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I Didn’t Mourn My Sex Abuser When He Died, and You Don’t Have to Either

By October 20, 2020No Comments

By Shari Karney, Esq.


You don’t have to mourn the death of an abusive family member.

What do you think of a grown woman who refuses to attend her own mother’s funeral? Is she a terrible person? A selfish self-centered excuse for a daughter? You probably have a plethora of rants and railings against the unthinkable lack of respect upon the death of one’s mother. You probably feel guilt at even the idea of not attending your own mother’s funeral. Well, don’t. We’ve got you! You’re part of us. Abuse survivors unite. You have permission to skip the crocodile tears and fake eulogies. Your family coming together to mourn this fantastic person who was anything but. . .

Sue’s Story (true story, with real name replaced to protect her privacy)


Sue was the oldest of three children in a three-generation house with mother, father, and grandfather (mother’s father). Sue was the responsible one, the “good girl” who never complained, and was a role model to her younger siblings. Tough roles to live up to when inside Sue was terrified and depressed every day of her young life. Put up a good front for the kids, she would think to herself. At least they seemed to be safe.

Sue’s father beat her frequently when he became drunker than usual. His target was always Sue because her mother took the car and would drive away before the violence started to save herself, leaving the children to deal with the abuse and violence.  Mom would return when she figured that all the hitting was over.  Sue’s mother would merely tell Sue that “she bruised too easily.” The real pain came nightly from grandfather’s visits to her bed. He didn’t have to walk far, because he and Sue shared a bedroom in the two-bedroom house with 3 adults and 3 children. Every night, Sue would beg her mother to let Sue sleep in her mother’s bed and her mother goes to her grandfather’s room – he was her father after all. Mother would promise every night, as she tucked Sue in mother’s bed, saying that she was sorry he had hurt her, and assuring Sue that she would let Sue stay in mother’s bed all night. One of those promises Sue fell for every night for years. Sue was young enough for her mother to carry her into grandfather’s bedroom, where he would startle her awake with his sudden pounces on top of her. Sue “went away” to a lovely meadow until it was over, then silently cried herself to sleep.

Days repeated into years, each one like the last – her lot in life for being “born bad and needing punishment.”

Grandfather died, telling Sue “I hate you” on his deathbed. Of course, Sue didn’t have the nerve to say, “I hate you, too” out loud. Nice funeral, what a great guy he was, blah blah blah. No tears, only relief.

Sue’s mother, after Sue’s grandfather’s death, leaned on Sue to make all the decisions, to take care of her, to stay close by in case the mother needed her. “What about my life?” Sue thought but never spoke. Right, more punishment for being bad.

Gradually Sue found herself, buried deep beneath tons of garbage heaped on her over the years to keep her compliant. After being pulled back from two fantastic jobs 3000 miles away from her mother, because her mother was “sick and needing to be taken care of,” Sue finally stood up for herself, telling her mother, “You never helped me as a child but now I am supposed to help you hand and foot? NO! No more! I finally have a life worth living.”

That was about 5 years before her mother died. Then came the phone call, “Mom is dying, come see her.” Sue was in a different state at the time, she no longer drove, and she had to ask a friend to drive her to the hospice where her mother was. That was what a dutiful daughter did. That was what was expected. What it was doing to Sue and her recovery didn’t matter.

Slumped over, her mother nodded when Sue told her “I love you, Mom.” The words were there, without feeling. Daughters are supposed to love their mothers, especially on their death beds.  Yeah, right! And mothers are supposed to protect their daughters. A war was brewing inside Sue, which wasn’t helped by the chastising from her siblings about not being there for their mother.

Sue decided to leave, skip the funeral with all the glowing words, return home, and try to recover the small gains she had previously made in her healing journey. The startling flashbacks to the toxic house and the splintered family haunted Sue for days. Why couldn’t she at least have “faked it” through her mother’s funeral? Slowly she remembered that it is OK to take care of herself, even if it means walking away from a traumatic situation to provide her self-care. It was stronger for Sue to walk away than to stay and mourn – what? Mourn her stolen childhood. Mourn the loss of the mother she would never have, the mother she needed, the one who would protect and love her.


The reason child sex abuse, especially in the family, is so abhorrent to us is that nobody wants to believe that their father, husband, grandfather, or cousin touches a helpless child inappropriately. They would rather place the blame and burden on the innocent victim, than hold the family member responsible

But it was his fault, his responsibility, his doing.

Sue’s mother covered up and lied for him. She didn’t do anything to protect Sue who endured his abuse. It didn’t matter if they shared the same blood. It didn’t matter if Sue was suffering. It didn’t matter that Sue was her precious baby, who deserved to be loved and protected. Abusers and their enablers always save themselves. Not you, not their blood, not the victim, not the innocent child, but themselves!

And even worse, is the cruelty, the selfishness of the abuser, and their enablers. Blaming the victim is cruel, narcissistic, and lacks human compassion. Nobody wants to believe they come from this type of family. But unfortunately, one in three girls and one in five boys, do.  I do, Sue does, and maybe you do too.

Stop listening to the angry, cruel, cold-heartedness of family members, enablers and those who were supposed to love you but never really could.

It’s okay not to mourn an abusive family member when they die.

Even though the death brings a mixed bag of feelings, memories, and experiences, crashing against each other like a wild tide. It brings guilt, shame, self-blame, feelings that you are a “terrible person.” Guess what. The terrible person died. You were his or her victim. You are innocent. You deserve to live. You deserve to be happy. And you don’t have to be there to support those grieving the death of the abuser or enabler. If you support them, you stop supporting yourself. Be on your team. For once, let us survivors be on our own team and stop allying, feeling sorry for, or guilty about holding abusers accountable, speaking the truth, refusing to mourn their death.

Know that the burden of abuse was never yours to carry, or fix.

Know your limits. Respect your limits. Respect your boundaries.

Listen to that inner voice, you know, the one that’s always right. Trust her. She loves you and is out for your best interest. You don’t have to go to the funeral or memorial. You don’t have to speak fake words of praise, and you don’t have to make any excuses for not doing so. We give you permission to support and love yourself. To put the guilt, shame and blame where it justly belongs: On the abuser and those who enabled him for far too long. Mourn for the little kid that endured the abuse. And let us all pray together to love, heal, and ensure justice for survivors.


Shari Karney

Attorney / Survivor /Activists