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I Hate You...But I Miss You

For anyone who might be sensitive to topics of suicide or sexual abuse, please proceed with the utmost care for yourself. This blog focuses heavily on my own personal experiences, and includes the retelling of trauma I have experienced. If you do read this, and find yourself struggling, please reach out to someone, practice some self-care, and be kind to yourself for a bit. Thank you for continuing to learn and grow with me.

Losing a loved one is always difficult, no matter the circumstances. And people will be there with kind words and assurances that things will "get better", and you will heal from the grief you are experiencing.

But nobody talks about disenfranchised grief. Many people don't even know what it is, even if they have experienced it for themselves.

Disenfranchised grief, or invalidated grief, is the type of grief people experience when society at large cannot seem to understand the grief a person is going through. This often happens when people lose pets, go through a divorce, or even moving.

But another type of disenfranchised grief is that of losing a loved one who was abusive, especially if they were supposed to be a safe person, like a parent or other caretaker.

About 12 years ago, my dad died by suicide. He had lived with his depression his entire adult life, and had attempted suicide at least once before. I was 7 months pregnant with my second child, and already had a 3 and half year old little girl.

She was the light of his life. He would come over in the morning, after working night shift, and take her out for breakfast and to the park, to let me get some extra sleep. Growing a life inside you takes a big toll on its own; doing it while raising a toddler is even harder.

Then one day he disappeared. My mom and I were trying to track him down. They had separated months before, and he had been staying with my grandparents in Tennessee. They had called her, asking if she had heard from him, and she called me. I had just seen him the day before.

He wasn't answering his phone, and we were all worried sick. So, I tracked his spending to a gas station in Memphis, which told me he was probably on his way to Alabama where my mom lived.

Sure enough, he showed up at her house later that day. He called her and they argued. He wanted her back, and she wasn't giving in. And he gave up, hanging himself in the barn.

When I got that call, I was a wreck. I wailed, dropping the phone, rocking back and forth.

And I grieved, for 9 years, for a man I thought was decent and kind, who loved my daughter because she was his first grandbaby. I missed him every time I made spaghetti or a pineapple upside down cake, or saw Oatmeal Creme Pies in the store.

Until the phone call with my mom that changed everything. She asked me a simple question.

"Did Daddy actually touch you that morning?"

And a rush of memories I didn't even realize I had been blocking came flooding in.

I was 16, it's early morning, and the sun isn't even up yet. I wake up, very groggy, and I swear the reason I woke up is because I felt something between my legs. I see my dad sitting on the side of the bed, but then I rub my eyes, trying to clear my vision and figure out what is going on, and he's gone when I open them again. Was it real, or was it a lucid dream? I still don't know, but there are so many other things that point to it being true.

And now, I'm grieving all over again, except this time, it's much more complicated. I'm grieving the man I thought he was, while hating the man he really was. I'm angry at myself for burying it for so long, but also grieving the part of me that loved him so fiercely. I'm angry at my mom, in some ways, for not believing me then. And I cannot figure out how to reconcile missing him with hating him.

My experience is not unique. Survivors of abuse struggle with disenfranchised grief every day. They grieve for their abuser. They grieve for themselves and the life they could have had if they were safe. They grieve for so many things.

My hope is that by sharing my story, I have helped just one person feel less alone if they are experiencing disenfranchised grief, even if it is not due to an abuser.

All grief is valid, no matter what it is for. Grieving is a natural part of the human experience.

Be kind to yourself, let yourself experience your grief, and know that you will find your way again in this new normal.

Stick around, and stay spicy.

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