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.

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.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (54 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
if it were me, i'd not go to the funeral. when family members ask you about it, say "he raped my mother. repeatedly."

but thats me.
posted by nihlton at 12:13 PM on May 19, 2010 [3 favorites]

Don't go to the funeral. You have every reason to not attend, and putting yourself through this because you're worried about what other people (who know nothing of the real reason you don't want to attend) think is not one of them. Tell your mom you aren't going, and she knows why, and leave it at that. If she gives you a hard time about it, realize that it has everything to do with her issues surrounding this and nothing to do with you.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 12:16 PM on May 19, 2010 [4 favorites]

How do your friends and coworkers even know about this? I mean, a grandfather thousands of miles away? Unless he was a very famous person, I think you're in control of who knows and who does not, and so you can prevent any conversations from even happening, here.

As for attending, the question is who told you about his death, and whether they actually asked you to come? This seems very important to me.

If your mother wants you there, you go, period. If it was anyone else who asked or 'expects' it, you decline and stay home.
posted by rokusan at 12:17 PM on May 19, 2010 [10 favorites]

Everyone grieves in their own way, but the best thing to remember is that a funeral is not for the dead. While it's often a time to come together to remember the dead, it's also a support mechanism for the bereaved. While you aren't there to mourn, you might want to be there for your mom. This is something very emotional for her, and as you said, she might react to this differently than her siblings and they may not be able to support her since they do not understand the situation she has been in.

You don't have to linger over a coffin, cry, or even attend all funeral activities to grieve.
posted by mikeh at 12:17 PM on May 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

if it were me, id not go. when family members ask you about it, say "he raped my mother. repeatedly."

Don't do this. It's not your place to tell the world about your mother's painful secrets.

You won't be seen as selfish if you don't go. It is perfectly understandable to not spent hundreds of dollars on a last minute plane ticket, even for someone you cared about. Anyone who holds this against you is the type of person you probably don't need to worry about keeping happy, anyway. Stay home.
posted by something something at 12:19 PM on May 19, 2010 [21 favorites]

This happened to me pretty recently.

My grandfather molested my mom as well as some of my cousins. I opted out of going to the funeral, but am supporting my mother by simply being available (for conversation, etc).

It's okay not to feel sad. Everyone mourns differently, and you may not feel like mourning at all. Other people shouldn't judge the way you react to a person's death. However, I'd find it extremely uncouth to tell family members, "He repeatedly raped my mom." Chances are, everyone in the family already knows about it, and it could bring up some ugly issues for those family members who are still around.

I think you should forgo the funeral, and maybe take that time off to spend time with your mom while she grieves.
posted by too bad you're not me at 12:25 PM on May 19, 2010 [2 favorites]

You need to stop focusing on your grandfather, and instead focus on what your mother needs in the short term (during the process of arranging a funeral and settling the estate). In my opinion, in the short term you can't really address issues like repression etc.

Instead, try to see what support your mother needs on a day-to-day basis, and provide that support. Some of the support you provide may seem unhealthy (such as conforming with your mother's repressed view of the past and her repressed relationship with her grandfather), but now is not the time to confront her with the truth - changing behaviour takes time.

Just focus on your mom, and do whatever it takes in the short term to help her get through this. Deal with your anger later.

As for responding condolences from coworkers and acquaintances, just say "thank you". And leave it at that. You can either stay quiet, or you can change the subject.

In the short term, when dealing with family members who are expressing grief, remember that you need to keep the interests of your mother first and foremost in your mind. Is what your saying in fact adding to her mental agony? The best strategy is silence when you hear something that you don't agree with. You also need to listen to your mother, and let her know you're listening.

