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When an unpleasant family member’s death brings grief and relief

Photo by .sxf. Licensed under Creative Commons

Photo by .sxf. Licensed under Creative Commons

This weekend I’m attending the memorial service of a family member. Offers of condolence have been rather awkward for me, because I don’t really have good memories of this person.

I remember this particular family member as shrill, mean, extremely irrational, and regularly angry for no particular reason. I could go into further details, but they’re too personal to share here.

But after lots of inner struggles and triggers set by this person’s death, I made the decision to go to the funeral, not to “pay my respects,” but rather to spend time with my family and to exercise something I’ve condoned for many years: Forgiveness.

Sometimes the process of forgiveness is not as easy as we want it to be. We still have painful memories that we need to work through, even years after we’ve forgiven the person. And it’s extremely okay to forgive someone and not try to rekindle any relationship, if that’s what you wish. And forgiveness is not about forgetting. Rather, it’s about healing yourself, and releasing the hurt you feel.

I’m still kind of nervous about how everything is going to pan out this weekend. It’s safe to say I’m not the only family member who feels the way I do, and I think most of us are just happy that we’ll be seeing each other again after a few years. Especially since we’ve developed closer relationships through Facebook and other social media outlets.

I’ve read advice from others on the internet who say that if the memories are too painful, going won’t make it any better, and not going won’t hurt any of the other attendees of the service. Many recommend staying away; I choose to face this. Hopefully, it will help me move on from some very painful parts of my past.

Have you ever had to deal with the death of a family member who triggered painful memories? How did you handle the situation?

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  • Mary Beth Elderton
    November 28, 2012, 8:19 am

    Funeral services are not for the dead person. Whatever anyone felt for that person, he/she is gone. Yes, there is often hard, aching grief–missing that person, things left undone or unsaid, a terrible loss. Often there is a sense of peace knowing that the person has escaped pain. Sometimes, it is just about reconnecting with life and the living.

  • Simon Gornick
    November 28, 2012, 10:17 pm

    I can’t think of any circumstances where attending the funeral wouldn’t be a good idea, unless the person had done some very serious wrong. Otherwise whether they were just annoying or perhaps a genuine thorn in your side, the act of contrition involved in a post-mortem gesture of respect and peacemaking is almost certain to be therapeutic.
    Simon Gornick recently posted..Obama Created The GOP War On Women – And It’s Helping Him WinMy Profile

    • Bellesouth
      November 28, 2012, 10:21 pm

      In this case, there are many very serious wrongs. But as I said, I don’t want to get too personal.


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