"Grieving For Someone Who Treated Me Badly..."

Dear Barbara,  My father was abusive, a mean man. I left home as a young adult rather than stay in the house with him—-long story. He is dead now and I am finding that I am having a hard time. I’m crying, irritable, not my usual self. I thought people grieved because they missed someone they loved. Am I grieving someone I couldn’t stand?

Not all relationships are good ones and we grieve those losses often even more intensely than the positive ones. It is the unfinished business, the unsaid words that we carry heavily within us. 

Write your father a letter. Put all of your thoughts, your feelings, your anger, your "how could you do that?" on paper. Let the anger and the tears flow.  It isn't enough to just think the letter. The power is in channeling all the thoughts and emotions into the written word. When all is down on paper burn the letter and scatter the ashes to the wind. Let it go. 

Part of grieving is how you channel the feelings. Channel your anger, your disdain into how well you live your life now. Let your life experience be the learning tool you use to guide others in love and understanding. Take your challenging life and turn it into a beacon of kindness, respect and love. 

I had a counselor ask me one time if I could find anything positive my father gave me. It was a challenging question as I could find very little. The counselor then asked me if I could thank my father for giving me life? Yes, I could thank him for getting me here. 

I ask you the same question. Is there anything you can thank your father for? Any good memories? If not, that’s okay. You are alive, you have the breath to do and be. Bless him for supplying the seed. Let go of the past and live your best life.

Something More... about "Grieving For Someone Who Treated Me Badly..."

I have a booklet about navigating the grief process. It is call My Friend, I Care: The Grief Experience.  It may be helpful to you.


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pam harpst

When my very abusive father died many years ago, my grief was complicated, private and my grief triggers made little sense to me. It was more than a year before I could even speak about it. I finally (and reluctantly) went to a half day grief seminar at our local hospice and there were 2 sisters who wailed and cried and were very verbal, they had lost a wonderful dad 3 weeks prior. Strangely, THEIR loving grief opened something in me and with further individual hospice counsel, I was able to at least begin my grief journey. I write this to say that ALL grief experiences are different and they are ALL valid and valuable. I have 5 brothers and we all were in agreement that at least, if nothing else, our dad had given us life and without him, none of us would have the beautiful children and grandchildren we do and the many blessings that go with our now large and loving family. I personally did not want my father to continue to hold power over me by going on in anger and resentment. Being grateful that he gave me life, and in turn my 3 kids and 7 grands, was extremely freeing for me and allowed me to eventually come to a full expression of grief AND gratitude after many years of intentional grief work. I am forever indebted to our local hospice for their love, care and wisdom during my difficult grief.
BK Books replied:
Pam, thank you so much for sharing your grief experience with us. Your
truth certainly resonates with me and I think will bring insight to others.
Again, thank you and blessings to you, your 5 brothers, 3 children and 7
grandchildren. (I’m smiling with your beautiful family) Barbara

Carolyn Fox Inglis

On further reflection [in addition to my previous comment], this person also has to deal with the loss of the father they will never have…the one who cared about them. That can reveal another whole layer of grief.


My favorite line is My Friend, I Care, – “the quality of our relationship with the person who has died is found in our strength, our resilience and our ability to create a new and meaningful life.” Appreciated your suggestion to write.
BK Books replied:
Thank you Crispin. Blessings! Barbara

Pauline Trumpi

I’m sorry, but thanking one’s father for supplying the seed is hard to read when a rape victim becomes pregnant. Supplying the seed is an act of pleasure for a man and I certainly don’t think she needs to thank him for anything. If we were talking about the mother, it would be a different story because pregnancy and giving birth involves a great deal more! However, I don’t think any person (no matter how they were conceived) needs to thank either parent for life. The child has no role in the decision to be born and needs to thank no one.

I do realize the person (above) with the abusive and mean father is not the result of rape. I do think she is grieving for a lost relationship, one that occurred long before he died. I believe her anger at her dad has resurfaced because of his death. She may be grieving that she never got to tell him certain things, like what a cruel jerk he was. Now that “opportunity” is lost forever.
BK Books replied:
Hi Pauline, thank you for sharing your opinion. Blessings! Barbara

Carolyn Fox Inglis

I wish you had said they are experiencing disenfranchised grieving—the feelings that go along with perceiving you don’t have the right to grieve a person who did you harm. Even just having that label might be helpful to them.
It is a pretty big “ask” to suggest they follow something that helped you, by thanking that father for giving them life. They may or may not be able to do as you did.
I also wish you had encouraged this person to seek out other grievers, and / or another good listener; so that they will not be alone in working through these enormous feelings.
BK Books replied:
Hi Carolyn, thank you for sharing additional ideas for processing grief.
Blessings! Barbara

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