After the funeral is over is the best time to start confronting family members with the lies they tell themselves. But be gentle with the victims who have been forced to live a lie for what they probably consider self-preservation, including your mother.
posted by KokuRyu at 12:25 PM on May 19, 2010 [4 favorites]

Don't think of this as about him. He's dead. But your mom is probably going through a lot of emotions right now and if it were me, I'd go to be with her.
posted by advicepig at 12:27 PM on May 19, 2010 [5 favorites]

Every family is different, and I can understand if not going to the funeral would do more harm than good going forward. However, if it were me, I would pull my mom aside and say "mom, I can't in good conscience take time off work and spend your money to honor someone who hurt you so badly. I would rather not go to the funeral. I am still here to talk with you about it."

What about spending that $600 for the plane ticket on a donation to a child abuse prevention org instead? Maybe the very suggestion would offend her, but to me, it would be a kind of justice. You can still make phone calls and write cards in support of your other relatives who are grieving. You don't owe an explanation or comment to anyone else.
posted by slow graffiti at 12:27 PM on May 19, 2010 [4 favorites]

I lean towards this not being your secret to tell. Having said all of that, I would, in your situation, offer your mother her support no matter what she might say or do, in the vein of "I could never bring myself to forgive your father for what he did. If you want to talk to me about him, or if you want to shout it from the rooftops, or if you want to say nothing at all, I am here for you and will stand behind your decision, now or any time."

That's just me, though.

As to dealing with everyone else, follow your mother's lead. If a stony expression and terse recognition of people's condolences can get you through this without you feeling like a fraud, go for it. "Thank you." Brief nod.
posted by adipocere at 12:28 PM on May 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

I have found funerals can be quite pleasant in that you see family that you haven't seen for a while, especially if you live away. There is no particular onus towards wailing and gnashing of teeth at the modern funeral in my experience (YMMV) and it can be quite sociable, this is, I think not entirely different from the point above about funerals being for the living, look at it like this and it can be an ok experience. This may be a reflection on me, but I have tended to grieve after, where appropriate, no-one pulls you up for not being sad enough at the event.
posted by biffa at 12:30 PM on May 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

Friends, coworkers, and acquaintances don't really expect more than a "Thank you", really. But if they're a few close enough friends where you want to talk about it, I think you should for your own sake - it's a hard situation for you, too.

Everyone grieves in their own way, and most will be consumed with their own grief at the funeral (which, for many funerals I've been to, consists of people standing around looking solemn and awkward, not crying). If family judge you for your reactions they don't deserve your explanations.

Only go to the funeral if you want to in order to support your mom. Don't go because of other family judgments. Your immediate family and others who know the history will understand.
posted by ldthomps at 12:34 PM on May 19, 2010

You don't have to say "Thank you." I suggest a brief pause and then "Yes, it's a terrible thing."

You, and we, know that the terrible thing is that this rat bastard got away with harming your mother, but everyone else will think it's terrible that he's dead.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 12:35 PM on May 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

One suggestions for dealing with closer friends is to say "Well, we had a complicated relationship". If you want to say more, say something like "It's been hard on my mother and I'm really trying to be there for her." (Implying that you aren't broken up by it but it affects your family.)

Second, if you do decide to go, I would be surprised if any one asked you why you aren't crying as long as your behavior is appropriate for a funeral - after all, people grieve in different ways. If someone does ask, use the "we had a complicated relationship" line again.
posted by metahawk at 12:35 PM on May 19, 2010 [2 favorites]

This thread might be helpful.

As an aside, secrets are hard. I think maybe you can address this and not address it with good friends by saying 'I don't want to go into it, but he wasn't a good man' so you don't have to choose between faking it and telling the entire thing. People do understand when someone was "not a good person" and good friends can navigate that kind of complexity.

With relatives, I would do however your mom wants you to do -- whatever helps her, and let her know you're game for whatever she needs.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 12:36 PM on May 19, 2010

Don't go...you will anger yourself if you do.
posted by Postroad at 12:37 PM on May 19, 2010

When people express their condolences, no matter how close they are to you, just say "Thank you". Everyone grieves differently, and if that was the response I got when I told someone I was sorry their grandfather died, I would not think anything weird of it. If someone actually questions you further (unlikely) simply say "I don't want to talk about it, thanks". This is perfectly OK, and actually pretty normal too. People will just assume you want to grieve quietly. Or, you could say "we weren't close, but thanks".

