I’m finding it difficult what to write on the card that will get attached to the family flowers to a dad I did not have a good relationship with and had not spoken to in the last 2 years , any suggestions

  16. I really want to thank you for this article. I really never feel like I’m “supposed” to feel when it comes to the death of my step mom who abused me throughout my childhood and adulthood. My father is great man; inside and out. This fact made it harder to hold his hand as he grieved the wife he loved so much and the woman who treated me so terrible when he wasn’t around. I felt guilty, angry, relieved, and sad for my father all at once. This article has helped TREMENDOUSLY with dealing with her death, my father’s grief, and my grief for the relationship I will never be able to have with her. I cannot tell you enough how this clear, precise, and well written article has helped me.

  17. This article was good to read. My brother died last night after a dragged out battle with cancer. We weren’t close. He was 17 years older than me and already left home when I was born. I have lovely memories of him from my childhood, but in later years I found I didn’t really like him much. He was a very generous person, and there was nothing bad about him particularly. He was bad-tempered and impatient and often embarrassingly rude to people (he called it straight-speaking!!), but he wasn’t abusive or mean or toxic. His politics led him to believe a lot of things that I found quite abhorrent, but he lived thousands of miles away for most of my adult life so it wasn’t much of a problem. My husband and I visited him last year, all paid for by him, which was fantastic, but we found his company difficult – mind you, he was suffering a lot of pain. I expected to be sad for my Mum and for my brother’s wife and son when he died, but I’m floored by how upset I am myself. I can’t stop crying today. It’s not like his dying is going to leave a hole in my life, as I hadn’t expected to see him more than a handful of times over the coming years anyway, he lived so far away. I guess the bond formed when I was little and he was my exciting big brother off on adventures and bringing me gifts and stories was stronger than I thought.

  18. Thankyou for this article.
    My mother in law has just passed away . My relationship with her was very difficult. She suffered depression and mental illness. I was never able to be close to her and I struggled with her manipulation of her family.The hardest thing for me was her inability to be a grandmother to my three children. She would miss birthdays and make little effort. I do understand she was sick and these were my expectations but that didn’t make it any easier. Strange thing is now she is gone I feel so sad.

  19. Thank you for writing this article, it has really helped me to be kind on myself regards my Dad’s death.

  20. This helped. Right now I have a father in law passing of cancer. He has 2 – 4 mo to live. My husband’s side is in chaos and tears. And I’m just going about life as normal. I have perfected the frowny, concerned face. Honestly, I struggle to find sympathy for a man who never took time to get to know me, dislikes all of my husband and I’s hobbies, is down right rude and crabby 24/7, and makes little remarks under his breath about me. Fyi, he also has no friends. I told my mom he has the personality of a wet dish rag. At least my work pays me 3 days Bereavement when he passes. And, I will buy a new, cute outfit for the funeral. But emotionally?? I don’t care.

  21. I have been in an abusive marriage in every sense of the word for 43 years. Spare me the sanctimonious platitudes about the choice I made for myself and my daughters to stay. They are grown and have scars but are also well functioning adults due to my parenting in large part but also his few good points: steadfast provider; he did not cheat or lie. But he was cruel in the extreme. I am still with him and I struggle with internal rage I try hard to swallow. He is in poor health at 63. I stopped liking him at the beginning and hating him for good in 2009 after a terrible event concerning my own health in which he was seriously neglectful and abusive. My being very ill makes him angry I surmise because if I am, I become inefficient in my duty to care for him in any and all respects. So to the point: I hope you may see why I fervently look forward to widowhood. That is an awful statement that is a burden in the extreme to live with. This has been a particurly bad week with my heart stabbed once again with his cruel statements. I no longer cry, but I rage inside. Not being able to suppress it, which is unusual, I let him have it. I can’t be a rug 365 days a year it seems. Anyhow, thanks for these words of wisdom. It helped me to make a new goal: while there is no way to change him, like him, or refind love: I can try to act towards him what I was raised to be: kind and competent to him in his certain to come frail demise.

