When an abuser dies

dead flower

**This post may be a trigger for those who suffered physical abuse or molestation.

On January 4th I got a text telling me he was dead.  My first thought was “good”.  Then I got hit with a wave of guilt.  How could I feel good that a person died?  I felt like a bad person.  We aren’t supposed to talk ill of the dead, but when the dead did some horrible things I think it’s time to talk about it.

It’s not like I didn’t tell before now.  The first person I told said I was lying and stopped speaking to me.  To this day she will barely acknowledge me.  We were very close, it still hurts.  I told my mother years later, she believed me, but I asked her not to do anything about it because it would have ruined her relationship with her sister.  You see, my abuser wasn’t alone, his wife was with him.  His wife is my cousin.  My sister listened when I told her, said she was sorry, but she is still very close to my cousin.  It hurts me terribly.

I felt very guilty about this the abuse.  I was a teenager, I felt like I should have been able to stop it.  To not feel like I just wanted them to love me.  I was a very confused teen.  I was undiagnosed with bipolar disorder.  It was easy to confuse me.  I was a teenager.  These people were grown-ups, they broke the law when they molested me, even if it seemed to be consensual.  There is a reason we have those laws.

After the initial abuse he would grab and fondle me when people weren’t around.  I tried to stop this.  It was very hard.  I was so confused.  This was someone who was supposed to protect me, yet this is how I was seen; as a sexual object.  I lived with my cousin and her husband.  It was not a good thing.  I was never comfortable.  They threw me out of the house because I cut school.  I was a straight A student, I cut school, it didn’t affect my grades, but that wasn’t enough for them.  I was told to get out.  I don’t feel the punishment fit the crime.  I had less than 2 months until I graduated from High School, and I had no where to go.  (It’s a long story as to why I was living with them.)  I turned to a friend and lived with her family until I graduated.  This house was so much different.  I felt safe.

It is hard to tell this story without going into too much detail.  I don’t think that is necessary.  I want to tell you all that if you were abused it is not your fault.  It doesn’t matter how old you are.  If you have been grabbed or fondled, you have been abused.  If you have had sex without your consent, you have been abused. If you were too young to consent, you have been abused. They call it harassment or rape when you get older.  It’s all wrong.  No matter what you do, what you wear, how you act…it’s wrong to treat you as a sexual object.  It’s wrong.  You should never feel like you did anything wrong.  I carried that guilt and shame for a long time.

Now, I feel a tiny bit of release.  He’s dead.  And I feel good about it.  Does that make me a bad person?  No, it makes me human.

Does the pain and confusion go away when an abuser dies.  No.  Maybe that’s because nothing is really settled.  For me, I still have people who don’t believe me.  I don’t feel like either of them paid for what they did to me.  They kept the same people close to them.  He continued to have sexual relations with many women.  (I don’t know that he abused anyone else who was under age.)  She is still part of a close knit family.  I’m the odd man out.  Everyone ignores the girl who told.

How to cope with the feeling that arise when an abuser dies.  (from Athena Moberg and Bobbi Parish of The #NoMoreShame Project)

  • Remember that nothing you feel is wrong. Emotions are never right or wrong. Nor does feeling them make you good or bad.
  • Don’t try to suppress or fight any emotions that may arise. Resisting our feelings often forces them to return even stronger and more demanding of our attention.
  • Don’t be surprised by any emotion that comes up, even if it surprises you that you feel that way. Sometimes our emotions are letting us know we have unacknowledged issues to process. Keep in mind that emotions we experience following our abuser’s death can often be conflicting.
  • Don’t focus on sorting out which one is right or wrong. Just acknowledge them, feel them and use them to process whatever information you need to.
  • Attend your abuser’s funeral only if you feel it would be beneficial to you. Family members may try to pressure you to attend the funeral, if only to keep up appearances that “everything is fine”. If you do choose to attend any services it might help to take a safe, supportive person with you.
  • Be prepared to grieve the loss of things you always wanted from your abuser. Perhaps you wanted an apology. Or you wanted to confront them and have them accept responsibility for what they did. Maybe you wanted them to finally become the parent/ sibling/etc. that you needed. Giving up those hopes is a loss that you may need to grieve.
  • Seek help if the emotions brought up by your abuser’s death feel overwhelming or insurmountable on your own. A support group, therapist, grief counselor or Trauma Recovery Coach. Even if you felt that you had already “finished your work” the death of your abuser is such a significant event that it might necessitate some additional help. It doesn’t mean you’ve lost ground in your recovery. It just means that some new ground has been uncovered.

To read other stories about how people deal with the death of an abuser see the links below:

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33 thoughts on “When an abuser dies

  1. It is so wonderful that you are in a very different place now and have support, Wendy. My first thought was “good” too. If death is the only way to get an abuser to stop, then I don’t think it’s something to feel guilty about.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I was 17. My rapists were strangers. They were never caught. I think I would probably feel better to know they were in prison or dead. They have always been just out there loose in my mind.

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  3. You are very brave posting this. But these are words, feelings, emotions that must be told. For you and for others. Women were taught to be silent, to be at fault, to keep up appearances for “the family’s sake.”
    You are not a bad person that you were abused, not feel relieved at your abuser’s death.
    Sharing will do benefit others. You always were, and continue to be a warrior princess.