Personally I would fly out to be with my mother and support her through what must be an incredibly stressful and emotionally taxing time. She is probably feeling every emotion under the sun. Whether you actually attend the funeral or not is up to you, but I would want to be staying at my mother's house to support her, emotionally and with the logistics.

If you didn't want to be at the funeral, you could probably excuse yourself by saying that you find it too emotionally taxing. I find funerals emotionally taxing, mostly because I get incredibly sad at other people's grief and end up crying my eyes out for everyone else, not myself.
posted by Joh at 12:41 PM on May 19, 2010

I had a lot of anger while I was taking care of my mother in her declining years. I thought my sister neglected her share of her responsibility. I wanted to get a load off my chest and berate my sister. Then I remembered a very important question my thesis advisor once asked about someone's response to a social problem. He asked what useful purpose does this serve? I thought about that question, and I couldn't find anything useful in hurting my sister. I let go of the anger and have kept a good relationship with my sister after my mother's passing.

So that's my advice. Before you do anything, ask what useful purpose your act will serve. Does making your painful secret public do anything useful, or does it perpetuate a hurtful act? When you think this through, you'll know what to do.
posted by Hilbert at 12:41 PM on May 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

I realise this is very difficult for you but I hope it might help to understand that generally, we attend funerals in the modern era to support those left behind, not to honour the dead. Thus, it may help to frame this event as being more as being there for your mother rather than being there for your grandfather.

1 - How do I accept the condolences of friends and co-workers without feeling like I'm lying?

By saying "thank you." The condolences are a basic social nicety; they are entirely about people being kind to you and have, in actual fact, virtually nothing to do with your grandfather.

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?

Simply support people who are sad. Families and relationships are incredibly complex, and mourning even more so. Focus on your mother, who may be dealing with relief, guilt, rage, pain, sadness, and any combination at any moment. In all of those circumstances, the best you can do is variations on "I'm so sorry. I love you. What can I do for you to help?"

But really, there is a lot of mileage in "just being there." I'm sure it will mean a great deal to your mother to have an ally in the days ahead.
posted by DarlingBri at 12:41 PM on May 19, 2010

Don't go. Donate half the money you saved on the ticket to a rape-related charity. Or $100. Or whatever you think will make you feel like something good came of this.

You don't really owe anyone an explanation.
posted by thorny at 12:45 PM on May 19, 2010

I think the thing to focus on here is your mother. If she wants you to go to the funeral, you need to go. If the lack of your presence there will cause trouble for her -- in other relatives thinking you're being disrespectful, or wondering if she's told you those "lies" since they don't all believe her (every family is different so these are just possibilities) -- you should go. While there, not mourning for him is fine. Maintaining a neutral face at the funeral and not looking "sad" is fine. People grieve in different ways, so many people may assume that you're just grieving differently.

As for coworkers and acquaintances, just say politely, "Thank you. we weren't close." That should close it in most cases. For closer friends, if you feel the need to express your anger at him without giving your mother's story away, you can always say something like "Thanks for your condolences, but I'm not that sad. There's a lot of bad family history which I don't want to get into, but in some ways I'm fine that this chapter is closed." (I know that sounds stilted and probably mean, but if they're close friends they should get it.)

In general for family, I think keeping your words few and neutral is the best bet if you're worried about speaking out inappropriately at the funeral. Just express your condolences for them if it's needed -- after all, you're not sad b/c your grandfather is dead, but you're probably still sad that they feel sadness. Try to think about it as not a lie, just a shift in the focus of your sympathies.
posted by alleycat01 at 12:46 PM on May 19, 2010

You don't have to offer your support to anyone other than your mom. Don't go to the funeral, but outside of that be there for her, to listen, a shoulder to cry on, anything. You do not owe complicit members of your family any support. You also don't have to actively scorn them, but you should feel no guilt at withholding support or simply not being around for them.

