Experiencing the death of a family member can be difficult even for the most loving of relationships, so how do you cope with grief and the death of someone when your memories and negative experiences far outweigh the good? Is it possible to grieve for someone you have feelings of hurt and resentment toward and who created distress and despair in your life?
The answer is yes – if you allow yourself to honestly feel whatever feelings come up. When a parent, grandparent or even a sibling dies who may have been verbally abusive, deceitful, angry during their life toward you, grief and loss can be frustrating and difficult to process. Memories of bad experiences can be mixed with good ones – things like teaching you how to ride a bicycle, helping you buy your first car, or tending to you when you were sick. This can make it a confusing time and can leave surviving family members questioning how can they grieve someone they loved but also who left them with feelings of hurt or anger.
Recollections can be tainted by either focusing on all the negative things about the person or trying to repress all the hurt, and only magnifying the positive memories. It’s difficult to talk about someone who’s hurt you and caused you anguish. Even when a loving relationship ends with the person dying from smoking or alcohol-related illness, there can easily be feelings of frustration mixed in with the love for the person for behavior that could be viewed as selfish: Why didn’t they stop drinking or smoking? Did I not matter enough? Did we?
To be truly healthy in your grieving and healing, it doesn’t serve you or the deceased if we turn them into a complete saint or sinner. We’re all human. Being honest as you grieve can allow feelings to rise of fear, resentment, anger you may have – but they don’t need to outweigh the feelings and memories of the good times and happy memories. By giving those feeling space it will help you and those around you heal in a more complete and healthy way. Death can bring up unexpected feelings, memories and old hurts, some of we never imagined we would feel. Eventually though, with time and space, we can make peace with memories from our life with the person, and move on to a healthier space.
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