Let’s be honest, sometimes people die who you just don’t like. You might even hate the person. Maybe it was a love/hate relationship, or maybe you just found them very difficult. There are a number of ways this can play out, but the fact is that everyone dies, even the people you weren’t very fond of.
The reasons why you may have had a difficult relationship are endless. They could have been dishonest or mean. Maybe they were violent or abusive? There are many ways you could have been betrayed by this person. No matter what the specific situation, grieving someone you didn’t like can leave you feeling alone and confused.
Having Less Emotional Baggage to Hold On To
It is truly amazing to me how many people hold onto resentment and bitterness towards other people, even after the person has died. Focusing your concentration on people you hate is a surefire way to never find peace within yourself. When a person who has wronged you dies, whether you attended the funeral or not, it is a good idea to find closure. In a perfect world, everyone would put aside their differences and let go of negative feelings towards others. Unfortunately, this is easier said than done. However, being able to let go of the past is something everyone can do. Moving on may not be easy, but it is necessary if you want to find true happiness.
Getting Closure Is Not For Them, It Is For You
The whole purpose of getting closure is so you can move on, and try to put a difficult situation behind you. Letting go of tough memories is vital for your own peace of mind. Being able to find closure in difficult, and often traumatic situations also can help you manage difficult relationships better in the future.
Finding closure is often accomplished after the person you dislike has died; however, if it is possible to find closure while you both are still alive, it should be done. The sooner you can find closure the better. There is no need to prolong the resentment and suffering.
The simplicity of this step is that you don’t need to be invited to the funeral. In fact, you don’t ever have to see or talk to the person. Finding closure with another person can be done wherever, with whoever, on your own time. It is only dependent on you.
How to Let Go
The cemetery isn't always an easy place to bury the hatchet, especially when you remember the deceased in an adversarial light. What do "My condolences" or "I'm sorry for your loss" mean to a person who is thinking "Good riddance"? How can resentful survivors avoid speaking ill of the dead?
Grief therapist have touched on this topic before, ultimately confirming that people affected by the death of a less-than-loved one will often have much more unfinished emotional business. This unfinished business needs to be sorted out eventually, and it starts with forgiveness.
Forgiveness Is Relief
Forgiveness isn't about saying, 'It's OK,' or that you 'accept' or 'approve' what happened, forgiveness is the acknowledgment that what happened, happened and that you are now ready to move on after shedding the emotional baggage. It is not always easy to forgive, but it is the best place to start.
Complicated Emotions After the Death of Someone You Did Not Like
You’re not sure if what you’re feeling is grief. If we categorize grief as a natural reaction to loss, you may be thinking that their death doesn’t qualify as a loss. If you didn’t like or want them in your life, it can’t be considered grief. The cocktail of emotions that you feel, clashes with the expected emotional response upon dealing with the death of somebody.
After that person dies, you may be left to sort through complicated negative feelings, while others work through more traditional grief. This disconnect can leave you feeling isolated and alone, and also ill-equipped to support your grieving family and friends.
You Thought Your Relationship with Them Might Get Better
When someone dies who you didn’t like, it isn’t uncommon to suddenly realize that you will never receive an apology, or have a chance to apologize; and you won’t have a chance for the relationship to change and improve. You may have never consciously wanted these things to happen, but, knowing they are no longer even an option can be difficult.
Your Grief Isn’t Acknowledged by Other Friends & Family
If people in your life knew you didn’t get along with this person, that you had a strained relationship, or had a falling out, people may minimize the validity of your feelings, otherwise known as disenfranchised grief.
You may still be feeling grief, despite simultaneously feeling resentment towards the recently deceased. Your family and friends around you might be asking, what do you have to be upset about? You must realize that the death of someone you dislike can lead to a confusing unraveling of emotions you have held on to for years.
Death Doesn’t Bring Closure
It is easy to imagine that all those complicated feelings would somehow get resolved once the person died, or was completely out of your life. Much like an illness, those complicated emotions will continue to persist unless directly treated. The reality is the pain of a difficult relationship doesn’t just disappear once the person has passed away.
Remind Yourself That You Have the Right to Grieve
When someone is removed from our lives there will be an emotional impact, no matter how we felt about them, good or bad. Even if the hole left in your life from their death is a hole you believed you always wanted, that doesn’t change its emotional impact. It is completely normal to deeply miss someone you had a really complicated relationship with, so give yourself permission to grieve.
Remember That It Is Ok to Feel Relief
Don’t feel guilty about feeling happy or relieved they’re dead. You are not an evil person for feeling these emotions. Whatever you feel, let it come out naturally.
These emotions might also signify feeling safe from a long time abuser who might have hurt you. You can suddenly breathe easier knowing you will not face abuse or feel threatened by this person any longer. Whatever the reason, you should not feel surprised to experience relief from a death.
For better or worse, relationships continue after someone dies. If you had a good relationship with the person the relationship may continue through good memories. If you had a bad relationship with the person it can linger on with negative memories and a fog of resentment. You may have imagined a person’s death would resolve some of the feelings you were having. In some cases that’s true, but in some cases it isn’t.
Continue to Communicate About the Relationship, Good & Bad
The adage “don’t speak ill of the dead” can, unfortunately, make people feel like they have to keep quiet about the problems and the toxic behavior in the relationship. You may find that you still need to carry on efforts to explore and analyze your own feelings about the person and relationship. Finding forgiveness can be tough. It’s not about excusing their behavior and actions, it’s about letting go.
It can take a lot of time to process everything by yourself. Often the best way to manage a whirlwind of emotions is to talk with others. Just make sure to choose your audience wisely. Depending on your situation, friends or family may not be the best people to support these types of conversations. If that is the case, a grief counselor, therapist, or support group might be very helpful.
Realize You May Be Grieving for the Relationship That You Wanted
We all have ideas about what a mom or dad or friend or spouse or child is “supposed” to be and how the relationship should be. Unfortunately, what we want the relationship to be is not always the way it actually turns out. Who we want a person to be, is not always who they are. In any situation, being as honest as possible with yourself and those around you is the best way to approach any situation.
Consider all the ways the relationship has impacted you. While you might find many of these ways to be negative and painful, you may also see ways you grew from the relationship you had with the deceased. It may be in your new found commitment to not be like that person. It may be in your ability to find forgiveness or empathy in tragic situations. Take some time to appreciate yourself and the resilience you have shown. Continue to face these emotions head on and never be afraid to talk to someone about it.
If you are interested in a more in-depth look at grief then check out Coping with Grief and Tragedy.