When people give you condolences, imagine that they are giving you condolences about the terrible impact this man has had on your and your mother's life. They are saying it to give you comfort, and if you frame it that way in your head, then it may actually give you some comfort.
posted by molecicco at 12:48 PM on May 19, 2010

Don't go.
posted by Lone_Wolf at 12:48 PM on May 19, 2010

My mother and her mother had a very difficult relationship, including emotional abuse and what would now be considered incidents of physical abuse. (Uh, times have changed in childrearing since the 30s and 40s.)

My dad stayed home from the funeral because he feared he would say what was on his mind. I went with my mom, held her hand, and afterwards we went out to the diner and snarked on the outrageously trite hypocritical shit that her sister said at the funeral.

I went with my mom as her adult daughter -- the one with whom she's had a completely functional relationship that did not include any sort of abuse. I was there to remind her that she was better than her mom, and that I'd turned out just fine. Cycle broken. Amen.
posted by desuetude at 12:50 PM on May 19, 2010 [6 favorites]

This could be a good opportunity to support your Mom. If you feel weird, imagine her position.

You can always say "I really can't talk about it" or even "Thanks," (for the care being expressed toward you and your imagined feelings), "but I really can't talk about it." Then change the subject or say "Could we talk about something else please?".
posted by amtho at 12:52 PM on May 19, 2010

I was in a situation like this that I felt was lose-lose. If I didn't go my family was threatening to brand me as a selfish asshole. But I really, really didn't want to go. Finally I decided to attend to support a few various distraught family members, and because not going would have caused a lot more family strife for me in the long run.

I didn't cry. I didn't mourn, I just nodded passively if anyone said anything pertaining to the death.
posted by Brittanie at 12:55 PM on May 19, 2010

Do what you think is best for your mother. Make it about her.
posted by padraigin at 12:57 PM on May 19, 2010 [2 favorites]

If you can't say "thank you" to condolences (which, as others say, are simply a nicety), or if someone attempts to continue the conversation, I would say, "He and I weren't close, but it's obviously difficult for my family."
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 12:59 PM on May 19, 2010 [2 favorites]

How do I accept the condolences of friends and co-workers without feeling like I'm lying?

One option is not to engage people in conversation about the topic.

Another option would be, as you hadn't spoken to him seriously in a few years, to refer to him as your estranged grandfather. Their condolences are well-meaning, so you could respond "Thank you, I appreciate the sentiment".

How can I be supportive of my family, some who know he was a rapist and others who do not [...] 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.

I think the people who are aware of the rape history will understand if you attend unenthusiastically, or don't attend.

However, for the people who aren't aware of the rape history, if you're worried you won't be good at faking respectful solemnity at the funeral, I think not attending would be the best thing to do.

I have the option of not attending the funeral at all, [...] but I feel like everyone will think I'm selfish if I do this.

I don't think anyone will.

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.

You don't need an excuse for people who are aware of the rape history. Your parents are aware of the rape history. Maybe you need an excuse for people who aren't aware, but at the moment you've only "got no excuse" if your parents decide to publicise that they offered you money and you can get time off work - and why would they?
posted by Mike1024 at 1:02 PM on May 19, 2010

Support your mum.

While nothing as bad as what your mother went through, my grandmother was emotionally and physically abusive to my mother as a child (and later to my grandfather when he became ill and dependent on her). My mum feels a sense of loyalty towards her because she's family, so maintains contact with her, visits and so on.

I've basically told my mum that I hate my grandmother's guts for what she's done, and would happily never have contact with her ever again; but more important to me is what mum needs (which has basically boiled down to some very insincere Christmas cards and a few meetings where I've worn a false smile and been terribly, terribly polite).

The way I think of it is that the reason I'm angry with my grandmother is because of the pain she's caused my mother - so the last thing I want to do is cause more pain to my mother. This means no big outbursts at her.

