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How Grief Applies When a Toxic Person Dies


Lifestyle Improvement

Posted On: Mar 20, 2017

How Grief Applies When a Toxic Person Dies

This is by no means a pleasant topic, but it is a subject and an issue that will affect all of us in some form. It's almost as inevitable as death itself. The people who are closest to you often hurt you the worst. Family members are capable of terrible things, as are friends who are so dear to you, they feel like family. The death of someone who hurt you, but to whom you're inextricably connected, is not just difficult to deal with, it's a quagmire full of turmoil, resentment, relief, and years of pain. How are you supposed to feel about this? Should you censor your emotions or police your feelings? Does it bring closure to know that someone who wronged you is now dead?

You Are Entitled to Every Emotion

A father, a sister, a mother, a boyfriend, a former best friend, an ex-wife—anyone close to you has the power to hurt you. Those levels of damage are different. Maybe your toxic person caused emotional pain, hurt you physically, or abused you sexually. There are numerous reasons to cut someone out of your life, and just as many ways for someone to take advantage of your love, trust, and vulnerability. As a survivor of pain or betrayal, you are fully entitled to every emotion you experience. Your anger is justifiable, along with your rage, fury, or anguish. Your sorrow may be touched by hatred. Feel what you feel. Do not apologize or censor yourself.

But You're Not Obligated to Feel Anything

Just because someone is or was important or essential in your life, that doesn't mean you have to mourn them. The passing of the toxic person in your life may not make you feel grief, not overtly or immediately. You may be relieved, grateful, or even happy. The news might inspire indifference. You don't have to feel sad.

However, you must understand that you will still go through the grieving process—perhaps eventually, but it's inevitable. This type of grief is complicated and messy, and it doesn't always happen right away. It can strike you at the most unexpected time. For this reason, and many others, you might want to visit a therapist following an event of this magnitude. You need help to get through this.

Forgiveness Is for Yourself, Not the Deceased

This is one reason why you need help. It's likely that you didn't find any type of closure with the deceased before s/he died. The death itself may feel like closure, but it isn't. Ultimately, you have to forgive the individual who hurt you so deeply, even if it happens after s/he dies. It's not for the departed. It's for you. Left unchecked, your anger, resentment, and bottled grief will poison you. By forgiving this person, you're not saying you accept what s/he did or that it was at all okay. You're acknowledging that it happened and making a choice to set down the burden. You're saying that you remember what happened, but you're revoking the event's power over you.

You can let go of this destructive force in your life. Death alone won't set you free, but it allows you to let go of the toxicity, the fear, the pain, and the anxiety so that you can focus on yourself.