  22. This article was just what I needed to read. Thank you.

    My dad passed away earlier this year. He had been mentally abusive to my mum for years and I seriously hated him. When I first found out he has passed I was completely relieved!! Finally my mum would be free of him. However since his death my anger towards him has fadded away and now I’m definitely grieving… For the relationship I wish we had mostly I think. It’s very confusing to feel this way about him.
    Today would have been his 70th birthday.

  23. Thank you for the article, with interesting aspects of different grief. I can relate to much of this. My Mother passed away last month and I had had an enormously close relationship with her as a child as she was a single parent and fought to keep me, having to work for a living to do so (in those days), as a nanny, and later nursing. I was her constant companion, with interludes of being ‘farmed out’ with strange people to help care for me whilst she was working, I even spent many of my Christmas Days on a medical ward with her when she was nursing. Then along came other relationships, she chose, unstable needy men, with mental health problems it seemed and I was rejected in favour of her partners, left to my own devices for long periods and they became her significant ‘other’. this happened over and over and when her adult relationships failed I was there to pick up the pieces for her as she turned to me. I have such mixed feelings, struggled with self worth and now she is gone I don’t seem to know my role or identity in life any more. Was supporting her perhaps partly my purpose? Now it seems I can grieve for all the hurt she caused me, which I dared not acknowledge previously, just because she was my Mother and I was not allowed to blame or criticise her in any way. I still don’t want to find any fault in her, but know the truth of how she treated me in making a succession of step-fathers and their children, more important than me. Complicated grief indeed.

  24. My brother died in November. We had a distant relationship, could tolerate each other in social environments, but no we were not close. I cried when I found out he died and a little at the service. But I grieve more for the dog I had euthanized 2 weeks before my brother died. I worked in Hospice for 5 years and the experiences I had made me realize that it was ok to be estranged or to not like someone or to grieve differently. I do feel bad for my other siblings, though. They were so distraught and are so angry at our nephew – he himself had a tense relationship with his dad – and I just don’t feel that way. They say they understand but I don’t think they do.

  25. I really don’t get this bloody nonsense about “closure” – must be more rubbish we’ve imported from the U.S.

  26. Thank you so much for this article. I’ve never read info on something like this. It really validates what I’ve experienced.

  27. Thanks again so much ladies, for all your hard work and for always putting things in ways that are easy to read and understand. I am working with someone right now who had a death in her family that fits this whole post. She found endearing and tender moments with this family member but also found this person to be abusive, manipulative, embarrassing at times, and made life very hard for everyone. I am going to be sharing this with her soon (as I do with many of your posts and materials we’ve ordered at my work :)). This was really timely and I appreciate all you do so much!

  28. Thank you for this. I lost a family member almost 6 years ago, and it was a complicated relationship. We were semi-estranged (due to the person’s mental illness). I feel different from other grievers because of the circumstances of the death (sudden death). I know mine is a complicated grief.

  29. a poem I found quite some time ago and have shared often…
    Today I Talked to the Urn
    It sat on my dresser for over a year,
    A symbol of a relationship that is no more.
    I could barely acknowledge its existence,
    The ashes within were a symbol of things
    I wanted to forget.
    I tried to bury pain, frustration and anger in my heart,
    Telling myself, “It’s over now; time to forget,”
    Forcing the truth deep down,
    So it wouldn’t hurt me anymore.
    But the truth refused to stay buried.
    Pain, frustration and anger
    Kept surfacing in odd ways,
    And I wondered why I couldn’t heal.
    Little by little, bits of insight
    Have made themselves known.
    Bit by bit, I’ve learned about myself.
    Fragments of truth shed light in my darkness.
    Today, I talked to the urn,
    So long ignored.
    As I faced the truth about my anger,
    And about my part in the misery past.
    Acceptance and affection for the one now gone
    Washed over me
    And I asked for forgiveness
    When today, I talked to the urn.
    By Margie Casteel, Littleton, Colorado

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