To answer your questions directly:
1 - this may be a UK thing, but when I've referred to my grandmother as an 'evil bitch' people have looked surprised but haven't asked for any extra details. It may be that positive images of grandparents are so prevalent that something that's the opposite is enough of a surprise to put people off their stroke so they don't ask any more questions. I don't particularly advocate the swearing route (I generally swear a lot) but it's possible that something like 'he was a nasty, horrible guy, ok?' might stop people in their tracks without them asking more questions.

2- say very little. Mumble if needed, so you don't actually have to agree with people saying he was a nice guy. People will assume that you're grieving in your own way (since a fair few people just get quiet and withdrawn when you're upset). If you don't think you can make it through the funeral without an outburst, then I wouldn't go. In terms of someone else bringing the subject of abuse up, I'd follow your mum's lead completely - if she says nothing, say nothing, if she wants to make a huge scene then back her up.

Most important is to have an outlet valve after all this. After I've spent time being polite around grandmother I have a headache from grinding my teeth and the stress of staying shut up. I'm fortunate that other close family members know exactly what's what with grandmother, and we can talk and bitch together to get it all out of our systems. It doesn't sound like you've got that, so you need to think of what you're going to do immediately afterwards to get it out of your system.

Best of luck.
posted by Coobeastie at 1:03 PM on May 19, 2010

I can't speak to the decision to attend or not to attend the funeral, but I just wanted to reassure you that I've been to many funerals, and haven't cried at any, and no one has ever asked why I wasn't crying. I've never been in your position of being at a funeral for someone I disliked, but even when I was genuinely sad (young people dying too soon, sudden unexpected tragic deaths, my grandmother, etc.), I'm just not a crier in those situations, and I think generally people have been wrapped up in their own grief or their own efforts to keep it together, that they are usually not paying attention to whether or not I was crying. (And, for what its worth, I'm female, so it would certainly have been considered socially acceptable and probably expected for me to cry at these funerals.)
posted by Caz721 at 1:04 PM on May 19, 2010

Okay, this is what I think you should do....I think you should go simply to make things easier for your mom. She's going to be going, and as hard as this is for you it is most likely a trillion times harder for her.

No one is going to ask you why you aren't crying, because the truth is people do grieve differently, and a lot of people really dislike crying in public even if they are in deep grief. You shouldn't stand out.

And it's ok to grieve the grandfather and father he SHOULD have been, if it comes to that.

My husband was severely abused by his own father. Long story, involving him and his sister being hidden from their mother for years, along with the abuse. Fast forward years later-he was sick and dying in hospital. Hubby went to see him, made his peace (not that this man apologized for his a-holish behavior or anything, but whatever) and then went back out when he died and a) went to the funeral and b) settled the estate.

This whole process turned out to be surprisingly therapeutic for my husband. A lot of bad things went in the ground when his dad did.

This may or may not happen for your mom. But she needs and deserves YOUR support during this time of transition in her life-you are there for her, you believe her, you support her, and trust me, this is worth any and every bit of uncomfortableness you may experience at the funeral.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 1:26 PM on May 19, 2010 [3 favorites]

First, I am so sorry for what your mother has gone through, and continues to go through. It is amazing and wonderful that you have a relationship with her such that she could confide in you -- you must be a terrific person.

Now, as for your anger, and complete lack of mourning: understandable and reasonable. And, as for your own version of the grieving process, when anyone dies: your business, and yours alone. Nobody will question how you're grieving, or whether or not you are, unless they're an incredibly rude, boorish, insensitive idiot. So you can just give them a look and ignore them.

If I were in your position -- and let me say, I'm so very glad I am not, and I'm sorry that you are -- I would go to the funeral if your mother goes, and go with your mother anywhere that she goes related to this process. I say that, because she has confided in you, and as hard as you think it'll be to "fake" grieving (again, unnecessary to do that!) it's a lot harder for her. Stay by her side, deflect rude people who are obviously stressing her out, and otherwise protect her from having to suffer more than she already has. In fact, you may be able to do all of that simply by being there and holding her hand, so she knows that you two, together, both know what kind of man he was and aren't suffering under any delusions otherwise.

