My father, who was my abuser, died a week ago. We had only recently learned he had kidney disease and limited time remaining. His ex-wife, a good friend, had power of attorney over his care and is now his executor. She chose palliative care over dialysis in order to make his remaining time more comfortable, but just 3 days after his hospital release, he passed away in his sleep.
Knowing he was dying, I had done an internet search and found resources for when your abuser dies, including this excellent and comprehensive one, How to Cope when Your Abuser Passes Away.
My feelings remain ambivalent, as they were before this sudden health crisis and his passing.
I was in therapy for several years at 2 times in my life, blessed with excellent therapists, the first trained in EMDR therapy, the second in family systems. We dealt with my PTSD that originated in “severe childhood sexual abuse.” I rarely get triggered these days, though it can still happen, and I have excellent tools to help me cope.
At my request, there were times when he paid for my therapy: his form of making amends. We developed a cordial relationship, carried out by mail after I moved from California to Washington. I would send occasional holiday cards (though NEVER for Father’s Day) and a calendar every Christmas. He would send letters, articles, cards, and occasional checks.
When Linda (my ex-stepmom) informed us just how sick he had become, I knew I had no interest in visiting him, though I decided to send a newsy card every week or so. The first of those was a thank you card. Actually it was a blank card with a nature scene and a quote by John Muir about the healing qualities of nature.
I thanked him for 2 important gifts he had given me: sharing his love of nature with us all on family camping trips, and introducing me to Living Love—a personal growth system with books, songs, and workshops which began my inner journey of healing. It’s sad that he likely didn’t receive that acknowledgement in the mail from me before he died, but I expressed it in my heart and sent it out into the universe.
Before we learned that he had specified he did NOT want any memorial service, I had thought of a funny camping story to share, should that be appropriate at some point in the proceedings. My siblings and I are all somewhat disappointed there will be no gathering. We were looking forward to connecting with any relatives or old family friends who may have attended. So we’ve decided we’ll make arrangements to visit Linda when things have calmed down for her, and we can coordinate travel with brother and sister-in-law in Turkey.
I decided to take the full 5 days of bereavement leave we’re allowed by contract. Actually a half day of that will be devoted to another job interview, and I’ll spend the final day with my sister, relaxing and talking. I felt moved to share this blog, because here on Spark, I’ve mentioned my past abuse before, but have never expressed any of the positive influences my father had on me. It feels right to recognize both the demons and the gifts.