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It Hurts to Grieve a Man I Hated

Stepping into Grief

Yesterday I met with Aimee, the bereavement coordinator from the hospice company my dad used. He passed away last August after being on hospice almost a year. He was completely healthy except for brain tumors he had been dealing with for nearly 40 years.


The first thing she asked after the typical pleasantries was how I was doing in my grieving process.


My response was, "The biggest problem I'm having is trying to figure out how to grieve a man I hated for most of my life."


My Relationship with My Dad

I gave her the short version—that although my dad was a good provider and could fix anything around the house, for the first 39 years of my life, he had anger issues and was verbally abusive.


Of everything he ever said to me, including life lessons, advice, and guidance, the words that have stuck with me the most happened when I was 16 years old, suicidal, and dealing with an eating disorder.


His words were, "You know, Lauren, if you want to kill yourself, I won't try to stop you."


He said that to me not once. Not twice. But three times over the course of about a week.


I hated him.


I thought of taking my younger brother and leaving.


I thought of using his gun to kill him and then kill myself.


My mom actually found what I'd written about killing him and myself. So what did she do?


Did she ask why I hated him? Did she ask why I wanted to kill both of us?


Nope. Nothing happened.


That's how we handled things—just ignore them and maybe they'll go away. If they don't, then deal with it by yourself.


His Last Two Years

In July of 2019, he had his third brain surgery to remove the growing tumors. During surgery he had a stroke, leaving his entire left side paralyzed.


He never recovered.


Dad went to rehab to learn to walk again, but his tumors were growing so fast that his progress didn't last. One day he suddenly lost strength and movement again.


The last year of his life, he was increasingly weak, soft-spoken, confused...dying. He wasn't the man I grew up with. He was gentle and frail. I never heard him yell at or insult anyone during this time. When I was there and my mom was busy, I would feed him. Just like I had fed my baby.


In hindsight, the stroke was a blessing because as his tumors grew his grip on reality waned. He thought he was somewhere else. He saw and heard people. He often tried to get out of bed, forgetting he couldn't walk. If he hadn't had his stroke, he might have gotten out of bed and wandered off in the neighborhood or even city.


What happened with me in his last year is that I saw him as the totally different person that he was. All my anger and hatred for him moved to the back of my mind. He was just a feeble, dying old man.


I am so glad that he died without me still hating him. I have a lot of peace about that.


The Need to Grieve

I realized yesterday that I need to grieve two things:

  1. The death of my dad, and

  2. The loss of the man I knew.

I don't need to grieve the jerk I grew up with, but I do need to grieve the man who was always there to fix anything.


A few months ago my car started making a sound. My first thought (for maybe half a second) was, "I need to call Dad. He'll know what to do." But I quickly remembered he wasn't there.


I am going to join a grief support group, and I'm starting to read Losing and Finding My Father, by Kira Freed. It's her story about a woman who grew up with an abusive father, but found a way to help take care of him in his dying days. Perhaps it will help me. I'll report back when I've finished it.


Affirmation

Today I will remember...

I'm grieving a complicated relationship, but there are plenty of resources to help the process. I can find peace and reconciliation.

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