In short: be there. For her. And grieve. For her. All best to you and your mother.
posted by davejay at 1:29 PM on May 19, 2010 [3 favorites]

Oh, one more thing if you do feel you need to respond somehow to "isn't this sad?" kind of comments: you can either internally interpret "sad" as "pathetic" and nod with complete sincerity, or you can (if his illness was extended, like cancer or dementia) respond that "He isn't suffering any longer, and I'm relieved." In your mind, you'll know that you're relieved, but not because he isn't suffering any longer, but any reasonable person will think you meant one led to the other.

But really, this shouldn't even come up, other than "isn't this sad" in the same sense as "how you doin' today?" from a stranger. Tend to your mom.
posted by davejay at 1:32 PM on May 19, 2010

one last comment: I'm so glad your mother protected you from him. She sounds like a wonderful person.
posted by davejay at 1:33 PM on May 19, 2010

Support your mother's desires, but only up to the point that they don't conflict with what you feel comfortable doing. This was your mother's ordeal, but, by extension, it has become yours as well. If your mother wants you to go to the funeral, and you do not feel comfortable doing so, tell her so, but tell her you will support her in any other way that you comfortably can.

If anybody confronts you on this, tell them it's none of their business. To people you don't know well who offer condolences, respond with "Thank you."
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:35 PM on May 19, 2010

With close friends, you can absolutely say "Good riddance"--or whatever you're feeling. Explain with as little or as much detail as you're comfortable with (and as much or as little detail as you feel would be respectful of your mother), even just, "He abused my mother horrifically; he was a bad man." No one will think you're a monster for not mourning such an awful person.

For the funeral--you do not have to go, even if your parents offer you a ticket and even if you can take the time off from work. You don't need an excuse not to go. If you do go, though, your grandfather doesn't "win" if you keep quiet even though you want to shout down anyone who says something nice about him. Don't let it be about him. If it matters to your mother that you be there for her, I think you should consider going since her well-being is the reason for your emotional reaction here.
posted by Meg_Murry at 1:37 PM on May 19, 2010

For what it's worth, a whole lot of strangers are glad he's dead too, based on this question
posted by fourcheesemac at 1:48 PM on May 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

i would ask your mother how she feels about you not going, and then take her lead. consider that she is bound to be asked by any number of people why you are not there, and each query might be, for her, a fresh and perhaps painful reminder of the whole situation. also, if your mother can go, then really, anyone can handle it; and for her the funeral might be a good thing, a way to help get over it and move on, and maybe your being there could help her along in that sense.

in terms of how people think you should feel, or what degree of emotion you should express, that's really nobody's business, and i doubt you would be challenged on it. but likewise, how anyone else deals with it, whether you think it is inappropriate or not, is not really your concern.
posted by fallacy of the beard at 2:04 PM on May 19, 2010

celebrate quietly.

im really sorry about what your mother and you went through.

if you want to make it easy on yourself with your family, show up at the funeral. quietly delight in the fact that the rapist is being put in the ground.

celebrate that another rapist is dead.

consider it a present that you will never get again.

tears of joy.

turn that smile upside down.

yes...this is dark and morbid, and rather sick...but this is a tough situation...and it might take non-appropriate, and selfish feelings to get through it.

good luck...to your mother as well.
posted by hal_c_on at 2:06 PM on May 19, 2010

Maybe it would be easier for you to think about this if you reframe your role in the family's grieving process and, if you choose to attend, your role at the funeral. For instance: "This is my time to be the strong one and to take on the role of caring for and listening to others. I will use together-time to do this. I will use my own personal time to sort through my feelings."

No one will ask you why you're not crying, because everyone expresses grief differently. If someone is as tactless to ask why you are or aren't doing something just say, "I'm dealing with this in my own way, and in the meantime I'm here to support my family. I don't really have anything to say other than that but thanks for checking in."

I'm sure that your mother and your family would benefit from your attendence at the funeral, but if you are unable to attend, there will be many people to support them there as well.