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    • Oops! Should read not bad because you feel relieved and freer with the death of your abuser. He continued to abuse; now he can’t physically, and his power to wound is lessened.
      You can continue the healing process. And help others on this path through your words, sharing your experience.
      Warrior princess.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Dear Wendy. You are so brave to write this post, and I know it will have taken a lot of courage. I cannot start to even know how you are feeling now, or how you have felt in the past when dealing with this. I do know though, that your words will provide so much support and strength for others who have experienced similar things. The first bullet point is so true, and I can really relate to it – emotions are never right or wrong. Sometimes I think we are made to feel like they are…take care you strong, wonderful lady. Carly

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I’m glad you have a little release, a little space from the awful things that happened to you. Like you said, feeling good about that makes you human and you have shown such bravery and strength to write about this. x

    Liked by 1 person

  6. My ex husband was abusive and I used to tell myself that it will finally stop haunting me once he dies. He died a year and half ago and the haunting is still there. Thank you for posting this, it helps me feel more normal about my feelings ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Most who abused me are now dead. I’ve been told time and again to forgive. I can’t, I won’t! It’ll take someone stronger than me. I just dont have any feelings or loss about them. They are gone and I really don’t care, doubt I ever will. i moved on without them. It was a good thing. The others will die as will I. There’s so much I could say here. Mostly it’s the sense of loss and loss of expectancy that someone will hold them accountable for all they’ve done. That failed. So I moved on.

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    • It’s hard to forgive. I’m not there yet.
      I was molested by someone else when I was younger. I’ve forgiven him, but I will never forget, or say he was right.
      Just moving on is, in my opinion, pretty darn important. Maybe more important than forgiveness.
      Thank you for sharing with me.
      I hate we had to go through these things.

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  8. I’m trying to sort through what exactly happened to me still. It doesn’t quite feel real, and when it does I continuously feel that it was my fault, although I know better. But reading this helps. I don’t know what I’m going to do at the moment, but it feels good knowing I’m not alone. So I guess I’m trying to say thank you for having the courage to post this

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh my dear. I understand where you are. This was not my first case of being abused. I was molested as a child, I’m still piecing it together.
      Remember, our memo can be faulty, but our feelings aren’t. If we feel it, it happened.
      You are not at fault. This is not our fault. It took a long time not to feel that was with this abuse. Kept thinking I did something to cause it. That I could have stopped it. But that’s just not true.
      We have to stand together.
      Together we don’t have to be alone.
      Together we have each other.
      Together we can overcome.
      Thank you for having the courage to share here.

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  9. Thank you for expressing yourself so honestly and bravely. It was a relief for me when one of the abusers died, which I found out awhile back from stalking his and his family member’s FB pages. I thought it was interesting that such a man who appeared so well liked by his friends had such a postage stamp obituary. I think the widow may have had her last word by not saying many words. I found some kind of satisfaction in that. That was somebody who was not a family member but a poor choice for me. I never knew all that happened until much later and I am glad that I put a restraining order on him. The other one is alive and well and will never acknowledge his wrong. He was old enough to know better, even though he was a minor and I was very young. We never were super close, only on the surface, to look good to others. I didn’t realize all that happened until later in life but it explained why I felt certain ways. I did somewhat confront him but not directly, more so by expressing that he knew what he did. I left it at that and today we don’t acknowledge each other, except if something happens to a family member. I had to make the decision that to keep trying to have some kind of relationship with somebody who clearly did not desire to be kin, and likely because they knew their truths, would only serve to feed the abuse, if not overtly, it would be underlying and why give that any glory? So, in the end of this I know that when they die, I know that I will be relieved. One more abuser of someone close to me is out there somewhere, absconded from justice. I pray he doesn’t darken the paths around here but seriously doubt that he ever will. Nonetheless, I keep watch from time to time.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for being so open and honest with your story.
      People don’t understand that once someone is abused they are much more likely to be abused again.
      I was too.
      I’m so sorry you, and your loved one, had these things happen to you.
      You are both remarkably strong women.

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  10. Wen, I was off line for a few weeks. I read your post tonight with tears. For you, for others, for me… abuse takes many shapes and has many faces. His presence in your reality has been removed but the battle scars remain. You are such a strong woman. Thank you for sharing your story. ~Kim

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I was 13 when it happened to me…by a family member the same age. I constantly find myself having to justify why it was abuse because of my age and because of his age. It’s so much easier to explain when it’s an adult against a younger child, but when you’re a teenager, there is even more guilt because you feel like you were old enough to stop it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes! We were both victims, yet we both feel guilty. I feel like I was old enough I should have stopped it. I know that isn’t the case. I have nothing to feel guilty of, and neither do you. It’s just hard to let go of those feelings. My best to you.

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  12. You are very brave for writing this, and I applaud you for it.  This particular bit spoke to me – and is only something that I’ve really started to recognize as reality from my own experiences:

    “If you have been grabbed or fondled, you have been abused.  If you have had sex without your consent, you have been abused. If you were too young to consent, you have been abused.”

    It’s easy for people (both the abused and those who know about it) to try to brush it off or make excuses, but you are so right…any form of unwanted contact is absolutely abuse. No one should ever be made to feel guilty for the actions of others. Thank you for your strength and for bringing this to light.

    Liked by 1 person

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