It’s taken me a long time to be able to talk about the abuse my kids and I endured when my late husband was alive. Lots of therapy and soul searching have let me see him for what he was and allowed me to reclaim myself.
There’s nothing like that feeling when we realize that we are more than capable to take care of things—whatever those things are. I have found so much strength that I didn’t know I had.
A huge loneliness and more grief creep in though. I’m losing other people from my life and grieving them too as we go our separate ways. In all fairness, cutting toxic relationships, whether family or friend, is necessary.
I’m shedding that loneliness. It’s not about being with the people who love me and feeling lonely. It’s about being around people who loved him and have no idea how he behaved at home. They tell me stories about how much he helped them or how kind he was to them or how he gave the most helpful advice or how he made them feel better about themselves. They often tell me how much they treasured his friendship.
Why didn’t he love me that way? Why didn’t he love our kids that way? Why was he able to be kind to others and so viciously cruel to the people he claimed to love as a husband and a father?
Those people, having no idea that he was a monster behind closed doors and how lonely I was, are also the ones who tell me about how much I must still miss him. They tell me how much he loved me and the kids—platitudes of what they think I want or need to hear.
I want to yell at them to stop talking. I want to scream at them for being stupid and unobservant and for not knowing how many times he told us we were stupid, inadequate, horrible people because we didn’t live up to his unspoken expectations of what he wished we were instead of loving us for who we actually were.
Some of his friends used to joke that he was an ass and that he was going to make me mean like he was. They’ll never know how hard he tried to make that happen.
I want to tell them every horrible thing he did to me and the way he shamed and abused us for the smallest slights to his ego. I can’t bear to tell them what my reality was and destroy their happy memories of the man I was married to.
Instead, I slowly cut them out of my life. Then, I grieve again for losing a friend who was kind to me after he died but before I began to process and unpack the abuse that had been my family’s normal existence.
Abuse isn’t something that goes away just because the abuser is dead or gone. Flashbacks happen at odd times and bring a fresh wave of grief. It doesn’t help that he learned his ways from his parents, who continued the verbal assaults under the guise “of worry for us.” If belittling someone because you worry about them is your way of showing you love that person, then you don’t know what love and support mean. While I respect and understand that they’ve experienced the loss of their only son, my children don’t need or want them to replace their abusive father. I will not subject my children to that kind of behavior ever again, even if the grandparents don’t have a clue that their behavior is harmful. I’ve set boundaries and am working on setting more.
It’s perfectly okay for us to purge things and, yes, even the people who don’t provide a healing atmosphere. The way we process our memories and our feelings and our grief of what he left behind isn’t anyone else’s business. In that same way, it’s not my business how his friends and family want to remember him. If that means I lose more friends so they can continue memorializing him, then so be it.
If you are in a situation similar to mine, allow yourself to handle each wave of grief the way you need to. You don’t have to justify your feelings or actions to anyone else. You are free to take care of yourself and your children (if you have any) in the way that best serves you.