People that I've loved are survivors of this kind of trauma and for a long time I didn't feel right about sharing my experience. I was fortunate to have it explained to me that to love someone who experienced trauma is to experience trauma by proxy. Give yourself permission to tell your story to people you trust and open yourself to seeking help for this. Don't tell every joe-schmoe on the streetcorner about it, but it's not a violation of your mother's privacy to share your story with those that you trust and that care for you.
posted by Skwirl at 2:26 PM on May 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

If I were you I would go home just to spend a few days with your mom. You don't really mention how she is grieving, but she may feel a for of relief like you do. You can tell her that you don't want to go to the funeral, but will if it would be helpful to her.

Whether or not you go to teh funeral itself, I think it would be a great display of your support to go home and spend some time with your mother (who may have some wild moodswings in the initial grieving).
posted by WeekendJen at 2:58 PM on May 19, 2010

Don't go. The usual now-that-he's-dead-what-a-great-guy-he-was stuff will just enrage you. I didn't go to my abusive father's funeral, but I did try to listen to a recording of the eulogy and two minutes of it made me so so so so so angry I had to go find some stuff to break.

Don't go. If you feel you have to say "nice" things, just say something bland about how everyone has their time to go (and inside you can think all you want that his should have come much, much sooner).
posted by L'Estrange Fruit at 3:20 PM on May 19, 2010

Talk to your mother about how you feel and how she feels. Tell her you want to do what's best for her. She might need your support and ask you to be there. She also might respect your decision to not go and be glad that at least one of you can protest his treatment of her.

I don't think you should feel weird about people giving you sympathy. The situation you are in should grant you as much, if not more, support from your friends and coworkers as if it was the situation they perceive it as.

It's not your secret to tell.
posted by NHlove at 3:50 PM on May 19, 2010

Don't go to the funeral.

When you have to mention to non-relatives that your grandfather died, don't pretend to be upset. If people ask you why, just shrug and say you weren't close to him. People are surprisingly relieved when they don't have to think of anything to say to console you; when my father died, I was okay with it even though I loved him just because I'd gotten the worrying about his health out of my system years earlier. I also knew that he wasn't afraid of dying and that it was a relief for him. Even though other people didn't know that, they still didn't think I was a monster for not being sad about it or anything, they were just glad I was taking it well.

In short, while your instinct to leave out the "he's a horrible rapist" stuff is probably right -- I agree that's your mother's story to tell -- you have no obligation to pretend to be sad or agree with anything anyone says about him. The easier lie is to be apathetic.
posted by Nattie at 4:00 PM on May 19, 2010

Funerals are for the people left behind. For a while now, I've been trying to ask myself "what's the right thing to do" in difficult situations, so ask yourself that. and ask Mom: Mom, I feel truly awful about what Grandpa did to you, and it's hard for me to feel a sense of loss. How are you feeling? _Listen _Listen more_ Mom, are you going to the funeral? Do you want me there? _Listen _ Listen more_

I'd go, because funerals are how families stay in touch, and there are probably some great people who will be there. You have to act respectful, i.e., not openly say you aren't sorry, but you can quietly catch up with other family, do more listening, etc. If your Mom's there, you can be her support system.

To outsiders who express sympathy, just say "Thank you for your kindness' With close friends, share as much as you need without violating Mom's privacy.

If you are a model of compassion, you can go, ask questions about his life, and try to figure out what made him a rat-bastard, and maybe discover that he had good points. You carry his genes, and it's weird to believe that one's genes are 1/4 pure evil. Sorry if that's a little weird.
posted by theora55 at 5:51 PM on May 19, 2010

I've been reading a lot of responses that say that you should be there for your mom. Yes, if you feel that you can, then give your mom as much support as she needs, but please take care of yourself first. This may sound harsh, but your mom has had a lifetime to deal with her trauma, and you have had a relatively short time to deal with what she told you. Take care of yourself first - you can't help anyone if you are freaked out and depressed from all of this sick drama.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 6:45 PM on May 19, 2010

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."

Go for it. If they ask for more detail say:

"It's not really my story to tell."

