I'm upset, but not for the reasons you think.
May 19, 2010 12:10 PM Subscribe
My grandfather died today. I am glad that he's dead, but I have to deal with my family grieving and I don't want to pretend I'm grieving too. Ugly explanation inside.
posted by anonymous to human relations (54 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I have a large, close, extended family with my grandfather at the center. They seemed normal when I was growing up - dreadfully normal, in fact, compared to all the stories I heard from friends about family dramatics. I always thought my mother was overprotective and easily upset, but that was just how she was.
Two years ago, my mother told me that her father had raped her for years while she was growing up and she wanted to know if he had ever touched me (because someone else in the family had just accused him of molestation). He hadn't. I'd had not the slightest clue that it had ever happened, and she believed she was the only one to whom he'd done it - she always tried to make sure he was never alone with me or any of the other kids in the family. She never mentioned what he'd done because she wanted my siblings and I to have a normal relationship with him, and, I suspect, because she repressed it to some degree.
When she finally gained the courage to raise the issue with him just two years ago, he said that he'd talked to a priest and "made his peace with God and myself years ago." His peace, for the record, did not involve apologizing to her. Meanwhile, she still has many trust and other issues she's dealing with and is still in therapy (she only started a few years ago) because of this - and because not all of her siblings believe it. I believe her absolutely, because I trust her and because it made so much of my childhood and the way she is suddenly become clear, snap into place.
After that, I stopped interacting with him at family gatherings beyond tersely saying "hello" and trying to avoid him. I didn't hate him, exactly, because he was a helpless old man, but he disgusted me. And now he's dead, and I'm not celebrating, exactly, but I'm glad that I don't have to see him any more and that he's not going to hurt anyone else.
1 - How do I accept the condolences of friends and co-workers without feeling like I'm lying? With less-close friends, I'll be fine saying "thanks," but I know with closer friends I'll want to burst out with "you don't understand, I'm not upset because he's dead, I'm upset because he was a monster." The only person I've ever told about this is an ex-boyfriend with whom I'm no longer in contact, and I don't feel comfortable talking to lots of friends about why I feel like this because it's my mother's story, not mine.
2 - How can I be supportive of my family, some who know he was a rapist and others who do not, when they're grieving and mourning him? I've already listened to my mother cry on the phone today. I don't know how I'm even going to bring myself to nod and agree when they talk about how sad it is, or keep a straight face through the funeral when people talk about what a good man he was. I know funerals are as much for the living as they are to honor the dead, but I'm especially worried about other family members asking me why I'm not crying. Maybe nobody will notice my behavior because they'll be grieving themselves, but what if someone else mentions what he did? In short, is there any way to support the people who loved him and will miss him while not lying to them or myself?
I have the option of not attending the funeral at all, since I'd have to take a long flight to get home and don't want to pay upwards of $600 to have to face that, but I feel like everyone will think I'm selfish if I do this. My parents have already offered to help pay for my ticket and I've already told them I can take time off work for bereavement, so there's no excuse.
This is the ugliest thing I've had to deal with, so any advice for being as supportive of everyone as possible while not flying into an inappropriate rage at the people who are mourning him would be welcome. Throwaway email is angrynotsad AT gmail.com. Thanks.