If they push or act like you're being a jerk, make a stone-cold serious face and say "you really don't know the details, but I need your support in this." If they persist, just react however you want and feel free to be angry at them.

Sometimes when this happens I get cranky enough to share a particularly horrific anecdote to shock them into shutting the hell up, if I can do so without getting overly upset. You don't seem to be in that place right now and that is okay. You don't have to justify your relationships or feelings about your family to anyone.

This is annoying, to be second guessed by people who don't know what they're talking about (happens to me because I hate my mother and OH HOW COULD YOU DO THAT, IT CAN'T BE THAT BAD!!!)

If you start feeiing like you care about their motivations--and you don't have to, they are being rude and inconsiderate--consider that they just have a hard time thinking outside of their own experience of family, are justifying their decision to continue uncomfortable or hurtful family relationships, or perhaps that they just frightened that such a thing is possible.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 8:21 PM on May 19, 2010

Sorry if that came off like most people will react that way.

In my experience, most people support all of my emotions that I have, even the less socially-acceptable ones like the ones you have towards your grandfather. They understand that it is a complex situation and that you are a good person who is handling it in the best way you know how.

You might have to lean on your friends and accept that what you need to do for yourself is not the same as what your family wants you to do. That is okay. It has to be okay sometimes.

Good luck.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 8:28 PM on May 19, 2010

Tell your mom you love her and thank her from the depth of your heart for protecting you from him. Make sure she knows beyond a shadow of a doubt how much you appreciate her protecting you and that you understand how hard it was for her.

Then do whatever she would prefer. Make the sacrifice for her sake. Smile and fake it if that is what she wants. She went through far worse trying to make sure you had a good life growing up.
posted by thekiltedwonder at 10:36 PM on May 19, 2010

Recently a relative of mine that I didn't really care about one way or the other passed away. I went to the visitation (I was unable to make it to the funeral for medical reasons) and I was surprised to feel sad and even a little angry at her death. I had a couple of good conversations with family and really it turned out to be a positive thing, for me. I went to show support to her husband and children mostly, because I knew that if I was in that situation I would really need a lot of support and any show of support would mean something to me.

A few years ago, my uncle passed away, and his grieving wife and children had seemingly forgotten the many times that he'd drunkenly beat them, sometimes nearly to death. They only talked about positive things. Yes, I did think about it during the funeral, but I said nothing. A funeral is not the time or the place. I recall when my cousin died and 2 of his "friends" had the nerve to stand up at his funeral and say some fairly mean things about him, including pettiness like "oh I guess I'll never get back that $50 I loaned him" and it did nothing to help the family, only angered and hurt them.
posted by IndigoRain at 1:49 AM on May 20, 2010

Take time off for bereavement but don't go to the funeral. Take time to process and speak with your mother about how she'd like to proceed as far as sharing or keeping this secret goes, and respect what she decides.

If your mother prefers you go to the funeral, buy yourself a beautiful (NON-BLACK) dress. Remind yourself that you are privately celebrating the end of another person's reign of sexual and emotional terror against those who cannot defend themselves.

(I wore a yellow sundress to my cousin's funeral three years after he tried to kick down a door and rape me at 11 years old, so, you know, I'm speaking from experience.)

When people asked me why I dressed the way I did and why I wasn't sad, I just told them I knew he was in a happier place and felt like it should be celebrated. This was an acceptable answer to 99 percent of family/attendants. The rest just patted my head and said I dealt with death extremely well.

Therapy helped.
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 3:52 PM on May 20, 2010

I would not attend the funeral.
posted by dustoff at 1:33 PM on May 21, 2010

I'd grieve for the grandfather I thought I'd had up till two years ago, and treat any and all interactions as though it were with respect to that lost person. After all, that's the person everyone else is actually grieving. And it gives you an opportunity to be really sad about what happened to your mom and what a person this was and have it seem fine and normal. Everyone deals with death differently, and you can also / as an alternative bow out of events by saying things will be too emotionally difficult for you.
posted by lorrer at 10:00 PM on May 21, 2010

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